Name: Papa Osmubal (Oscar Balajadia)
City/Town currently based in: Macau-SAR, China
Primary art: Poetry
Affiliations: Creative Macau (Center for Creative Industries)
1. Describe yourself as an artist: Tell us a little something about yourself and your milieu—who you are and where you’re coming from, what you do and and why you do it at all.
Born and grew up in a dusty Kapampangan town of Magalang that valued individuality and the union of individuals more than anything else, I now live in a consumerist and capitalistic city of Macau, in China. I am a school teacher and I got engaged into the teaching profession because my heart and soul tell me that artists are not only creators, but also teachers. It is sort of a spin-off to what Ho Chi Minh said, which I have always used as my guiding principle as a creator— “A poet must also learn how to attack.” I want my “being here” (my existence) counted; I want to be part of the transformation and changes of and in the society for the betterment of many. I did not take it to the mountains and battle fronts with guns in my hands; rather I took it to the classrooms with books and pen in my hands.
2. Describe your art: What informs and inspires your work? What makes it distinctly you and why do you think it matters?
I don’t have a particular “specialty” when it comes to art; because I want my soul and thoughts to be free. That excludes me from being identified or attached to a particular school of artistic thought. But that said, I am more of an abstract artist, although I love doing calligraphy (both traditional or classical and modern—but way more traditional than modern). I also do collage and paper cut (again both modern and traditional paper cuts—and the mixture of the two). My paper cut is a mixture of the strict ideals of Chinese tradition, Japanese simplicity and minimalism, Klimt and Art Nouveau—literally, more often than not, all these mix in one single piece of paper-cut work that I do.
3. Let’s talk about so-called turning points: Who or what made you want to be an artist—when did it all begin to happen by way of self-realization and how did it evolve from there?
I don’t know if I can remember what and who made me take the palette, so to speak, because I was too little and too young when I did. My late mom and her uncles were doing a lot of calligraphy (they call it “lettering” in the Philippines) and they had a big collection of calligraphy (lettering) books and patterns which I inherited when they all got too old and busy minding life and whatever heaviness therein. I started with my calligraphy with those books, at first by using carbon paper to trace the letters. My mom made and sold embroidered goods.
Maybe those are circumstances and instances (the old members of my family having been into calligraphy and “penmanship”) that made me the artist that I am now. Just maybe. Because it is just there, in me, like life, so natural like breathing; so natural as a pulse; so natural like the throbs of the heart. It just happens to me the way life happens to everyone.
4. Regarding the so-called creative process: How does art come to you? When and where do you get your brightest/darkest ideas?
I am a “dark” poet and artist— dark because I have to be in the low (or preferably lowest) mood to create. What makes me create the best of my arts is when I am down; when I am burning with anger; when I am the loneliest; when it seems all the weight of the world is on my shoulders and bones; when I am alone. I just can’t write and create when I am happy. I need to be in the “dark” to create and write. I search for the “great light” when I write and create—the great light what is in the farthest and deepest corner of my soul; the great light that brightens all things dark and black; the great light that gives meaning to what is meaningless to many. Senselessness, inequality and injustice in society are the main causes for me to be in the “dark.” So, if I want to create or write, it is easy, because I just see the society as it is— the drudgery and injustice in it— and art forms in my vision and thoughts. Maybe my art is a coping mechanism, for me to live with purpose; to give meaning and put colors to life; and to value and love the world despite the way it is.
5. Describe a day in your life—begin from the time you wake to the time you sleep and everything else in between.
I sleep less. I spend my life almost entirely awake. I sleep late and wake up early. I start the day always in the toilet. I read in the toilet while defecating—I will never, never, and never just sit there defecating—that is a waste of my time. I have to read in the toilet when defecating. People find it gross; but I calculate life by number (time)— I won’t waste some time (some “numbers” in my life) just sitting on the john like dumb, waiting for “it” to come out and drop. That is why in my toilet I have a pile of books and reading materials. After reading in the toilet, I have to have a little dose of news—and I get my news from CNN online. I follow CNN not because I agree with the American way of presenting “facts,” rather to see and know what I disagree on. Then I am off to work (to teach). Then back home in the evening. I do most of my art and writing at night after dinner, when everybody else at home starts preparing to sleep. The silence of the night is absorbing. The silence of the night is so very “sacred,” so very overwhelming. The silence of the night affirms my existence. The silence of the night is my dominion, my fortress, my refuge, my water, my air.
6. If you can only choose one title from among your works that you think best represents your art and who you are as an artist, which work would it be?
Frankly, I have not done something that made me feel contented as an artist. If that ever happened, that would be the time that I when creating loses its meaning in me. I can’t even pretend right now that I love a particular work of mine. One particular work of mine has an element of beauty what is not in my other works. If I could only have a “patchwork” (a magnum opus) that has every element of beauty that is in each of my works, well, then great, because that means the “gods” are setting me free. But, frankly, I don’t expect that to happen at all. When it comes to my art and art processes, I may say I am pretty stoic, because I am often biased for the “future”; indifferent to the past; and solemnly respectful of the present. Any work that I value at a particular moment will surely lose its significance and importance to me at a later moment. My appreciation of my own works is too impersonal, too fleeting.
7. What is, thus far, your proudest moment as an artist?
I was included in group exhibitions; I am being respected by my counterparts in this city where I established my home; and I have had a few successful solo exhibitions of my own, and those moments should make me very proud. I don’t want to undermine the blessings and privileges that spring out of those moments, but I see those as mere “extras” and “bonuses” to me, so to speak, because those are not the reasons why I create at all. What I am going to say is not really a “moment,” rather it is a recurrent moment—or, to be precise, the result of that moment. My proudest moment as an artist was when my daughter won a government-sponsored art contest in Macau. It is not her winning that made me the proudest, rather the token of the moment; the meaning of the moment—a token of the success of my efforts. It proved to me that I made someone’s soul bloom, burn, and soar. The moment my daughter got her prize was the moment that affirmed my art and made me believe that my home is founded on art, on something noble, on something beautiful, on something peaceful, on something invincible. That particular moment told me that my home lives the “revolutions” and “ideals” I have been dreaming, longing and fighting for.
8. Let’s get serious and play slumbook. What’s your favorite—
-day: Friday (but night)
-book: Letters to a Young Poet (by Rilke)
-song: Imagine (by John Lennon)
-movie: Shawshank Redemption
-tech gadget: desktop computer
-analog gadget: alarm clock
-vegetable: sweet potato tops
-food: laing (yam leaves stewed in coconut milk)
-drink: red wine
9. A hypothetical question: If your art were a fortune cookie, what message would it contain?
Stay within; live within; travel within.
10. Yet another hypothetical question: If, for some reason, you could not do art, what would you be doing?
Gardening and carpentry
11. Complete the following sentences:
a) Art is— life.
b) Art is not— lifeless.
c) Art can— live; can make something live; and can make one live.
d) Art cannot— die.
12. What are you working on at the moment and what’s next?
I am working on a big collection (“big” means “many in quantity”) of paper cuts of famous and influential people in history— yeah, including Hitler and Mother Teresa of Calcutta; yeah, including Rasputin and Lincoln. This project is inspired and influenced by my being a school teacher. I want to present historical figures through art (that is through paper cuts). I might be able to finish the collection within a year or two. And I am tapping the education bureau of Macau to sponsor this project, as it is very educational and informative, especially to the students.
13. What do you hate most about us, this website– spreadophilia.com?
You are too out-of-this-world. Only poets and artists (or those with “holy madness” in them) can understand you.