Undiscovered Artists: Alwin Reamillo

(by John Mateer)

It is possible to have been discovered and remain undiscovered. This is true of Alwin Reamillo. Few in Australia know Reamillo’s work or that he has been working in Western Australia for over a decade.

Born in Manila and based in Fremantle, Reamillo is one of Asia’s foremost artists. He has exhibited with the grandmaster of Russian art Ilya Kabakov and the young Cuban art-star Kcho, and has been in major international shows, including the Biennale of Venice and Havana and Traditions /Tensions in New York. For the period 1993-1999 much of his work was made with his long-term collaborator Juliet Lea under the name Reamillo + Juliet.

Originally trained as a painter in the Philippines, Reamillo’s work is a response to the naturalization of European -principally Spanish - art in the country of his birth. Most often using collage, whether through a process of transferring photocopied images onto various surfaces – crabshells, bed sheets, pieces of wood – or as a principle allowing him and his collaborators to assemble installations of found objects and mock-paintings, he is a generous revolutionary, an anti-colonial Surrealist.

His idiom is one of critique; he is able to draw parallels between the globalizations of cancer and Disney, of the Conquistadors and Captain Cook, all the while retaining a sense of fun and irony. Once in Melbourne an installation of his was mistaken for the remains of occult ritual and was brought to the notice of the police and the Herald Sun!

In recent years he has been more involved in collaborative work, building whale-cars in Japan and New Zealand, and, together with Aboriginal artist Roselin Eaton, a bush-helicopter in Fitzroy Crossing, a work now in the WA Museum. His work with communities is inspired by the Filipino notion of bayanihan, the form of solidarity taditionally evoked when a village would join together to help move a family’s bamboo house, a concept parallel to that of Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aethetics.

Alongside Dadang Christanto and Savanhdary Vongpoothorn, Alwin Reamillo’s continuing, if quiet, presence is a sign of the healthy complexity of today’s Australian art.

Reprinted from the Australian Art Collector, Issue 36, April-June 2006