Paintings of an immigrant – Art with a big heart

Philippine-born artist Chito Maravilla paints the world as he sees it. | Photo courtesy of Chito Maravilla

What makes a place home? Immigrants straddle the line not just between continents and oceans, but also between their past and their future, constantly reconciling their definition of home. As they look at the world through their own lens, they see and feel differently. As the proverb says, ‘home is where the heart is.’

Chito Maravilla, an artist from the Philippines, has lived in Canada for more than 16 years. He will share his unique perspective reflecting on both homes through an upcoming illustrated art talk. The event will be hosted on September 6 by the Surrey Art Gallery.

“It sounds cliché to talk about being an immigrant but it is really relevant to who I am. I use my art to document my experience here and the social nature of Vancouver,” he says.

A lot of Maravilla’s subjects are telling how he sees the city, things that amaze him. For example, the Pride Parade, to see everyone including the RCMP joining the parade. Where do you see that? It doesn’t happen in the Philippines. The event inspired him to make a happy painting depicting the parade.

Through the lens of art

DiverseCity, a tribute to love and ethnicities | Photo courtesy of Chito Maravilla

Maravilla seeks his inspirations from real life. When he came to Canada, the artist started drawing people he saw on the Skytrain. The drawings he made eventually became an exhibition at the Vancouver International Airport from 2012 to 2014.

“A lot of my works don’t require reference, the subjects are captured spontaneously. I try to keep that drive, when I see something, I do a sketch immediately, I want to put in the impulse there, that way it preserves the energy and sincerity of how I see it,” he explains.

Blending surrealism and expressionism, his artworks are imaginative, dreamy and full of symbolisms of people, places and emotions such as joy and love.

In one of his award-winning piece The City’s firework display, Stanley Park is transformed into an elegant lady with the Science World uplifting a kid like a balloon in the sky, and a happy multicultural couple on the side celebrating the fireworks with champagne.

In another one of his paintings DiverseCity, the word “love” is made out from different hand gestures by people from different ethnic backgrounds.

“For each of my artwork I tend to have a diversity theme through symbols. They say the place shapes the people, but I think it is vice versa, that people shape the place,” says Maravilla.

Influenced by diverse experience

Fuelled by a passion to draw, Maravilla’s love for art started when he was in grade school in the Philippines. Sicne then, he has had a diverse and successful career. With a portfolio ranging from fashion design, playground design to graphic design, the diverse commercial experience has made him a versatile and thoughtful artist.

“From a young age, I have had the passion to understand the aesthetics of abstract art. I try to work on concepts, influenced also by my long term working experience in the advertising agency,” he adds.

Aside from painting his new home, the artist also paints his experiences in the Philippines. He has two upcoming exhibitions, one in Ottawa in September at the Philippine Embassy and a solo exhibition in the Philippines next year in May.

“I want to uplift my fellow Filipinos through my work. I want to show the beauty of my country. In the end, as an artist, I hope to travel through my art and paint for the world,” says Maravilla.

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