Pamela Gotangco-Hupp and Her Comic “pinay”
In September 2015, I attended the opening of a one-woman show at Galerie Y in SM Megamall (one of Manila’s largest shopping malls) which is a mall-cum-art center.
Entitled “Adventures of Maryang Pinay”, the exhibit showcased 21 paintings by a visiting Filipino artist named Pamela Gotangco-Hupp.
I was fortunate to meet and talk to her.
Her family background and education
Pam, as she is fondly called, was born in 1973 at Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija located in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines.
She showed an early talent for art, play painting at the age of eight and acquiring her first easel at sixteen.
Art runs in the blood of the Gotangco family. Pam has a sister who also paints and another sister who is into creative soap design. They are likewise related to a late portrait artist by the name of Eddie Miranda.
The artist graduated from the Science High School of the Central Luzon State University, and attended Metro Manila’s Miriam College to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Communication.
Pam's birthplace in the Philippines
Looking closely at Pam’s acrylic paintings at the exhibit, I could sense humor in the way she presents her main subject - the blank-faced Maryang Pinay (“Pinay” is slang for Filipina, a Filipino woman). “I am happy and playful as a person, and this shows in my work.”
Dressed in her various traditional attires, Pam’s Maryang Pinay is obviously feminine, as she blends well with Western influence.
In Tinikling with Manong Matisse and Haring Pandanggo, for instance, Maryang Pinay is shown performing two lively Philippine folk dances – the “tinikling” (where the dancers coordinate with beating bamboo poles) and the “pandanggo sa ilaw” (where the dancer holds a lit candle in each hand). But what is unique is that she is portrayed with the iconic figures of artists Henri Matisse and Keith Haring.
“I want to create a harmonious dialogue between the viewer and my work featuring an iconic figure from a different art epoch. Maryang Pinay acts as a host in my canvas. She expresses Filipino hospitality and humor.”
Also striking is Haplos Sa Panaginip ni Picasso where the subject is depicted caressing the iconic image of the famous artist of the Cubist movement.
In another painting, Kalinga Kay Koons, the artist assimilates the popular balloon animal image of modern artist Jeff Koons. This is evident in the breast shape of the female figures garbed in the native costume of the Kalinga tribal women of the Philippines.
Likewise, in Hey Mickey, the Kalinga tribal woman carries a basket of Western icons or products.
Haplos Sa Panaginip ni Picasso, 100 x 100 cm
Kalinga Kay Koons, 150 x 100 cm
Hey Mickey, 120 x 80 cm
There is also a touch of Asian influence which enhances the funny side of Maryang Pinay. Geisha and Girl With A Fan - two pieces that were part of Pam’s earlier series called “Geisha-Solitary Artisan” – present this accordingly.
As for Asian artists, Pam admires the whimsical nature of the paintings of Chinese Qi Baishi, as well as the friskiness in the designs of Japanese Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama.
Maryang Pinay also makes fun of pop culture, as shown in Haranang iPhone, Selfie Stick, Lobot An Sa Palengke, and Rubber Ducky Dance. In Basta Pinoy, Laking Ligo, the subject poses with a can of the popular Ligo Sardines of the Philippines. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, this piece speaks subtly of hygiene since “ligo” literally means “bath or shower” in English.
Then, there are the paintings that simply capture the natural feminine moods and traits, such as in Wonder Nanay (where Maryang Pinay is dressed with the tiara and familiar costume colors of DC Comics’ Wonder Woman) and Makati Girls.
One piece that has a sentimental touch to Pam is Lukso ni Kero. She created this as a tribute to her best friend who is a cancer survivor. The painting depicts three kids with the cartoon character Kero Kero Keroppi. The children are playing “luksong tinik” (“jumping over thorns” in English), a Philippine game where two players sit on the ground while the other players jump over their body parts. As Pam relates, “Back then, it was just a game to us. Little did we know that it was a preparation for us to hurdle the many thorns in life. Like her favorite character Kero Kero Keroppi, my friend managed to face her illness gracefully and with a smile.”
Rubber Ducky Dance, 120 x 80 cm
Wonder Nanay, 80 x 60 cm
Lukso ni Kero, 80 x 60 cm
From the above paintings, which one did you like?
Since 2010, Pam has penetrated the international scene, as some of her works have been selected by well-known curators from famous museums and galleries. In 2012, her artwork - spotted by art historian and Kunsthaus Zürich curator Mirjam Varadinis - was included in the “100 Curators 100 Days” project of Saatchi Online (the world’s largest online art exhibition).
Pam has likewise participated in some of the following:
October 16 to 19, 2014 – Contemporary Art International Zurich, Kongresshaus Zurich
September 26 to 29, 20142014 – Group Show, Front of Bicycle, Basel Art Center, Switzerland
July 25 to September 10, 2013 – Digital Show, “The Story of the Creatives”, 16-19 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City, New York, U.S.A.
April 27 to May 27, 2013 – Solo Show, Hotel Bistro zum Güggibueb, Vilmergen, Argau, Switzerland
December 5, 2012 – Digital Display, Scope, Art Basel Miami, U.S.A.
October 18 to 27, 2012 – Charity Participation/Display, Dragon Project – benefit for Japan, Paris College of Art, 14 Rue Letellier, Paris, France
June 18, 2012 – Digital Display, Art Takes Times Square, New York, U.S.A.
May to September 1, 2012 - – Main Artist in a group show, Alte Bekannte Neue Entdecke, Art 333 Gallery, Wadenswil, Switzerland
2012 – Featured Artist, RF Mouse Design, Bodino Spain Catalogue 2012
Her personal life
After the exhibit, Pam returned to Zurich, Switzerland where she is now based with her immediate family. She is married to Matthias Hupp, a German working as a consultant specializing in finance and control. The couple met in Manila when Matthew was pursuing further studies at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), an established international management school located at Manila’s central financial district, Makati.
Before meeting her husband, Pam raised two kids on her own. They are Louise Francesca and Matthew (now grown-ups). She now has a third child - Maximilian Auric Hupp.
Apart from painting, the artist refurbishes old furniture pieces and converts them into artworks. At home, she enjoys cooking for the family. For her leisure time, she goes diving and, at wintertime, finds time to ski at the snowy mountains.
My view of the artist
Meeting Pam has truly been a pleasant experience, as I consider her a dynamic figure in the visual art world. I am happy that through her bright colors and shapes, she has succeeded in blending Filipino customs with foreign ways, thus bridging the cultural gap between Asians and Westerners.
And what’s more - through Pam’s art - the world can now see the modern Pinay not just as a woman who is demure, polite, and sweet…but someone who is simply cheerful and carefree.