Purveyor of Knowledge and Emerging Publisher of Philippine Art
October 20, 2017

Dex Fernandez As He Likes It
by: Christiane L. de la Paz

August-September 2017 -- Dex Fernandez began his art career in 2007, painting a repertoire of phantasmagoric images inhabited by angry mountains, robots with a diminutive sidekick, triangle-shaped flying saucers, androgynous octopus, bumblebees spitting fire, flying piranhas, stegosaurus with long neck and whales with shark teeth. Espousing Pop Surrealism in his early works, he demonstrated his imaginative spirit by depicting a place similar to the netherworld. The following year, he showed interest in graffiti, an activity taken up by the Pilipinas Street Plan, a group of artists who showcased ephemeral artworks on streets. During this time, he experimented with graffiti using ready-made Kraft paper which could stick in any street wall. Gradually, he combined his graffiti with collage on photographs to reveal new nuances. As Fernandez progressed in his art, he developed labor-intensive methods that made use of archival photos, pre-existing imagery, French curves, biomorphic forms and tangles of strange life forms, making his artworks architectural, topographical, biological, bawdy, cartoony, chaotic, orderly, placid and apocalyptic. He also did notable mural art projects, animations, children's book and zines that brought him his succes de scandale. More importantly, his art also won him a substantial following and inclusion in important exhibitions and residencies. Fernandez’s works have not been seen in any depth in local art museums and private collections and so for those, like me, who have not discovered his meticulously executed canvases, the only subsequent opportunity is in this month’s feature article. Here, he talked about his humble beginning, the institution where he received his training, the coup de foudre show that infatuated him to enjoy his art studies, the stint he did in Saudi Arabia and the evolution of his subject matter and more-is-more technique.

Animation Part fo the Fine Arts Work Center Show (2015)

Animation Part fo the Fine Arts Work Center Show (2015)

Animation Part fo the Fine Arts Work Center Show (2015)

You completed your fourth residency in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 2015. Tell me about this experience.

I was clueless about Provincetown. I never researched the place until I get there. My period of residency started at the end of spring until the beginning of summer. I think it’s a perfect season to explore the town because I hate snow and traveling in winter.
I was hosted by the Fine Art Work Center where I was given a single room apartment and a shared studio. The FAWC was founded in 1968 by local artists and writers. They opened the center for their colleagues and eventually became an international art center open to everyone. I was lucky because I was the first grantee of the Asian Cultural Council. Everything was paid for by my sponsor. The place was really quiet and at that time I was working solo in a shared studio. There were also some old artists working at their own studios. We were four at that time. Once in a while, there were visiting artists and writers who held talks and presentations in the center, resident artists were obliged to attend, too. The apartments and studios were in the same compound so sometimes I bring home the drawings and continue them in my private room.

My original plan was to shoot the local people and paint them later on. I changed it at the last minute as I’ve been waiting for the right time to do an animation project so I came up with one! I had no formal training in animation but the tutorials in Youtube was really helpful. Everything was D-I-Y. I set up a mini lightbox made of transparent container box with light inside that I bought from a nearby hardware store. I had so much fun in the center and to think that I almost spent my time working in my studio. I was thankful that the FAWC officers didn’t mind me changing my plan.

The first month of my residency was intensively working at my animation pieces. I never went out and never had a chance to explore the town but because of that, I was able to finish my animation drawings. It was also the right timing because a group of young interns came to the center with some young artists and writers. The center started to bacome noisy and lively which I really missed. I started socializing with them. I hung out with them in bars and pubs because they were my age group. It was a small town so the bars closed early. We cannot continue the party in the FAWC apartment out of respect to the elders so we obeyed the rules. We just sleep or work. Once in a while I jogged around the town to see everything that I can see and to maintain my physical fitness (chuckles).Since my studio work was almost done, I started hanging out in cafés, ate great meals in restaurants and drank in bars. Sometimes, I do research in the museum to learn the history of the town. Unfortunately, I already forgot its history! All I remember is that it’s a gay-friendly area in the tip of the Cape Cod in Barnstable County, Massachusetts.

At the end of my program, I have to exhibit my animation and install a mural in the Hudson Walker Gallery in FAWC. I was happy that my audience were impressed about my non-selling show. Most of the local artists were also surprised because my work was really new to them. They said that my works have the vibes that fit New York City. I was flattered by their good feedback and was satisfied about my work as well. At the back of my mind, I was proud that as a Filipino, I can make an impression to other nations of my talents and dedication. The fruits of my labor paid off because I got two commissions from two different people!

