Aussie-Filipino artist paints a picture of her cultural plural experience

Aussie-Filipino artist paints a picture of her cultural plural experience

Story by Lily Kerley 

Like many second-generation migrants, Marikit Santiago had a hard time growing up in Australia. As a child, Marikit rejected her Filipino background due to the massive cultural differences which led to other children bullying her and personal resentment towards her ethnicity.

However, Marikit now looks at these differences in a new light. The Sydney-based artist explores her experiences of cultural plurality through truly inspired works, using unique techniques, materials and themes. Presently, Marikit has created, exhibited and won awards for a huge number of works that explore her intertwining of ethnicity and nationality.

“I find cultural plurality is really fertile ground… this ambiguous state of tension,” Marikit said.

“Most of my work comes from this place of feeling… I’m proud to be Australian and I’m proud to be Filo, but also, you know, rejecting being Aussie and rejecting being Filo.”

The talented artist has also found inspiration in her experiences with religion.

“I’ve paralleled those sentiments about my cultural identities with my Catholic upbringing, so, a lot of my paintings sort of show my family in roles that are usually taken up by the Virgin Mary, or Saints, or Jesus Christ,” she explained.

I find it interesting the way that certain objects, or gestures, are given a certain value within a religious context.

Marikit creates visual experiences through her art by marrying figurative painting with contemporary forms of art making.

“I use this technique that I’ve called polar painting, or negative colours of an image,” she said.

“I’ve sort of used that negative to talk about not being one or the other, but being all these things at once… Like I’m allowed to have these multiple sensations or identities.”

The use of unconventional materials also adds depth to Marikit’s work and highlights the luxuries so often taken for granted in the Western world.

“So, I use a lot of material that can speak to that theme of how we perceive value; I make quite rich paintings on disposable material, like cardboard,” she said.

“In sculptural and installation work, I also use a lot of domestic items to relate to my personal experience.”

The messages Marikit expresses through her art are not for her alone. Halfway through her third pregnancy, the busy mum hopes her work will tell stories of heritage to her children. 

I hope that by making these works and exposing them to that, it becomes like a multi-generational way of passing culture on to them.

“I want them to investigate and I want them to challenge, and I kind of want them to feel of these simultaneous and conflicting emotions about their cultural identity, because I think that’s healthier than being one way or the other,” she said.

Marikit features as part of the New Sacred exhibition at Mosman Art Gallery until 8 September 2018, and is also taking time to focus on her third pregnancy. She looks forward to producing more works in the future.

Take a closer look at Marikit’s art by visiting her website HERE.

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]