Marikit Santiago

Altar Ego

Friday 2 – Saturday 17 October

Malakas & Maganda copy
Malakas & Maganda, 2015, acrylic, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 120 x 160cm. Image credit: Cassie Bedford.

Marikit Santiago’s practice investigates the ongoing personal conflict of cultural plurality at the conjunction of Filipino ethnicity and Australian nationality. Altar Ego explores these themes highlighting the role of Catholicism in Filipino culture.

Marikit Santiago was born in Melbourne 1985. She is living and working in Sydney where her practice is primarily focused on drawing and painting. Currently, she is an MFA candidate at UNSW Art & Design and recipient of the Australian Postgraduate Award.

Selected Images

2 copy

The Weaning Madonna, 2015, acrylic, oil, gold leaf, pyrography and PVA on ply, 97 x 77cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

3 copy

Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist), 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas, 90 x 60cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

4 copy

Rat Pac, 2015, acrylic and oil on MDF placemat, 31 x 21cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

5 copy

Josefina, 2015, acrylic, oil, gold leaf and pyrography on MDF placemat, 31 x 21cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

6 copy

Cross, 2015, acrylic, oil and pyrography on MDF placemat, 31 x 21cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

7 copy

I shall return, 2015, acrylic, oil, gold leaf and pyrography on MDF placemat, 31 x 21cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

8 copy

Panganay (Firstborn), 2015, acrylic, oil, gold leaf and PVA on MDF placemat, 31 x 21cm. Photo credit: Cassie Bedford.

© 2015 All images copyright of the artist, Marikit Santiago.

 Neo Medieval Adobo

Gary Carsley

The future, or so Ilya Nabakov would have us believe, is nothing more than the obsolete in reverse. More and more, representations of the present are shaped by the formal and stylistic attributes of those from the past. Music, Fashion, Literature, Cinema and Art are currently characterised by a trans-historicism that pervades, all manner, or in the case of Marikit Santiago, all femanner of images. It is not so much that time has been wound back, but that time as it was understood during the centuries leading up to the advent of the Internet, simply no longer exists. The concept of time as lineal and moving continuously forward has been replaced by one in which all time is concurrent expressed through the interlacing, in art and life, of what were previously separated and successive historical moments.

In 2005, Thomas Freedman the New York Times columnist and 3 times Pulitzer Prize winner published a short history of the 21st century titled The World Is Flat. In the popular imagination, the last time the world was flat was in the medieval epoch. In The World Is Flat Freedman analyses a range of factors contributing to (and caused by) globalisation and arrives at the flat world as a metaphor evocative of the great leveling out that he describes as globalisations defining trait. A lot has changed since 2005. The World Is Flat has been updated, revised and reissued numerous times, while inequality, environmental degradation and organised violence against women and minorities have all accelerated exponentially. Marikit grew to adulthood, went to art school and did very well. She married Shawn and together they made Maella, who was named after her great-grandfather Ismael.

Many of these things – the current condition of the world, the love between her, Shawn and their families are among the subjects making up the exhibition Altar Ego. The figures in the paintings are easy to identify; if you know Marikit, you will be able to distinguish Josefina, Shawn and Maella. If you have knowledge of high-level sport will also recognise Manny Pacquiao, the first and only 8-division world-boxing champion. That you can determine who the individuals are within the paintings means that they are skilfully executed representations; even when veiled behind a heavy mantilla of geometric sgraffito, we can quickly ascertain who they are and guess at what they mean to the artist. The capacity to render out of nothing but observation and paint the semblance of another remains one of those great, abiding mysteries of art. Inexplicable and allusive, skill can be augmented, refined even amplified by training but if you don’t have it, no amount practice is going to realise it out of mere effort. Images like these require ability and patience. This means painting for Marikit can be partially understood as a meditative act, like prayer, which returns us to the title of the exhibition Altar Ego and my evocation of Neo-Medievalism.

