Justiniani loves to place his characters in precarious conditions courting danger. While Justiniani introduces a comic note, he is more complex than a cartoon figure, for he is also the sign of the ludicrous and the absurd, as well as the oppressive grotesque as he leapfrogs over lesser creatures, or plays the power game with other equally hefty colleagues.
The kneeling everyman, dressed in camisa de chino, bears angelic wings yet is about to pick up a hammer. What is he going to do next?
At the same time he also signifies a fleshy bumbling playfulness defying gravity and giving the lie to appearances.
His paintings in oil can also be seen as explorations of Filipino folk culture that show the intertwining of indigenous and colonial elements. They often have the large sky for a background, not a neutral, undifferentiated space, but flecked with clouds.
It is a longing allied to a clear folk romantic strain that permeates through the artist’s work, but is often clothed in 19th century colonial imagery with its quaint poetic discourse.
Mark Justiniani often identified with the lineage of Social Realism through the 80s and 90s in the Philippines through artist-activist initiatives like Salingpusa (1984) and Sanggawa (1994), have been working with notions of how we perceive reality. After returning from the USA in 2006, he has developed his oeuvre through “magic Realist strains” and has moved to configurations of space, the nature of vision and their ever vacillating relationship with time through the use of reflective media in recent years. His practice has had him represent the Philippines in conferences and exhibitions in overseas since 1992.