Rodel Tapaya’s main piece at ARNDT’s primary location in Berlin resists blatant interpretation. In his expansive painting, The Chocolate Ruins, the blend of thematically related images impresses a conflated disquiet and a sense of simultaneous ironies. Speaking in the reconstructed and often esoteric language of folklore¬ – myths and legends and their transfer in barbershop talk and current events – his works resurface age-old wisdom to comment on our contemporary life. All the images are visually connected by parts of the cacao plant, scattered across the canvas, each one dedicated to the three major disasters that has devastated the Philippines during the past year; a magnitude 7.2 earthquake, Supertyphoon Haiyan, and the scandal over widespread misuse of congressional funds.
Chocolates are easily a substitute for anything that corrupts, be it money, beauty, or tradition; an insinuation to its prominent role in the bittersweet aspirations and decline of Imperial Spain’s colonial rule over the Philippines. Other elements in the tragic tableau show vestiges of church ruins, makeshift shelters, storm clouds with faces, and helpless men.
As our living and thinking increasingly adapt to the unremitting charge of information, artists like Rodel Tapaya have developed an ability to isolate particular parts of this dissonance and arrange them in fresh dramatic combinations. Tapaya has an awareness of the world as one would an ancient storyteller with insight developed in the context of the events that have altered into other things, and explores the implication of these dynamic and inexhaustible symbols and narratives in relation to one another. In a time and place when these myths and legends have become ruins as well, of national identity, the painter looks not to new discoveries to catalogue the human condition, but rather pathways among the thicket of things already known to our ancestors and his nation’s literary heritage.