Adobo is both a dish and a cooking process, in the same way in which a painting is both an image and the expression of a concept. Adobo is often considered the national dish of the Philippines. Typically pork or chicken slowly cooked in vinegar and spices, its original name is lost to time and the colonial habit of overwriting indigenous histories with those of the conquistadors. Vinegar is the most readily available mild acid and if we consider it literarily and not literally, it also helps us define something of the artist’s intentionality. There is direct and unflinching steel behind the rich velvet eyes that confront the viewer. Their gaze evidences a refreshing lack of the supine gratitude which beige Australia solicits (as the price for entry) from the newer members of its civic family. This whiff of vinegar is a timely reminder that it is we who should be grateful for the diversity and sophistication multiculturalism has brought to what was and in many places still is, a provincial culture of almost overwhelming mediocrity and inauthenticity.

Principal among the formal properties of medieval painting is a flattened, shallow picture space, often heavily ornamented and richly patterned. Gold, either in leaf or emulsion was frequently applied as a signifier of the richness spirituality brings to life. It is against this characteristic background that the figures in medieval painting and in Altar Ego are strongly delineated. They float like decals. In a strange way these processes result in objectification of the subject; setting up a feedback loop in which the past and the present meet in a future perfect. If the impending is the past in reverse, than painting as an act is not anachronistic, but rather anachronic: both in and outside time. Welcome to tomorrow, today.

© 2015 Gary Carsley

This essay accompanies images of works by Marikit Santiago in the exhibition catalogue.

Marikit Santiago

Born Melbourne 1985


2011 Current candidate for Master of Fine Arts (Research) at UNSW Art & Design

2007 Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours Class 1), University of New South Wales

2003 Bachelor of Medical Science, University of New South Wales Mercy Catholic College, Chatswood

Solo Exhibitions

2015 Altar Ego, AirSpace Projects, Marrickville

Group Exhibitions

2015 All Stations To, Kudos Gallery, Paddington
2014 Recent Acquisitions, Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown
2013 Blacktown Art Prize, Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown
2013 Future War, Firstdraft Gallery, Surry Hills
2013 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Prize, Gallery Lane Cove, Lane Cove
2012 Superheroes & Villains, The Tate, Glebe
2012 Remarking | Remaking, Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown
2012 Blacktown Art Prize, Blacktown Art Centre, Blacktown
2012 Jenny Birt Award, COFASpace, Paddington
2012 UpRaw (online gallery)
2011 The Final Word, Level 7 Woolworths Building, Sydney CBD
2011 Halfway House, COFASpace, Paddington
2011 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Prize, Centrehouse Arts Centre, Lane Cove 2011 COFA Showcase, ArtsBar, Paddington
2011 Jenny Birt Award, COFASpace, Paddington
2011 Brain Art Exhibition & Unconference, Global Gallery, Paddington
2010 Hornsby Art Prize, Cheerybrook Community and Cultural Facility, Cherrybrook
2010 COFA Annual, Carriageworks, Eveleigh
2010 Blacktown City Art Prize, Blacktown Arts Centre, Blacktown
2010 COFA Showcase, ArtsBar, Paddington
2009 RedArt, Reddam House, North Bondi
2009 Hornsby Art Prize, Cherrybrook Community and Cultural Facility, Cherrybrook
2008 The Drawing Show, Gallery 285, Darlinghurst
2007 Art4Aid Prize, Victorian Arts Society, East Melbourne


2013 Blacktown Council
2010 Arts Hotel Paddington, Private collections in Australia

Prizes & Grants

2015 UNSW Arc Art & Design Grant (Recipient)
2013 Australian Postgraduate Award (Recipient)
2013 Blacktown Art Prize (Finalist)
2013 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Prize (Finalist) 2012 Blacktown Art Prize (Winner Best Young Painter) 2012 Jenny Birt Award (Winner)
2011 Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence (Recipient) 2011 Lloyd Rees Memorial Youth Art Prize (Finalist) 2011 Jenny Birt Award (Finalist)
2011 Gallery Barry Keldoulis Award (Winner)
2011 Brain Art Exhibition & Unconference (Second Place Senior Drawing) 2010 NAVA Ignition Prize for Professional Practice in Fine Arts (Recipient) 2010 Hornsby Art Prize (Finalist)
2010 Blacktown City Art Prize (Finalist)
2009 Hornsby Art Prize (People’s Choice Winner) 2007 Art4Aid Prize (Finalist)


2011 Mosman Youth Development Centre ArtStart Mural

2011 Santiago, Marikit. Hindi Ako Pilipino. COFA UNSW 2011. Sydney. Halfway House Volume 3