Words / Erica Russell
Artwork / Anton Belardo
You’ve seen them on Instagram, those technicolor cartoon babes with candy-colored hair, come-hither eyes, and limbs dangling from arm sockets. They are grotesque and cute, diabolical and bright, dark and colorful all at once, brimming with pop culture and dripping with subculture. They are the post-90s Lisa Frank girls (and boys!) for the modern social media addict. They are tongue-in-cheek and yet so sincere, and they are straight from the mind of young Filipino pop artist Anton Belardo.
We spoke with Anton, our latest Instagram art obsession, to find out more about his visual work, his love for anime and animation, and the intersection that exists between self-expression, socialization, and the web.
When did you begin to pursue art, and was there a moment when you discovered your signature aesthetic?
Back in college, I decided to take up Fine Arts, which slowly developed my style. I worked as a fashion stylist, mainly doing runway shows. It was great as I got to make accessories, props, and looks. The experience and the exposure helped me develop the stylized characters that I now love to do. But even before when I was still little, I love to draw.
If you could describe your work in a sentence to someone who has never viewed it, what might you say?
Pop with a dash of Dadaism: a collage of popular and iconic objects bringing a message of hope.
Your art seems to exist within the space between the adorable and the grotesque, a space where creepy and cute are one in the same. Does this make sense?
It does, although it only occurred to me only after looking back at how my works has progressed, from the earlier wardrobes to the recent artworks, and even as myself as an individual. I realized that I follow a rule: combining or gravitating towards completely polar and opposite ways and ideas, and making them work for me. I obsess about tiny details, and yet I’m random and relaxed. I portray harsh images with the use of soft, pastel colors. They tell stories of my personal struggles, depressions, nightmares, which turn out to be positive.
It delights me whenever folks say how my works touched them, how they were magically transported from when and where they were down.
Your work also seems to be heavily inspired by both pop culture and cyber culture, as you tend to draw many Instagram personalities. In which ways has the Internet inspired your work?
I practically grew up with it. As I find it difficult to open up, interact with people, and become awkward at social gatherings, the Internet has provided me an avenue to express myself with more freedom.
The “Mermaid Life” series was started a few years ago, inspired by my experience as an online individual, and how I made connections with people from all over. I refer to them as cyber mermaids or mermen – it’s more about because of their way of life of art or artistic expression, kindness, and respect, rather than as a reference to the mythical creatures.
Are there any particular animated films, comics, or cartoons that have inspired you?
The anime series that I watch even now are “Sailor Moon” and “Yu Yu Hakusho: Ghost Files,” the anime film “My Neighbor Totoro,” and MTV’s 90s animated series, “Daria.” Interestingly, my inspiration is drawn out from horror to heavy drama-filled films. I’m particularly obsessed with women between the ‘30s and ‘60s, and loving people’s history and their feelings.
How do you hope people will feel when they view your artwork?
I hope to continue creating works that get the reactions that they do now. Personally, I don’t see my works as “inspiring,” but rather a reminder that there is magic during dark times.
photo by / Jujiin Samonte
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