Toym Imao




The Cultural Center of the Philippines and Tanghalang Pilipino


3-26 July 2015

Bulwagang Carlos V. Francisco (Little Theater Lobby)  


The five works (2007 – 2015) presented in the exhibit ALTERnotion + ALTERnation: Alternative Imagining of History are a part of artist Toym Imao's visual exploration of Philippine history, using a visual language that the audience can engage with. 

These works deal with current socio-political issues in our country such as corruption and power, oligarchies, martial law, the coming elections, national security and sovereignty. Imao plays with the themes of anti-heroes and explores the character and contributions of lesser known historical figures. Or they could be well-known but there are facts and facets of their personalities that have not been highlighted because other figures have traditionally taken center stage. For instance, the brilliance of Bonifacio as a war tactician and of Mabini as an active and moral pillar of the revolution are not often mentioned in history textbooks.


These works complement the musical Mabining Mandirigma, as like the play, they are a fresh approach on telling history. Unlike the traditional mural or diorama, or the imposing monument or statue that simply commemorates, Imao hopes that each work would rouse the viewer to delve more deeply into the issues, personalities and events that he portrays. The artist hopes that the works will encourage intelligent discussions and inspire people to look deeper into history. 


For the past 25 years, Toym Imao has concentrated mostly on public artworks - large scale monuments and shrines and murals that depict Philippine historical figures and events. Most of his works were commissioned by the national and local governments. While he has always imbued his works with symbolisms and metaphors, he was sometimes held back by requirements to keep within the accepted notions of historical representation. Heroes should not be depicted with vulnerability and should be larger than life than more human. The “villains” should not be in the story at all, lest they mistakenly be glorified.


Upon his return to the Philippines, he realized that he can represent events and personalities without being bound by archetypes. He started working on a series of public artworks that were provocative and more personal. His works are still based on extensive research, but he has freedom in determining how to creatively show a slice of history. With the support of people and institutions who also support his vision, Toym is able to exhibit his works in alternative public spaces.


Thus, from the classical and traditional, Toym’s imaging of history moved into the realm of the contemporary.


Toym Imao is a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Architecture, and while he worked briefly as a full-time architect, his heart remained in the arts. It was not surprising therefore, when he decided to pursue a career as a sculptor and painter. Imao received his Masters in Fine Arts major in Sculpture with distinction and academic awards from the Maryland Institute College of Arts in Baltimore, Maryland. Toym Imao continues to explore his artistic abilities as a member of the production of Mabining Mandirigma as Set Designer.