Published October 15, 2020
Russell Trinidad prefers to be known to the art world as Doktor Karayom. It’s a moniker leftover from his days as a struggling artist who did graphic design and street art. Chosen as a reminder of his resolve to make it, it means “Kahit butas ng karayom, papasukin ko (I’ll pass even through the eye of a needle).” Meanwhile, using the title “Doktor” is a nod to his obsession with the human body. It’s fitting given the amount of bodies turned inside out, innards exposed, and blood red color dominating his work.
Drawing in red ink or mercury red acrylic seems to be the primal energy driving all of Karayom’s work, coupled with a fascination for horror movies as the inspiration for his imagery. His drawings captivate audiences because they aren’t simply meant to shock or disgust. Without naturalistic faithfulness to human anatomy, the gore he imagines comes off as humorous, a stylized kind of gruesomeness you’d easily find in video games, comics, and toys.
But at his heart, Karayom is a storyteller, often choosing evocative titles and accompanying his exhibitions with poetry. His art is a vehicle for personal reflections on matters that are relatable, to family bonds, hardships and contradictions of love, frailties and pitfalls of being human, and to cruel ironies of life.
One only has to think of “Isla Inip.” His giant interactive installation with the battered and butchered body of Rizal as the centerpiece, a representation of the Philippines with miniature figurines ambling atop the national hero’s corpse. Or “Puting Binhi, Pulang Lupa,” a complex installation involving a fibreglass statue of the artist, the embodiment of a momentary depression.
Doktor Karayom is a Filipino contemporary artist, a recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2017, and the CCP Thirteen Artists Award in 2018. In 2019, he was one of ten Filipino Artists showcased at Palais de Tokyo’s Summer Exhibition in Paris. He continues to conduct solo exhibitions in the top galleries throughout the country.