At Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery’s new space in the La Fuerza Compound, artist Iyan De Jesus, 30, deliberately chose to hold her upcoming solo exhibit, set to open on November 10, in its West Wing. It’s a cozy square of space that seems tailor-made for her show’s concept.
After all, Floor To Ceiling is De Jesus’ figurative exploration of how to navigate a world that has begun to feel smaller and less accommodating. “[The concept is] a reflection of myself and where I am, because I’ve been painting for five years straight,” she admits. “I want to try more, newer things, but with so many deadlines, it feels as if painting is all I could do.”
With commissioned projects taking up almost all of her time, De Jesus has mastered a methodical approach towards managing her schedule. She prepares ideas for paintings at the start of every year, and they’re organized into bullet points; since last year, she has plotted out a series of 19 works, all simply waiting for the right time to be created. “I don’t want to have to wait for inspiration,” she explains her creative prep work. “I want my time to be dedicated to the production of the pieces.”
De Jesus is equally particular when it comes to her actual methodology: she invariably starts to get to work at 5 pm and calls it a day by 8 am. “I’m not OC, but I do need my studio at home to be neat. I also need to have my books around in order for me to get to work.” Her choice of reading materials range from literary classics to scientific titles, and to maximize the time, De Jesus also relies on audio books to keep her company while she paints. “So far, this year, I’ve finished 54 books, including audio ones,” she reveals. “And they do somehow bleed into my work.” A commissioned piece, for instance, features tiny fish, inspired by Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s gold-crafted fishes from Gabriel García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Colonel Buendia didn’t get to sell them, and that issue wasn’t resolved when the book ended, so I thought of putting the ‘souls’ of the fish in my painting.”
De Jesus’ disciplined approach to her craft is reflected in her aesthetic: it’s steampunk-meets-Art Noveau, romantic yet mechanical, the amount of carefully positioned details somehow never overwhelming the dreamy quality of a finished piece. An architecture major, De Jesus herself wasn’t so sure herself in the beginning how to describe her style. “When I first posted my works online, someone commented that I was copying Gustav Klimt—and I didn’t even know who Klimt was, I had no background in fine arts. So I looked him up and learned about his works, and I think my style is a bit neater than his.”
Leaving her day job as a graphic designer for an apparel brand in 2012 was “the best decision I made,” though De Jesus admits it took her a while to reach it. Though she had already been approached by VoV’s Carlo Ricafort with an offer to be represented by the gallery, “I still needed a push from the universe, I guess, to know that art is what I should be doing full-time.” De Jesus then made a weekly chart to track how she felt about her job every single day. “I promised myself that if I made a bingo of one week’s worth of sad faces, then that’s the cue for me to resign.” Her reticence to accept VoV’s offer was due to her careful, deliberate, and, by her own admission, pessimistic nature, and her need for a safety net. “I didn’t come from a background where I could rely on something or someone in case it doesn’t work out with my art. I had to plan everything and be sure of things on my own. I expected the worst, really. But once I had my solo show in 2013 and everything got sold, I realized that things don’t really have to be difficult for me to become a full-time artist.”
One thing in particular that turned out to be not so difficult? De Jesus’ uncanny ability to create lines and circles directly on canvas with no ruler or protractor required, a skill she discovered then mastered in the process of refining her signature style. “My target when I was just starting out was to create art that has that Renaissance feel, but I discovered that I couldn’t tolerate seeing blurred lines,” she says. “I want lines to be defined and clear.”
Floor To Ceiling opens on November 10 at Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery. The Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery is located at Pasillo 18, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City.