I arrived in Provincetown, Massachusetts after riding the bus for eight hours. I arrived in this clueless small old town which was far from civilization. Here I was at the tip of Cape Cod and was welcomed with a cold and quiet afternoon. I got a bad impression as a city boy. But I realized that my impression was not lasting. The town maybe old but it is a new experience for me. They have chill, friendly and open-minded people. They respect the elders but are also wild and showed their fun side. Provincetown is a place where old meets new.

Bastard Show New York City (2012)

Bastard Show New York City (2012)

Bastard Show New York City (2012)

What was the art scene in Provincetown like?

Even if Provincetown is a simple and chill town with quiet and conservative people, they are very much into paintings!

Your culminating project was filling the walls with drawings. How do you feel about drawing on gallery walls as opposed to painting on canvas?

Drawing directly on the wall is really satisfying. I engaged myself to be part of the space, and, in a way, I give respect to the soul of the place. I’m not a Buddhist nor do I practice any Zen or religious beliefs but this is how I think an artist should engage a space. When it comes to mural projects especially if they're not meant to be sold, I don’t think about longevity. I don't mind if it will be erased afterwards because what is more important to me is the documentation. I am in transit when drawing the lines, spontaneously and naturally high. I think about the story in my mind and translate it directly to the wall. I feel like I’m going to a different dimension and that I become part of my self-made world everytime I lose connection from reality. Probably because I’m releasing a natural drug from my brain and they spread out to my body. I am under the control of my subconscious mind. The results are infested walls composed of stories straight from my brain.

Ho Ba


Saint of Fake

Don’t you get sentimental when you erase your works after a show?

The whole process of drawing is very meditative to me. I feel like I’m traveling to a different space and time. And once I’m done drawing, I share the story to the audience and then I let them become part of the process as I erase my masterpiece. It is like letting go of the past once it’s done and then I simply move to another chapter in my life. It also sounds spiritual but I don’t want to associate it to any form of religious or spiritual acts. Someone said to me that I am a masochist because I love seeing my work vanish into white but I think it’s more painful to me if my work was not shared to others.

I know that having residencies put you on a different strata. How did it help you?

It helped in my maturity. Dealing and meeting with different foreign people allowed me to learn things from them. I now understand how to edit things and choose what I like. As an artist, I am inspired by things that surround me and the experiences I get from life. Before, I used to choose the subject matter but now the subject matter chooses me! My fear also disappeared and is now replaced by more thrilling sensations.

Take us to your first residency at the Vermont Studio Center in 2011.

I made a collection of painted photographs inspired by the story back home but I soon realized that I’ve gotten scared to leaving my comfort zones. Here I am in a new place, starting from scratch and exploring new experiences so it made sense if I come up with a new series. I came to Vermont on a gray winter. It was bloody cold. Everyone was working in their own studios. We got to meet other residents during meal time as the rest of the day was devoted to serious work. I was able to experiment with that kind of set-up. I was staring at the white wall and all of a sudden I began painting on it. That was the first mural I did in my early career! I put a tripod and a video camera at the back and started recording the time-lapse. It won’t last long and I had to immortalize the process in digital video. I posted the video in Facebook and received a thousand views and likes from social media friends! I was inspired by their good comments. Since then, mural became my thing. It also became easy for me to apply to other international residencies because of these tools of trade. In addition to my first mural project, I invited fellow artists to collaborate with me so we can bond and make new friends. Before my residency ended, I established connections and stayed in touch with other residents.  The founder/president also informed me that I was the first resident-artist who executed a mural in their studio since they opened in 1984, my birth year! I also collaborated with visiting artists from New York City. His name is Chuck Webster. He is known in New York City. Here is the link of my mural collaboration with Chuck:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGE4Sjp0IDQ )

Jeonbuk,Korea (2016)

Tokyo, Japan (2016)

Yogyakarta,Indonesia (2013)

Fluidity and Encounters, The Drawing Room (2015)

Manila, Philippines (2014)

Manila, Philippines (2015)

Art Fair Philippines 2014

Art Fair Philippines 2014

Your second residency was in Taiwan at the Ping Pong Art Space in Taipei.

