Max Balatbat, whose works have appeared from the Beijing Biennale to shows in Vienna and Florence, brings in mixed media panels, inspired by shanties in his neighborhood. Out of an assortment of found and refashioned materials, they weave together unusual quilts of varied patterns and textures.
Studying Architecture in Far Eastern University before moving on to University of the East to pursue a course in Fine Arts, Maxbal, as he signs his paintings, is an abstractionist with a social realist twist. His work is captivating and stunning for its aesthetic quality; however, lurking underneath the layers of color and textures is a fascinating narrative. With each work, Maxbal proves that you can have beauty without sacrificing substance, and more importantly that beauty itself resides in the most unlikely places.
Calling his particular style, “Architectural Abstraction,” Maxbal did not have to look far to find inspiration, developing his ideas from the infinite well of stories residing in the busy bustling streets of his home in Caloocan. A Caloocan native since birth, he had witnessed the activities of the brothels in his area, and in his eyes the “working girls” were more than their job, more than whatever circumstance in their life led them to be. They were people, a human heart and soul residing within flesh and bone, suffocating under the vastness of the urban landscape.
Max Balatbat has taken it upon himself to document the human condition. He has become an advocate, giving a voice to the voiceless, challenging others to pay attention to the people who have been shunned and misunderstood by society, giving beauty to what others have misjudged as repellent. Caloocan’s “working girls”, and the setting of their activities has been a constant source of inspiration for Balatbat. However, he does not only use them for their own benefit; he takes his inspiration and uses his art to give these women a certain dignity. As Max Balatbat narrated: “Yung pinaka inspirasyon ko galing sa kanila...Kailangan ko gawin ‘to, kailangan ko ipakita sa tao, para makwento ko yung isang side naman. Ang ibang side ng lugar na ito, para hindi puro negatibo.” His future works will give more dimensions to this fascinating and taboo subject, from the perspective of a sensitive disposition that has enough strength to humanize what others have demonized.