If you were born before 1996, you must remember the original logo of the country’s oldest bookstore: candy red stripes behind a cursive script that spelled out National Bookstore.
That logo of your childhood memories was retired in 1996 in favor of a plain red background and a more modern font – designed by a Singapore company – but resurfaced briefly in 2017 when the bookstore issued limited-edition canvas tote bags to mark its 75th anniversary.
Those tote bags are now the subject of a 34-piece artwork called Ghost Painting (Cracked Category): National Bookstore by Bacolod-based artist Kristoffer Ardeña.
The paintings take pride of place at S.E.A Focus, an art fair organized by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute that opened last night and will run until January 30. Other Filipino artists whose works are featured are Gerardo Tan, Cian Dayrit, Pow Martinez, Alvin Zafra, Jet Pascua and Gregory Halili.
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Born and raised in Dumaguete, Ardeña moved to Germany when he was 18, and then to Luxembourg, where he apprenticed under several European artists. He eventually relocated to San Francisco to study, with a full scholarship, at the Academy of Art.
There was no National Bookstore in Dumaguete when Ardeña was growing up and the first time he entered one was when he was 15 years old.
“I was in Manila for a few days before participating in a national drawing competition in Naga, Camarines Sur,” he recalls. “The logo is not only iconic; it is beautiful, don’t you think?”
We had a quick chat with the artist about his work:
How did you come up with the idea of using the tote bags as canvas?
My initial idea was to use the plastic bags that had the red stripes. I didn’t know they didn’t have it anymore. I thought I’d scan it and print on tarpaulin and paint on it.