Raffy T Napay
Published September 04, 2020
Raffy Napay's huge painting-like threadwork of anonymous figures, flora, roots, and nature has to be seen up close to be believed. In making these thick jungles on canvas, Napay seems to apply inconceivable effort and patience, achieving an accumulation of material that can't simply be accomplished by paint alone. It's a painstakinging deliberate creative act, slow and incremental, and even meditative. It goes against expectations built by a long tradition of the heroic mastery of paint, from Turner to the Abstract Expressionists, from Juan Luna to our own Moderns. What he achieves he does one stitch at a time, Trained as a painter, he applies an understanding of painted form to both thread and fabric. Unlike flat tapestries, bunches of secure and hanging threads form a terrain-like relief. The extend from the surface limits of conventional painting to become bouyant, layered, and loose, together forming one dense and heavy whole. This lush and layered topography is one of main attractions of his work. They may seem like simulations of paint, but the threaded forms on his canvas beg to be touched, dug in, and unraveled.
Underlayers and growth tempt the viewer, revealing glimpses of a different kind of construction. Fr. Jason Dy, SJ in the catalog text of Napay’s exhibition Sanctuary, writes, “The repetitive acts of disentangling and entangling twined threads as well as sewing them into canvases and other scraps of fabrics have become performative acts of deconstructing his experience of humanity and environment in order to build his particular synthetic view on the complementarity of familial and natural habitations, and the interconnectedness of persons towards their quest for growth and wholeness.”
They are diagrams of life. Anonymous figures surrounded by lush natural surroundings. Their hearts connected by thread. These products of Napay's meditations by needle and thread reveal his understanding of nature and the universe; of the journey of the self, of auspiciousness, of harmony, and of family.
Raffy Napay is a multi-awarded Filipino contemporary artist who has had residencies abroad and several solo exhibitions. In October 2015, Napay won first prize in the much coveted Il Lorenzo Magnifico art awards at the 10th Florence Biennale in Italy.