Yes, but this time I did not apply for it. One of the founding members and owners of the Ping Pong Art Space saw my works online. I believe he was also impressed with my mural skills and he invited me to do a one-month residency at their artist-run space. The Art Space did not have a generous funding for a foreign artist like me. However, they provided me with a round trip ticket, housing and was given a very small allowance. It was really tight so I have to be resourceful with my creations. Good thing, the cost of living in Taipei is not that expensive.  I only stayed there for one month. The weather there was fine so it became easy for me to explore the city. This is my very first official mural project where I did many collaborations with their local artists:


And here is the solo mural I did:


Aside from murals, I also made a zine! The entire show is in this link:


Seeing all these links that documented my past works, I can’t believe that in a span of one month I was able to do all these by myself! I think that the reason for that was because of the power of being unconscious of money. Whatever is available to you, no matter how tight the budget and you don’t need to worry on how you can sell your work, creativity will just pour in. It’s pure soul. To say the least, we were supported by this artist-run space that really doesn’t care whatever crazy ideas we have in our heads. These people who believed in us also struggled to raise funds for us. They received a small amount of support from their government, too and the rest came directly from their own pockets. After my residency, the art-space was shut down permanently! I felt sad about the turnout but the memories remain fresh in my mind and preserved in Youtube!

How do you stay abreast of all the local news and other information about the Philippine art market when you’re away?

My artist friends are the ones who keep me up-to-date and the articles that are posted online and in Facebook. In this internet era, even though we are far from one another, we keep each other connected through our friends and loved ones. But of course, it is still fun to talk and gossip in person over beer than typing each words on keyboards and you laugh alone in your chair. So everytime, I come home from my not so long travels, I make sure to reunite with my friends and catch up and talk about everything under the sun! Sometimes, in some random gatherings or art openings, I would be introduced to young guys and I would learn that they are new in the area of art collecting. I would be surprised in a good way because it means that a new breed of audience will continue to support the art market, hopefully, yeah.

You are familiar with artists here and abroad. Which living artists do you share the same aesthetics?

The Manila art scene is still conservative. First world culture has a big impact on me so it has become easy for me to face the Westerners. I’m not shocked by them cause I’m already shocked (chuckles). It’s like the saying, “don’t disturb me, I am disturbed enough already.” (laughs more). I really have a wild taste so I can relate more to artists in New York City. It’s hard to live in that city not because I cannot compete with other artists there but for reason that I just find the city costly to live in. In my situation right now, I need to financially support my sick mom. She is fighting Stage 4 cancer in the spinal cord and her stability is up and down. It is really difficult not only to her but to the whole family. When I have overcome this challenge, I can proceed to whatever adventure awaits me.

Untitled 1 (2009)

Untitled 3 (2009)

Untitled 4 (2009)

Untitled 7 (2009)

Untitled 5 (2009)

Untitled 6 (2009)

Untitled 10 (2009)

Untitled 12 (2009)

Let’s take about your first solo show. You made use of semiotics, as you mentioned to  me beforehand. Tell us about the ideas and processes you went through for this show.

I had my first show in 2008. I was already bored with my whimsical paintings at that time. They’re too cute and eye candy for me. I wanted to explore new media and new works.

Untitled (2007)

Untitled (2007)

My works in 2007 were too childlike. It has mental problem inside because the theme was on the battle between good and evil, beauty and ugly, etc.. These are the imaginary garapata that I have been playing around ever since I was a child. They’re cute but actually disgusting. So I came up with different ground including T-shirt, wallpaper, curve epoxy resin, etc..

acrylic and thread on T-shirt (2008)

acrylic and thread on T-shirt (2008)

acrylic and ink on found wallpaper, sealed in plastic cover and thread (2008)

So I was sourcing out and trying to find prospect materials in a thrift shop. I found these set of vintage and brittle American poster possibly from the 1940s. It was yellowed and easy to tear if you do not hold it with care. By the way, I was, well, in love at that time I made these works so I sold each piece for only P100! I do not have any clear plan yet to what those vintage posters meant to me so I bought only eight pieces of them. This is the result of playing and exploring the new piece I discovered by myself.

Blissfully Hell (2008)

Norman Crisologo bought this piece but now I’m not sure if he still owns this. I put together the three different posters to make a landscape format. I have no particular concept about the work but the existing image gave me evil thoughts. They look demonic and suggestive so I showcased their real hell image. Look, it is not all the time that artists get to choose the image. Sometimes the image looks at the artist for the hidden image to come out. I also like the idea of me and the picture conversing together. Going back to the art piece, Blisfully Hell, that particular work became my breakthrough piece when it was showed at the First Manila Art Fair in 2009 under the Pablo booth. I gained a broader audience of art collectors after that.  Trickie Lopa and Olivia Lao discovered me there, too. All of the collectors wanted to have that piece so I did a series of it but some said it’s not as strong as the first one. I didn’t care cause that’s what I felt during the time I was working on those succeeding series!

