Art Sets.

The art that made me: Marikit Santiago

By the Art Gallery of NSW
Marikit Santiago in her Parramatta studio. Photo: Garry Trinh.

Uploaded image

Marikit Santiago in her Parramatta studio. Photo: Garry Trinh.

In The art that made me, artists discuss works in the Art Gallery of NSW collection that either inspire, influence or simply delight them. This selection by Marikit Santiago first appeared in Look – the Gallery’s members' magazine.

Melbourne-born Marikit Santiago completed a Bachelor of Medical Science before pursuing her career as an artist. A former artist educator at the Art Gallery of NSW, in 2019 she was a finalist in the Sulman Prize, which she then won in 2020. Currently working from her home garage studio in Parramatta, Santiago often collaborates with her three children, who are portrayed in her winning Sulman entry. Her practice, she has said, ‘negotiates the tensions that exist within my multiple identities as a Filipina, an Australian, a
mother and an artist’.

John Olsen Five bells 1963

I have loved Five bells since high school and although I would consider my taste in art very conservative and representational, this work is one of the few abstract pieces that I like. I often admire works that achieve what I cannot. I can’t make gestural marks like Olsen, which is why I call upon my children’s naïve yet confident and authentic marks. As Five bells is so often on display, I associate it with the Gallery and my experiences there as a visitor, an exhibiting artist or as an artist educator. It has embedded a certain sentimentality for the work and my home ground institution that has been so supportive of the development of my career.

Deborah Kelly Venus variations #1 2015

Deborah Kelly’s delightful little collage was part of a wonderful and timely, all-woman exhibition Here We Are at the Gallery, curated by Lisa Catt. I came across Kelly’s work at the same time that I was making work about Venus and felt a connection. In my work the role of Venus has been replaced with self portraits, or my mother would stand in her place. Kelly uses the image of Venus directly, placing her in new contexts. I feel that we are seeking to articulate similar themes of womanhood but expressed in different modes: mine in painting and Kelly in collage. As with Olsen, I admire that which I cannot achieve, and I think Kelly’s collages are highly thoughtful and beautifully composed.

Rodel Tapaya Do you have a rooster, Pedro?
(Adda manok mo, Pedro?)

I first saw this work in the Passion and Procession exhibition at the Gallery as part of the Bayanihan Philippines Project. I was part of this project with the Gallery and Blacktown Arts Centre. It was a critical point in my career as it introduced me to other Filipino artists from Australia and the Philippines, and for perhaps the first time, I truly felt included and represented in my community. Rodel Tapaya’s work particularly moved me. This large-scale painting, rich in imagery and vibrant in colour, accessing Philippine mythologies, was captivating. This was the first work by him that I had seen, but he has since become a significant influence on my own work, giving me the fervour to start painting big – big in scale and intent. I saw his solo show at the NGA in Canberra later that year, and the following year at his solo show at Ayala Museum, Manila, where I was honoured (and starstruck!) to meet him.

Sir Edward John Poynter The visit of the
Queen of Sheba to King Solomon

I can’t explain why, but I love this painting. I don’t know if it’s because of its large scale, its ornate frame, the grandeur of the scene, or perhaps it’s the position it’s hung in the Grand Courts of the Gallery. Possibly all of the above. I have always admired the high level of technical skill and detail in Western classical paintings that cannot be matched in contemporary art. I strive for this level of technical skill to evoke a grandeur in my work, but at the same time, it makes me wary that perhaps as a figurative painter, I could be exercising a dying practice and so I seek ways to make my work more interesting than a realist oil painting on a white wall.