Published February 25, 2023
When asked about the significance of penises in art, Filipino contemporary artist Paul Mondok says “It is what it is”. While most already know that the peen in art history is associated with the grotesque and was actually considered an ideal aesthetic by Aristophanes, Mondok subscribes to his own ideas which are materially inventive and conceptually oriented. And in real life anyway, his art is not about the old prick.
Mondok’s paintings and sculptures are diverse but possess common traits with one another. They reject the standards of composition and design and embrace an ambivalence and an often brittle emotional tone that reflects social values. They have an intact concern for pictorial idealization and this is evident in his use of vivid color harmonies and a simultaneous tense and playful presentation of objects in a primitivist manner. Mondok leaves the world to derive meaning and perhaps nudges the viewer to a slight inner disturbance, tension, and alienation.
In his wildly ingenious practice, Mondok’s work provokes a reaction to today’s rife, extroverted, highly-intellectualized art production. While his is complex and layered all the same, he remains an astute observer of the world around him and unflinchingly paints obscene truths and secrets of the mind. For instance, in his work “The Tourist (Stolen Goods)” which he produced in New York City, he stole pocket-sized objects such as ashtrays, snow globes, shot glasses, lighters, pencils, sunglasses, figurines, and other souvenir-like objects. This act of stealing was, according to his artist statement, “a moral, psychological, and social exercise and an investigation on the act of stealing and of (re)ownership and (re)possession”. Mondok wrapped the objects in canvas, dipped them in plaster, and placed them in individual boxes, calling the process a metaphor for possessing something one steals.
Paul Mondok is a Filipino contemporary who graduated from the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a degree in Fine Arts. He participated as the Philippine representative for the 2013 Jakarta Biennale. In 2014, he was included in the “Fictive Communities Asia” exhibition at the Koganecho Bazaar in Yokohama, Japan. Mondok has had solo exhibitions namely “A Time to Kill” at Kalawakan Spacetime and has participated in numerous group shows across notable galleries, alternative spaces, and collectives in the country such as West Gallery, Finale, Mo Space, Vinyl on Vinyl, Surrounded by Water, Green Papaya, among others. He has also had exhibits in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Japan.