Beer is Best, Sex is Next. Fuck your Dad, Oh My God

Die Die My Darling

Dog of Plunder

Earthly Delight of Rashida

Rashida’s Imaginary Friends

If you’re wondering who Rashida is, she was my high school friend who was a very hardworking student, smart and conservative. She was like the hope of her family for a better life. But when she entered college, everything changed. She became a playgirl and got addicted to sex. I enjoyed juxtapositioning the existing picture. There was an arts professor in Cebu. He told me that he wants to borrow some of my works, those painted vintage posters so he can make them as samples of semiotic works. I was clueless about semiology at that time but when I did a research on it, I can easily relate to it! The material, It’s Not Forever,  I have an unlimited supply of this kind of pictures. So I came up with an idea of why not use the technology of photography! This time I can choose the image to work for a long period of time so I can produce any works without worrying on the availability of the picture. Painted photograph sounds corny, right? Happily, I did not coin that term!  So going back to your question. My first solo show was held in Pablo Gallery in The Fort in 2010. Details of that show are in this link:


I had a good reception and gained a good reputation in the art scene after my solo show. At least I’m the one  or maybe the first one to have developed this kind of medium. Based on my research, Santi Bose had the same idea. He painted or juxtaposed an existing vintage advertisement billboard or posters in Baguio. Some of Bose’s paintings were associated or embellished with photographs. But with regards to my own work, I intentionally painted on the photograph print.

How important is photography to your process?

Very important. Picture chooses me and I am the medium from which the hidden picture is dissected. “A picture within a picture.”  I often think about those words in the process of creation. I don’t limit myself to one theme. As much as possible, I draw pictures based on my feelings. I have stories in my head but sometimes it doesn’t always come out the way I imagined it to be so I cannot really predict what the exact image will come out during and after the process. But I love that kind of process: spontaneous and cerebral. Cerebral because I am consciously aware of what to do and at the same time unconscious of what would happen next.

You’ve been using archival photographic paper since you entered the art scene. How did you encounter this medium?

I got concerned with the longevity of my works especially my photographic works. I wanted the next generation to see them. Having a collectors’ mindset, archival photographic paper also adds value to my works!

Let’s talk about your second solo show,  \m/.

My second solo show was held in Silverlens in 2011. The title of the show suggests that this group of letter is an image or vice-versa. But to   people who understand this symbol, it means “rock on!” This time, the collection that I put out questioned our faith. I used two different images of idols. The first idol is the one that we worship in church or in the altar of our homes. The second one is the idol that we worship in the world of rock and roll. They are two different images but are linked together in some aspects; one is that both are objects of worship. To give a more visual example, I used an image of Jesus Christ for this show because he resembles the rockers who we idolize as we praise and rejoice with them during concerts. If you could study my series called “Hey Idol, How you Doin’?” there, I painted a sculpture of the risen Christ tattooed like a rock star and covered with black seamless robes, as opposed to the real image of Jesus Christ. The risen Christ was portrayed as a rock star, provoking religious viewers if they find offense to it. I got disappointed! I never heard any negative feedbacks from my works at all! Maybe because it wasn’t shown to a more conservative audience. At the center of the space, I put large-scale photographic works that illuminated the small room. I called this a mini chapel. To complete this look, I painted the room with random images of Jesus Christ and some famous rock stars, mixing them with human skeletons and big skulls, hence, suggesting that life and death is nonsensical if we worship the wrong idols. The images that I put there were composed of a grungy looking guy, a fan of some rock star having KISS make up on his face while hugging Mother Mary. He wore vandalized robes and David Bowie make up. Mama Mary is carrying baby Jesus who I portrayed as having an origamish abstract face to symbolize that he is not human. Jesus may be an alien or something like that. On the upper part of the chapel were three images of Jesus Christ which I depicted as a genie, tattooed and ready to grant your three wishes. At the bottom part was an eye-pleasing flame that represent hell or eternal flame. And oh the guy’s body has no skin; his muscles look like a steak and ready to be eaten by whoever meat lover was in town. I called that piece, “God Bless The Rock Star.” This is my link: http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2011/02/m.html.


Biggest Catch

I understand that you do not make preparatory sketches and that you rely on a lot of improvisation.

