One thing that turns up in a Google search of Arno Salvador is an old blogger account. While titled a r n o l a n d, it’s the About section that dispels any doubt it’s not his (“I love to draw and drink beer,” it reads). It’s an archive rife with sketches of his characters – neckless, spindly figures, held up by swollen heads with expressions covering a range of bruised demeanors. Complementing the works are choice quotes, from passages ranging from Stephen King to Joe Hill. “That blog was like me shouting into a water well,” Arno explains. “Most of the posts look rough and immediate, referencing the books and music I devoured at the time.”
The blog ran from 2007 – 2012, but the sketcher’s habit continued. Arno began keeping an art journal beneath his work jacket, at times joining small group exhibitions as he juggled a fast-track career as art director for a men’s title magazine. By this time sufficiently analog, Arno’s style leant toward collage-making, culling old drawings and paintings and twice-read books to bear texture, awash in montage and cut-up techniques. The illustrations took on further color; some made it to print. “I knew then that I was on to something. I felt that there was a style that resonated with me and I could run with it,” Arno shares. Arno ejected himself from the publishing industry in 2016. He has since been running Hello Children! Clothing with his girlfriend, a local clothesline that celebrates oddity, playfulness, and the weird through their designs.
Arno narrates all this calmly, with the same casual tone that he declared his almost “14,600 days of existence” for The Endurance Test. It’s a description of life that sees no need to periodize time in more conventional units of measure, as in years or decades. There arises the idea that there is nothing but the return and repose of the day – and the work, like a sieve, produced from it. The thirteen playful works on view line up like pictures on a rotating filmstrip, on the common ground of their palette, and the tremulous manner by which his figures appear adrift. Parallel to much of the capsulate world of early blog culture, to a r n o l a n d, it’s almost as if Arno had long ago arrived at a similar conclusion with dissociation and dailiness.
The Endurance Test as a title, too, is a deliberate choice of words. One rarely thinks of one’s constitution unless it were under threat, and age can be enough to reflect on endurance in that Sisyphean manner of joy amid the body’s natural attrition. “The idea of endurance came naturally in the sense that creating or making art is a method for reflection. ‘Painting is a solitary sport,’ to quote David Choe. It requires you to be alone,” Arno shares. “It’s healthy and unhealthy at the same time. You become more sensitive to what’s happening around you and inside your head: the good, the bad, the shameful, the beautiful and the vile.”
“I talk about endurance because I’m fascinated by our capacity to move forward,” Arno continues, “But more than that, I love the idea that we really have no choice in the matter, so might as well go on. Life seems indifferent to our individual struggles, but we can still choose to enjoy the little time we were given.”
The Endurance Test continues with us until April 10.
Frantz Arno C. Salvador was born in 1981 in Ilagan, Isabela, and was awarded in 2002 a diploma from The Philippine Women’s University Bachelor of Fine Arts program. He works primarily with mixed media art, but he also paints using ink, acrylic, and watercolor. Most of his creations are derived from trying to understand experiences, dreams, and memories. The variety of books he reads also inspires him; his affinity for animation and comics while growing up also lends a lot to his style. His practice ranges from painting, graphic design, illustration, and photography. He currently lives and works in San Pedro, Laguna.