About the Artist
Manny Padernos was born and raised in the Philippines before moving to Singapore where he worked as an interior designer for almost 20 years. While in Singapore he began taking classes in Chinese and Western Painting at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. His passion for the visual arts led him to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at the New York Studio School which he completed in 2018. While at the NYSS he received scholarships from Milton and Sally Avery, Jonathan and Barbara Silver, and the Ramapo Trust. He attended residencies at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and Chautauqua Institution School of Art and participated in group exhibitions in New York and Singapore.
Padernos’ current work draws on his diverse background and personal history exploring themes of migration, labor, and a sense of place and belonging. In the summer and fall of 2018 Manny will be artist in residence at Chashama North, the Wassaic Project, and the Anderson Center at Tower View.
with Joe Brommel, July 2018
I like one thing you said in the pre-interview questions I sent along: that each new space is a “problem to solve.” What is the problem to solve in this space for you?
Usually I start with an idea. This is my second project that deals with red tide: the algae that excessively blooms in the sea, and then become poisonous. Something bad that goes in and conquers the ocean, the space, but that is actually a part of nature. That’s the idea for this installation. My problem is how to tackle the built environment without producing a design solution; to respond to the space in a way that is organic and not an act of decoration. I want to create a form that is still, yet moves. I wanted to conquer that tide.
Yeah, it's one thing to respond to a gallery space, but another to respond to a barn — especially given that you have the studio space nearest to the outdoors. Can you say a little bit about how that has influenced the piece?
It took me a day or two to start fixing my twine elements. I wanted to do it without adding any screws, nails, fixing elements, or anything foreign to the studio. Everything here is pre-existing. My entry to the space is done already; my body is responding to the given situation, to the site itself. Holding and tying the space together is me leaving a mark in this moment. And then when I leave, that mark disappears. Like water in a stream, it just passes.
Let's go more into the idea of your body — how do you conceive of this not just as a space to be responded to by your practice in general but by you and your body in particular?
The strips’ width is the width of my thumb. The length of each strip is the length of my arm. When I learned how to sew manually, the length of the thread should be the length of the arm to avoid any mistake. I used that in weaving the paper strips. My body is part of the installation, in a way.
There also seems to be a deliberate impermanence in your work. I think sometimes art is conceived of as something that, in its ideal form, lasts forever. But it seems like you revel in the fact that this is a momentary installation. Can you say more about how this is not just a response to a space, but also to a time?
I define art as life. I love to explore. Growth is present, destruction as well. There’s life, there’s death; there’s birth, rebirth. My background is in interior design: I have the desire to build and experience my vision. And my work deals with the hands — with toiling and doing labor at the moment of creation. To experience the satisfaction and joy of making is a gift of art to life.
Can you say a little bit more about how your background as an interior designer has influenced your practice today?
I think it helps. In interior design there’s a client, there's a need, there’s always a function. In art, it’s more emotional, more spiritual. There might be a need, but it's not usually function. I know how to deal with space, and I don’t just see it now — I can hear it, too.
How do you want your work to come across to a viewer who's used to experiencing more expressly functional spaces, then?
I want people to experience not only the installation itself but the whole space, the barn itself. I want people to touch my installation, yet it is not a requirement. No instruction. I want to give them an experience.
And how do you feel that this piece will serve as a touchpoint for a future piece?
With these past projects, I was responding to and solving issues of forms and structures. I want to go more into the materiality and specificity of the objects. I am not moving away from forms, but evolving.
Photos by Walker Esner