Yes because I want it to be more spontaneous. I also love surprising myself!

Do you visualize your collection as you are making them?

Before, yes. I applied it to my early works in my Paintograph show but the recent individual pieces were not like that anymore. I am just enjoying the impulsive quality of it. My current series are becoming more psychedelic and abstract in appearance. The semiotic quality was dissolved by the chemical images and abstract elements that I put in. Too acid that sometimes my work doesn’t care on the meaning anymore and the whole piece suggest to viewers that it’s the chemical effect of drugs (laughs).

How do you go about choosing the painting from your show to be the image cover for your invitation? Are you, in anyway, particular about that or do you leave it to the gallery to do that?

I am particular about choosing the image cover. I studied Advertising under the Fine Arts College in the Technological University of the Philippines. So in a way, I understand design and how to advertise myself and my shows through posters or invites layout.  From my solo show until the present, I am the one who design my own invites. Each of the poster for my show has a different mood or approach. It all depends on the theme of my show, but mostly, I go for a minimal look. Sometimes, I show some portion of the art piece just to tease.


Eat Your God

For Christs



No More Iterax

Secret Garden

Spit on a Butterfly

Suicidal Every Idle Moment

Yo Mara

What design or vignette do you often used in your paintings?

The free-flowing of lines that looks like an amoeba or a microorganism that floats in my paintings. My lines are also associated with French curves because I like freehand drawing. I applied that with some technicalities such as a ruler or a pattern maker to create more intricate images.

You incorporate so many intricate images in your works, e.g. French curves, kaleidoscope patterns, how do you stop yourself from working on it too long?

It is cerebral. I only stop when I feel it’s enough already. I find pleasure when I used the French curves maybe because Sigmund Freud was whispering to my ear that it’s sexy in every curves that I drew from it (laughs). When I get tired of working on French curves, I pick up new patterns such as circles and other geometrical patterns. I guess, it’s my way of balancing the free-flowing mood of the piece.

How do you know when your messy go-for-it work is already finished?

I would never know when the work is done. Not because it’s filled with elements, or less or minimal in appearance, I guess, it’s about the feeling that I have inside me declaring that my work is done and that I should refrain from working on it. I think that’s the mystery that we artists feel inside us.

The collection you prepared for the Berliner-Liste 2010 Fair for Contemporary Art (Photography and Art since 1960) in Berlin, Germany were skin flick. Tell me about these paintings, the process you went through and the overall objective you had for your collection.

Love One Another is a piece that is part of the series XOXOXO but this particular piece is more daring and vulgar. At that time when I was doing this, I got fascinated with masked wrestlers and meats and sausages are really sexual to me. Also I have this thinking that all of these images that cropped up from my mind were made by an evil person. Sounds like “the evil made me do it.” Love one another is also a three-way of loving each other cause three is a powerful number of all. More details in this link: http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2010/09/berliner-liste-2010.html

Have you ran into censorship problems with the sexual images you portrayed in your art?

So far, none.

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Third Solo XOXOXO West Gallery September 13-October 8, 2011

Do you think that the sexual images in your works bother the Filipino art viewing public?

Yes. That’s why I have a special audience for this particular series. Not all the Filipino viewers would like the images that I put out and I already knew that from the start. I don’t want to please the viewers but when it comes to my works, it’s me satisfying myself. It’s an added bonus when someone appreciates the series that I showcase. Super extra bonus when someone buys them (laughs). Once, I think about the role of us artists—that is-- to open the minds of people and educate them in the best way we can. We are also a school with a different method of teaching.

What type of collectors buy your paintings?

I don't set a type of collector for my works. As long as they understand my works by looking at the images themselves and not by explaining it to them word by word, I would definitely trust them my works. I also want the collectors to understand first the artist’s life before accumulating the pieces, in that way, they can easily appreciate the beauty of the ugliness of my works.  But truthfully, I don’t know who really collects my works.

Is there any particular work that you consider your tour de force?

Yes, the series in my ephemeral mural show. Those were majestic works and they showed my ability to work with larger than life murals. Good thing, I’m still capable of doing similar works. I always try to push myself to paint bigger and bigger images than the previous ones I already made.

Let’s talk about visions. What sort of show would you like to do with a sure clientele?

