David Griggs has lived between Sydney and Manila for the last 12 years and he now considers the Filipino capital to be an adopted home. Indeed the influence of Filipino culture and life cannot be extricated from the artist’s work: the country is often evoked as both a physical space and metaphorical symbol.
Yet this isn’t a one-dimensional exploration. In portraits, photography and films, Griggs looks at what lies beneath communities, conjuring the sinister aura of the underground. This continuous conflation between place, imagery and subculture resonates in the artist’s solo exhibition Between Nature and Sin at Campbelltown Arts Centre.
While Manila is the implied centre of the show, curator Megan Monte describes Griggs’s relationship with Filipino culture as “an outside eye looking into a community.” Featuring works created from 2005 onwards, Between Nature and Sin provides the first snapshot of the artist’s practice since he began living in Manila. “We’ve selected works that have felt the real impact of Filipino popular culture and the political landscape,” says Monte.
The influence of Manila on Griggs can be seen in his major feature film, Cowboy Country. Debuting at Campbelltown, the film is set in a small fishing village and was created through collaborations with what Monte calls “Filipino film royalty.”
Despite being a multidisciplinary artist, Griggs is primarily known for his vivid and chaotic portraits. As the curator points out, “The capturing or portraiture of everyday people, whether friends, colleagues, or people he sees, is really strongly threaded through David’s practice.” Regularly drawing upon political imagery, local histories and subcultures, Griggs’s work often refers to recurring images of popular culture and his daily experience in Manila. While the artist’s trajectory includes a continuous impulse to take paintings off the wall and into more interesting structures, what ultimately defines his practice are collaborations, relationships and friendships.
“He exposes the undercurrents of society; the cracks that aren’t necessarily seen in general media,” explains the curator. “He’s not afraid to paint something or to have an opinion about something and through this he has very humbly captured everyday life and the life of people around him.”
Between Nature and Sin is part of the Bayanihan Philippine Art Project, a program presented by five Sydney-based galleries that celebrates Filipino art and culture. Connected exhibitions include Halò at Mosman Art Gallery, Passion and procession at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Balik Bayan at Blacktown Arts Centre and Balik Tanaw at Peacock Gallery.