Based in the Philippines, multimedia artist Yvonne Quisumbing has made a name for herself creating wearable art for the fashion world. Her designs have taken her to the runways of Paris and Osaka, and recently lead to a collaboration with UNIQLO. The designer also channels the fashion industry in her surreal paintings, which explore complex notions of beauty and identity.
“Wedged by high society on one side and a constructed ‘rural’ idyll on another – a mapping of her unusual movement reveals a defined pattern,” her artist statement reads. “The former (the center of Metro Manila) is where she attends to her fashion clientele; the latter (the margins of her Cebu hometown) is where she designs and creates her atelier. Inspired and critical of the spectacle that feeds her dominant, for which she is obliged to move back and forth, the artist found the in-between itself as a necessary alternative space for recuperation.”
Dramatic headpieces have become a trademark accessory in Quisumbing’s runway designs – and in her paintings, they are the center focus. The ornate creations incorporate ram’s horns, flowers, butterflies, and rhinestones, such as the ones seen in her 2015 series Visages. The headdresses are isolated against a vacant backdrop, the wearer conspicuously absent. Visages, in Quisumbing’s words, “is a brutish play of the concept of beautiful” in which the artist “suspends the object of interest in a vacuum to invite contemplation on both the fluidity and superfluidity of the form.”
Who Are You Wearing, Quisumbing’s newest series to date, reflects her fascination with posturing and masquerade in the fashion industry. “I’m interested in how people I’ve met put on masks, metaphorically speaking, to hide something or to protect themselves. Mostly for their survival or to get to their goals, they have to pretend,” she recently told the Philippine Star. The series once again features Quisumbing’s designs, with lush, billowing forms that blend flora and fauna.
With their air of mystery, the pieces draw attention to the wearer as much as they conceal them, and each one has a story to tell. One painting, titled “Ado”, refers to the Biblical figure turned into a pillar of salt. The woman – her face shrouded – wears a back piece encrusted with jewels and looks over her shoulder, assuming the tragic stance. “Tame” portrays a woman in an evening gown with the face of a dressage horse, perhaps referencing the strict “rules” of beauty followed in the fashion industry.
Yvonne Quisumbing is from Cebu, Philippines. She studied at the Philippine School of Interior Design before earning a degree in fashion and merchandising from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.
Images by Yvonne Quisumbing and Silverlens Galleries.