I had this vision before that I wanted to showcase murals for the local collectors to have in their houses. I failed in that regard. They liked the idea but they said that murals are not collectibles. Like I told you, I have two different collectors: those from the US and Europe. They commissioned me to paint murals for their houses. Then after some thinking, I realized that my market is not really here but somewhere. Here, I made more eye-candy, less provocative, friendly or easy-to-hang pieces for easy money. But you know, I cannot be stopped! The devil inside me is still strong so on the side, I still painted provocative works to satisfy myself. I don’t care if no one buys them!

Is money important to you?

Money is very important because it helps me accelerate my art. If you have a big amount of money, you have the power to make all your ideas come alive! For example, if I am millionaire, I want to build a big Garapata building that once you go inside it, you will encounter a very intricate world just like how I execute my murals. I also want to create a Garapata video game but it is expensive to employ game developers. I’m also thinking of having putting my designs on a hot air balloon floating around the city of Makati. With money, I can also build an art school that will support young people and encourage them to create art and develop their artistic talent for free! That’s why, money is very important.  Too bad my savings are not enough to pursue all of these (laughs)!

Is it hard to make the kind of art that you do when you have less money?

Yes because photograph printing is an expensive material. In addition to that my work needs to be framed with a glass. And because I am very ambitious, I even aimed to make a 6 ft. x 30 ft. artwork but my budget always restricts me.If I have an extra money, I can hire people to work and assist me. It’s more efficient that way.

Do you think that art is more about conception or execution?

Both. They are linked together.

ZINE from Taipei Residency (2012)

ZINE from Taipei Residency (2012)

ZINE from Taipei Residency (2012)

ZINE from Taipei Residency (2012)


ZINE from Taipei Residency (2012)

Have you ever been accused of plagiarism?


How big of a problem are plagiarized works?

Big problem if found guilty! It will ruin your career. Collectors will be turned off!

Is it ever possible to have an original idea at this day and age?

That’s a tricky and debatable question (laughs)! But from my own understanding, I know that everything has been done already, all types of art movements existed, too. Concepts, ideas, designs, images were done already here and abroad. What’s going on now is merely an adaptation. We modify or improvise things from  previous artists or their ideas in order for us to pull out the other possibilities from it. In other words, it’s “re-appropriation” or “re-absorbing.” However, in a way, it is still original but inspired from somewhere, whether one is conscious or unconscious of it. I hope I explained my point of view very well!

How do you make sure that your images are mentally interesting and fresh to the eyes of long-time onlookers?


:-) 1

:-) 8

:-) 4

When you are in the process of creating, who exactly is the viewer you have in mind?

I’m not conscious about who will be my viewer. As much as possible, I want my works to be seen by everyone! I also do not limit my audience. Critiques are also important to me whether good or bad.

Do you employ assistants or is everything done by you?

I do especially if I have an extra budget then I call my assistant to help me out. But if I’m budget-tight, I have no choice but to lessen my nightlife and spend more time working in my studio.

Can you tell us about your personal background?

I am not rich. I am still living at my parent’s house in Caloocan City. I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the fifth child and the only artist in my family. My dad who passed away was a machinist. My mom is a sewer. She is in a bad condition right now. Three of my siblings are renting their own houses around Metro Manila while the rest are staying with us in the house. I have my own small room, a bedroom actually, that I transformed into my own studio. I was born in 1984 and is thirty-three years old this year. I enjoy traveling and hanging out with friends.

You studied in a public school for elementary and high school, how were you drawn to art?

I love drawing ever since I was a child. My interest further developed when I was in my elementary because I started joining several art competitions. It continued all the way through high school which made me decide to enter Fine Arts in college.

What else made you decide to study Fine Arts?

My eldest sister suggested to me to take up Advertising. She said it was a practical course. I don’t know much about what was in store for me in that course but I like the sound of it. 

What made you decide to abandon your studies?

