Reg Yusson is one of the Philippines most successful artists. His work fills public spaces and creates a presence, making it impossible to ignore. As one of the main designers of the High Street Open Space, if you live here in Manila, you are already familiar with his work. From ‘Presence’, the red chimes that enchant us, to ‘Specific Gravity’, the giant suspended boulder, and ‘Hearsay’, his amusing green assortment of steel tubes; a fun poke at the Pinoy love of gossip. Reg’s work is diverse, a clever reflection of a person whose creativity is far-reaching.
An interest in industrial design sent Reg to study at the University of the Philippines, where he found himself immersed in the art scene. Here he developed his passion for sculpture, seeing it as a way to engage people, and bring out their intrinsic curiosity. With a passion for societal development, he saw he could use his influence in a positive way. Combining his love of industry with art, Reg wanted to create public art that was engaging, that enticed the viewer, and would start a conversation.
Curiosity opens ourselves to be more sensitive, intuitive, and observant with our surroundings, and this trains us to be more critical. It makes us see familiarity… differently. A critical society is a thinking society.
And so he started to send proposals to land developers with his designs, and found a foothold. What started as just sculptures developed into a passion for ‘art and environment’ with the inclusion of landscaping and botany. Understanding that the environmental space and surrounds work together with the artwork, is critical in the development and impact of public art.
The BGC public space was the first of its kind for this country – a public space, devoted to open spaces. Reg came on board, excited by the prospect of having free range to create his work, and to be a voice in the development of the area. Usually as a public artist, Reg would have to defend his choices, and work at educating the developers about how the art fits into the area. With this project, he was given a budget and told to go and create. And so he did.
Presence, the large red chimes which symbolise the military history in BGC, are to date, the most complex sculpture Reg has ever made due to the technical nature of creating a large scale musical instrument. But it is his overpowering piece ‘Specific Gravity’ that creates the most buzz in the area. Reg wanted to create a piece that would get the instinctive attention of his audience. ‘I thought defying the natural order of things will create that impact, so I picked a particular element that is primordial…a boulder that’s been there before everyone else, and raised it up to a very uncomfortable level’. The water element is bringing together the tension between the forces of nature, and our understanding of the way things are meant to be.
More recently, Reg created a stunning sculpture for an exhibition at the University of the Philippines. Titled ‘Langit-Non’, this sculpture is based on the folktale ‘The Abode of the Creator of the Universe’ and pays homage to the Visayan God, Tungkung Langit, who is said to have created the world. A series of mirrors create a circular construct, viewers are encouraged to stand beneath and look up, giving an interpretation of how God sees us. This piece is striking, stunning and confronting as it works in harmony with the space around it. The interplay between the contrast of the sky, the reflection of the earth and the fragmented images you see as you look up, are simply breathtaking.
Currently, Reg is inbetween art projects, and is focused on his work creating affordable and accessible housing for people here in the Philippines. His interest comes from his passion for societal development, as well as his experience as a search and rescue volunteer. Having first-hand experience of the devastation typhoons create, Reg was interested in finding a way to build housing that could withstand the intense weather conditions of the tropics. He has looked at how he can create strong and sustainable modular housing, accessible across the Philippines, which is affordable, and easy enough to construct, keeping labour costs in the country and providing opportunities for employment. For Reg this work is purposeful, it is not just about making money, it is about participating in his country’s development, having an influence that will be a true and lasting legacy.
You can follow Reg on Instagram at: @spacespecific
Images courtesy of Reg Yusson and www.bgc.com.ph