A visitor from the Philippines - second blog

11 Dec, 2019

Marrz Capanang is co-founder of Alima Community, Artivism Iloilo, and Himbon Contemporary Ilonggo Artists Group. He took part in a week long-residency with Haarlem Artspace in July 2019.

Today is rejuvenation; I breathe the beautiful landscape of Green Hills where I am staying for the whole week. My home is owned by British-Mexican artist Geoff Diego Litherland, at the moment he is in Spain while I get to experience what it’s like to live inside the artist’s mind.

First, I was greeted by a romantic patio with a glimpse of the hills fading towards the horizon. Long ago, I could only see such picturesque scenery in postcards or magazines. You can feel when love is so mutual, the plants are as happy as the sun willing to clear the thick clouds over Wirksworth. As you step in through the white door, you will see the stair to the next floor - some random things and succulents on the shelf and a high-end silver stove accompanied by an array of spices and other cooking ingredients which made me excited; bubble thoughts of Indian and Asian food filled my view for a bit, it was distracting though. Then as you pan from right to left, you will notice the minimalist dining table with a warm drop light and behind the settee are the artworks made by the artist himself. Across is where the counter for dishwashing, preparation of food, making coffee or tea, clothes washing, and other related stuff. The wooden top looks good and smells good, it highlights his wares that resemble earthy-abstract patterns; from the cups to the plates, actually one of the pieces was made by artistic potter named Heather. Next to this room is where mostly (I think) the artist takes his nap and read his books because you can judge it by the way how his couch look – sort of gypsy-zen-ish feel in complimentary with a nice round table and a carpet. Also, there is a small cupboard as old as hundred years like how it feels for me when I look closer at the details of the distressed surface. The lights here are the same lights used in the galleries so it gave the space more drama and texture. There are also slick lamps which I never tried lighting up.

On the second floor is where the dressing room, the comfort room and the bedroom are located. These days you see a lot of wonderful images in Instagram, most of them are really inspiring but the artist’s toilet and bath is so beautiful that even my DSL camera cannot capture its majestic beauty; it is way beyond Instagrammable in my opinion. Everything is just so neat yet idiosyncratic. In one occasion, I messaged Geoff, “your home I cannot consider as 5-star or 10-star even, it is just so stellar.”

Two weeks before, I was with my twin-flame Kristine, we planned to meet Erik Gao in Kaohsiung, Taiwan – Erik is a mover, an inspiration and a very humble visionary. We met him along with young, beautiful and promising woman, Irene along with mysterious artist Wu not because he can speak nil English but rather when he looks or ponders at things there’s a depth to it. We travelled together to Changbin, our first road trip in Taiwan; we get to see the coast of the east while we share laughter and kindred connection. As we were closing the gap between the sleepy town Changbin and our anticipation, we were astounded by the verdant sleeping giant, mount King Kong. Then we had to stop by Erik’s dreamy bookshop and soon after we met his circle of amazing friends like Xiaoyu, Lala, Naito, Kaniew, and a whole bunch of interesting people. At first, you wouldn’t think they are special because they look simple but the more you observe them the more it reveals the truth in what they really love and do – they are all artists! In Iloilo we have a constant struggle in nurturing our art and our dreams as a flock especially in the urban set-up nevertheless seeing them dream and work together I can imagine how this far-flung town will flourish someday. In my perspective: the key things I learned from this immersion is to give due respect to someone not because of being an artist but as a day-to-day human being doing the things he/she love for himself/herself and for the place. Second is Nature was truly given the utmost care, I can tell based on how intact the old trees scattered all over the mountain range.

Prior to my exhausting 22.5 hours in transit (6 hours by train, 16.5 hours by plane) and 7 hours lay-over from Changbin to Vietnam then Vietnam to London, we watched how darkness swallowed the sunset after that we witnessed how slowly and seamlessly it carpeted the vastness with stars. Watching it for an hour in the open field with everyone was really heart-warming. As warm as the asphalted high-way where our backs are leaned against, we remember the sun’s presence and perpetual love.

While in Wirksworth I said to Livvy and Catherine, “the place whence I came is parallel to what I just experienced, so with the people”. Geoff, Livvy, Catherine and Bev are the Directors of Haarlem Art Space; it used to be a mill – producing spools of cotton thread that started the Industrial Age in England. Haarlem was their dream, it was built to support creatives; painters, filmmakers, musicians, silversmiths, crafters, sculptors, designers and writers. In the first tier, you can see the dining hall which is convertible to a work station then adjacent to it is the kitchen where they cook together. The space next to it is a shifting room where they hold exhibits, performances, meetings, and movie nights. Then on the other side is another room and you can enter thru a door, from there you can marvel at different worlds; spaces divided by walls but connected by a single path. Each of the section is a space for a specific artist where he/she can work on his/her projects. Interestingly, they brought their own things from their home studio and set-up into the new space to their liking. It feels like time travelling as you move from one section to another, the artists’ personality really exudes in their little but comprehensive studio.

The second tier and third tier of Haarlem were also filled of wonderful tiny worlds of the artists. Some of them were working on their space whilst others were away. Haarlem has no strict guidelines about how an artist should express creativity and set no limit for their dreams and goals. It existed for the purpose of cultivating art, weaving dreams, recreating culture, and redefining relationship as community.

“We should look at stars how they become luminescent and sometimes unseen, not by counting them” I realized as I walk into Geoff’s bedroom and dream the night away.