I was clueless about the local contemporary art world since my freshman to sophomore years when I was a student of Fine Arts. All I know then was the traditional arts and crafts. When I met the senior Fine Arts students who were already actively exhibiting their paintings in contemporary art galleries, they really inspired me to go on. Lynyrd Paras, Froilan Calayag and their colleagues were ahead of me. Mark Andy Garcia and myself were influenced by their skills and styles in painting. At that time, I was already attracted to whimsical creatures and Pop Surreal style where I am unconsiusly developing my trademark character, Garapata. One time, I saw an exhibition of Jojo Legaspi at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, it was his collection of A4 size drawings and the theme was morbidity. I fell in love at first sight! The next year when I was in third year, I went to the Cultural Center of the Philippines to do a school research in the library, there was an ongoing exhibition of the Thirteen Artists Award 2003 in the Main Gallery. I entered and was shocked to witness the whole show! That was my first time to see an intense show like that. Each individual artist was represented with their strong works and the impact that it brought me was intensely overwhelming. That was my first time to see a powerful group show. After that, I was inspired to paint more but at the same time I felt that it’ll still be a long way for me to achieve that kind of mastery. I bought the P150 catalogue of that show cause I want it to be a reminder for me as I start with my own art career. Php 150, at that time, was my 3 day allowance in school so it was really a big deal to buy that catalogue. In school, I didn’t encounter much problem in my studies, in fact, my group even got the Best Thesis award. But even if I left school, I still painted and actively joined small group shows until I landed my first job in a large format printing company in Quezon City. I spent one year there as a graphic artist and then was hired by Dan Raralio for a two-year contract of faux-finish marbling job in Saudi Arabia. I was with Mark Andy Garcia with two of our closest classmates. My two classmates were really talented in graphic design and painting but they have no feelings for the arts unlike Andy and myself. We both decided that after our contract in Saudi Arabia, we will pursue our own art careers and never be employed by any company. So we did!  When we reached our first year in Saudi, the employer granted us to return to the Philippines for a one month vacation then the four of us including Dan never returned to Saudi Arabia anymore. We blocked all the contacts and did not respond to their emails (laughs). We thought that one year is enough to have our own savings so we proceeded to our next goal: to become full-time artists! That was in 2007-2008. The rest is history.

Tell me the kind of training you received at the Technological University of the Philippines.

The only major course in Fine Arts is Advertising so we were trained to do graphics from traditional to computer-generated. The faculty was mixed. We have professors who were experienced in advertising and we also have professors who live two lives, meaning, they teach art part-time and they also pursue their careers in  the visual arts. Andy and myself and the rest of our friends like Lynyrd and Froilan got influenced by those professors. They’re the ones who insisted us to attend the art shows in art galleries and museums. We were also given the chance to be introduced to the alumni who were mostly full-time artists. In short, Andy and myself were already exposed to the art world in the half period in our college life.

Did you enjoy your time in school?

Oh, yeah!

Tell me about your early influences.

I love the Pop Art movement of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean Basquiat and even the surreal style of Salvador Dali. I guess, they are the common artists who continue to be relevant up to now. Oh, and I love Paul Klee, too!

At what instance did you think you were going to be an artist and get into the things you are doing now?

I just know that the more I explore the art world, the more discoveries I make. It’s never-ending for me. Every time I discover an art that is fresh, it inspires me to paint more, thinking, that I can do better than most of them!

Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Synthetic Fade
Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Numb Feet
Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Ninth Solo 1000000000 mg West Gallery, 
July 3,2014

Let’s talk about other issues. Do you agree that making art in today’s world is a way of reflecting a political thought, a political approach or an example of activism?

Most of the art being made today has a political approach. Artists like us are also concerned about our political situation and the only way to attack the “enemy” is to make art in a subliminal approach. We will not spoon-feed our audience by giving them all the information, rather, we want them to see, think and re-think issues.

What do you believe as an artist?

I believe that everyone is an artist: beautiful, fragile, precious maker and creative! Like what the great Picasso once said, “Every child is born an artist, the problem is how to remain one once we grow up.”

How do you make yourself not disappear among the famous names in your generation?

I just keep on working, showing newer and fresher works. I will never stop exploring new works!

What are some of the good and bad reviews you’ve received about your show or works in general?

Luckily, I haven’t received any bad critiques. Maybe there is, but never read or heard of it. One thing I’ve heard from an art collector is “I don’t understand why Dex keeps on changing his work. I like his early works compared to the current ones. Most of his work are bastos.” Look, I heard that. The thing is, I get easily bored in one single format or in one style so in order for me keep me alive, I have to keep doing different works. It balances me mentally otherwise if I don’t exercise my creative authority, I will just quit doing art and work for a call center company. For me, it’s fine though.

Do you think that the press is important in your practice?

The press is very important. They help me spread my works and words.

How do you go about choosing how to frame your artworks?

My artworks are already too busy. They have a lots of things going on, very colorful and intricate. In order for me to balance the whole piece, I frame it in a simple white structure.

: - ) 1

: - ) 8

: - ) 4

What new trends have emerged in your art in the last five years?

