By: Maricyn A. De los Santos
Photos by: Ricky D. Alejo
Life chained him to unfavorable circumstances; but instead of cowering, Tyrone Dave Espinosa, 25, took his struggles as challenge, and learned that there is freedom and sunshine even in chains.
The unassuming and humble Tyrone narrated his evolution as a person and as an artist in his first solo exhibit dubbed “Kadena” mounted at Museo Iloilo, Bonifacio Drive, Iloilo City, July 21, 2017.
More than 20 artworks depict his life, with “kadena” or chains dominating every piece, at the same time symbolically connecting one to another, the same way he describes his life’s events as unique but are inter-connected.
“Chains are perceived negatively – it is about pain, struggle and hardships. But it can also be positive. Chains, in this exhibit, depict how hardships forged strong my link to my family and our link to one another,” Tyrone said.
Born and raised in Bago City, Negros Occidental, Tyrone first discovered his talent in visual arts when he was in Grade 3, the first time he joined an on-the-spot painting contest. But it took him a decade (he was in 3rd year college at ISAT now ISAT-U) to join another contest – the Philippine Arts Awards, where he won the Juror’s Choice Award.
In between those years, he lived a life filled with difficulty “but my parents worked hard to keep us all together,” the eldest of five siblings said.
During those years, he learned the intricacies of wood carving from his uncles and cousins, who make a living through carving and furniture-making. He went to Iloilo City to study college at ISAT, and lived in the impoverished parts of Barangay Baldoza in Lapaz, a place that opened his eyes and heart to the harsher realities of life.
Parts and parcels of Tyrone’s struggles are memorialized in his artworks that used mixed media – mostly wood and acrylic on canvas, with his signature ‘chains’ carved or painted.
“Table of Contents”, “Tigib na Hapis”, “Naniningot Mumo”, “Panaghoy”, and “Agos.To” are mostly his personal experiences while “Naniningalang Pugad”, “Pananampalataya, Pag-ibig at Pag-asa”, “Talaarawan”, and “Ang Tinagpi-tagping Retaso ni Haring Chainsaw” are his tribute to his beloved parents, Maggie and Toto Espinosa, and siblings, Orland, Nayal, Roniel Jun and Diana Rose.
“Pananampalataya is about my faith in love and hope as I have seen in the love of my parents for one another and for us. The Haring Chainsaw is for my father, who despite his disability (one eye is blind) work hard to provide for us. When I am struggling, I think of my father and remember that my struggles are incomparable compared to his,” Tyrone said.
On the other hand, Tyrone’s tribute artworks to carving, an important part of his family’s life, are “Rabi”, “Cardong Mang-uukit”, “Bantay Pinto”, “Pasang Pamatok”, and “Tabak sa Tabak”.
“Our family is chained to our livelihood; my two brothers and I are all carvers; and every ornament is a product of our blood and tears,” he said.
With all his experiences, Tyrone visualized his realizations in life in “Karunungang Buhat sa Gulong na Walang Hangin”, “Niyurakang Tuta”, “Sariling Tanikala”, “Tahol ng Karimlan”, and “Chained Diary”.
“People would look down on you, but you can prove them wrong. Our own self is our own competitor, and when you are down, help yourself endure and overcome your struggles,” he said.
“Show your struggles, express what you feel, so that others who are also struggling will realize that they are not alone,” he said.
In Tahol ng Karimlam, Tyrone encourages us to not lose hope in darkness. “What the eyes deprives, the ears provide,” he said. “Somehow, it is a cry for help – not really for me, but for others whose cries are muted, those who are too tired to cry,” he added.
Tyrone’s art is not only self-expression but also a depiction of his environment, his community as seen in “Pulotong Karukhaan”, “Mata ng Langit” and “Kawang Kinalawang”.
“Pulotong Karukhaan is about Baldoza, a squatter area – cramped, dirty, and impoverished. But from this place you will see talents. So, do not underestimate the place, instead give the people to rise above their place,” he said.
“Mata ng Langit is about my faith in God; I cannot do and survive all these things alone – God is there to support and guide me,” he said.
A leap from the art for art’s sake that plague many artists today, Tyrone’s artworks are not only about himself – it is also about the community and society that molded him; that while his artworks are personal expressions, these are also lamentations and call to those in power to do their job and help alleviate the sufferings of others.
From this perspective, it is understandable why Tyrone looks at his life as continuing – depicted in “Hindi Matapos-tapos na Negosasyon” – his work table, and with a purpose – “Sintido”.
Tyrone’s works subtly, maybe unconsciously, call for social justice – not really or not only for himself but for many others, telling the world that while we talk of freedom, many remain in chains or chained. And from these struggles, many Tyrone’s will rise to break themselves free from their chains.
Check out Tyrone’s exhibit at Museo Iloilo until Aug. 16, 2017. The Museo is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.