Focus: David Medalla

by Lynda Lorraine

In my Focus Series I will highlight and help increase visibility of artistic practitioners of Filipino descent so that future generations of people of Filipino descent have names and faces that they can relate to of their own heritage.

Lynda Lorraine
David Medalla with Sand Machine © Clay Perry

I was introduced to David Medalla by a mutual friend who both met during their time working as Artists in London in the 60s and 70s. David now carries on his visual practice from his base in Berlin, also running a gallery space there called Another Vacant Space with his husband Adam Nankervis. Giles Thomas, our mutual friend now resides in Antwerp continuing his musical practice which began in the early 70s by co-founding the Beckenham Arts Lab with David Bowie and Mick Weller. And I can’t mention Giles without mentioning his wife and fellow artist Patries Wichers, who’s visual practice centers around political action and education.

Liliane Lijn & David Medalla with Liquid Reflections, © Clay Perry

Giles suggested that I look at David‘s work as we share Filipino ancestry, are obviously, both artists and that we had similar threads of interest in our work. So I looked into his life’s work in more depth.

Cloud Canyons at Another Vacant Space, Berlin

David Medalla was once considered an enfant terrible of the art world, which is the key time of both his artistic development and the time that him and Giles were first friends. He is now a mature artist having dedicated his whole life to his practice, tirelessly contributing an extensive body of work ranging from sculpture, kinetic art, painting, installation and performance art for more than half a century. From a global perspective, Medalla is probably the most well-known and respected artist from the Philippines, if not the region.

Cloud Canyons at Venus Over Manhattan, New York

He grew up in Manila and moved to New York to study at Columbia University as a teenager and as a truly international artist he has since practiced in New York, New York and Paris contributing greatly to London’s 1960s art scene. He has founded many art groups and galleries since and in 1998 he was also the founder and director of the London Biennale, a DIY free arts festival to rival the more traditional biennales of Europe and America.

Hepworth Prize for Sculpture: David Medalla

David Medalla has won awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation of America. In 2016, he was shortlisted for the renowned Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, a time where he was also re-exhibiting his works in Tate Gallery London.

TateShots joined David Medalla on a boat trip down the river Thames in London to see his kinetic, bubble machine sculpture, on show in the exhibition Migrations at Tate Britain, and asked him about a life of adventuring. Hepworth Prize for Sculpture: David Medalla

“Born in the Philippines and based in Britain since the Sixties, with stints in New York and Paris, artist David Medalla describes himself as a citizen of the world.

His work does not come from one single cultural perspective but draws from his constant traveling, inspired by the places and the people he meets.”

TateShots on David Medalla

David Medalla now heads artists doing special projects for this year’s Art Fair Philippines, doing an installation that’s been shown globally, but is now being shown in his homeland first time. For this exhibition, Medalla stages “A Stitch in Time”, a participatory work of art that is fixed in time and place which gives viewers the freedom to attach any keepsake; a photograph, a poem, a promise all on a 15-meter-long canvas, suspended in space like a hammock or an “inverted rainbow”. Its roots can be traced to the handkerchiefs Medalla gave to his ex-lovers in the late 1960s, telling them that they could sew on them any of their beloved objects. This piece is an amalgamation of the stories that the visitors to the art work bring to it, stories told through the pieces they attach to it. Some represent very personal and intimate stories and others random, all grounded in the spaces in which they are installed. Having traveled the world, from Portugal to Singapore and the Venice Biennale in 2017, Manila marks the 25th time this project is being activated.

Mondrian Fan Club by David Medalla & Adam NankervisBiennale Arte 2017
David Medalla for the Art Fair Philippines

A Stitch in Time takes place at the Art Fair Philippines 2019

Images © Another Vacant Space / Image Links

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