In the last five years, I have been working and exploring the many posibilities of my painted photographs and paintings. There was one from my show called “ : - )”  held in Pablo Gallery in The Fort in 2013 and the “ 1,000,000,000 Miligram” in West Gallery in 2014 that glows and illuminates the colors of my artworks with the help of a black light and strobe LEDs. The lights animate the elements and figures in my artworks that they now look like a computer generated artwork. It just a matter of playing with lights and colors.
: - ) http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2013/01/blog-post.html
1,000,000,000 Miligram http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2014/06/1000000000mg.html

I also did a painted, drawn and printed canvas of picture associated with video projection. http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2013/02/dppi.html It’s a canvas work overlayed with separate video to animate the elements. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukZ6D3wUIF0&feature=youtu.be.

Also I explored GIF (graphic interchange format) http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2013/02/mantis.html

I also executed silkscreen print on photoprint (print on print):

Silkscreenprint on archival print and Manila paper (2014)

Silkscreenprint on archival print and Manila paper (2014)

and did a silkscreen print on Manila paper:

I also did the illustrations for a children’s book:

Above all, I joined the Singapore Biennale 2016:


You mentioned that you also have a small set of portrait commissions. Tell us some of your memorable portraits.

Mandy Barreto commissioned me for one. One random meet up in a gallery’s opening and she asked me to do a portrait of her. Perfect timing cause I brought my camera with me at that time! I took a picture of her in the angle that I like. The next two weeks, we saw each other again cause I already finished her piece. She was shocked to see my work and she told me, “Dex, how come you did this to me?! At first, I thought she didn’t like it then she said, “I really really love it!” (laughs) I was satisfied with her comment. Mandy showed her portrait to her husband and her husband liked it so she asked me to do a portrait of her husband in the same style. Unfortunately, it is still pending. I never had a chance to meet Mandy again due to my busy schedule.

Does it matter to you what your sitter thinks about the portrait you did for him/her?

Yeah, especially if it was commissioned. It’s important to hear the sitter’s ideas. I think that it’s all about having a good relationship with the client. But, they have to be aware that I am a semi-sarcastic and witty thinker so they should expect that I do funny remarkable portraits of themselves.

What problems have you encountered in protecting your aesthetic values?

So far, I have never encountered anything yet.

Solignum Attack Garapata October 26-November 20

Solignum Attack Garapata October 26-November 20

Solignum Attack Garapata October 26-November 20

Solignum Attack Garapata October 26-November 20

Solignum Attack Garapata October 26-November 20

I want to go back a bit to the early part of your career. You were doing fantastical images of some kind of animal creatures, I understand that this idea came about from the garapata that besieged your house dog. How did your garapata idea progress into something else?

It was a childhood experience involving pets and pests that gave birth to the idea of my garapata. When I was a kid, we used to own a dog that lived inside our house. Unfortunately, it became infested with garapata. We tried to cure it but the situation got worse over time. Soon, it wasn’t just our dog that was infested, the ticks found their way around our house and scattered themselves in different places in the house! We began seeing them in our living room, crawling at our tables, making their way up to our curtains and even to our television set! My brother and I would spend hours catching those ticks, searching for them at the corners and holes of our house and our dog’s fur. We would catch them and drown them in gasoline but no matter how often we do this, it seems that we couldn’t get rid of all of them! We have no choice but to give away our dogs. Our house became tick-free again so that experience left a big impression on me. This fascination manifested again when I entered the world of graffiti. I thought, “Why not infest ticks in different places in the city? So I started placing my garapata stickers everywhere! This infestation started in 2008 which continues to this day.

I want to know if you have any rituals before you stage a show.

I consider my first solo show (http://dexfernandez.blogspot.com/2010/08/blog-post.html) as the table of contents of my succeeding solo shows. When choosing a particular subject it’s important that I have to feel it, at least, engage in it, so I can easily execute the images. That’s why my works are all experience-based or from another person’s point of view who has caught my attention. Now when I’m about to work in my studio, the first thing that I do is clean and organize the working place so I have less destructions.

What do you want the people to remember you by?

Although my work is based from my own experiences, my life is not really an open book to the art world. As much as possible, I do not want to spoon-feed the people everything about me. I still want to maintain some mystery. What I want the people to remember me by is my attitude towards the art.

12th Solo 310E44R822 Owen James Gallery (2015)

All Of A Sudden I Miss Everyone



Don't Be A Stranger


What can we expect to see in your succeeding shows?

I’m still in the process of thinking some new and more improved works so I can’t promise anything at this moment.