Julie Lluch’s Sculpture Tattoos Are a Bold Protest Against Drug War

Photos courtesy Galerie Stephanie
Julie Lluch, Resistance 1521, 24 x 9 x 40″ acrylic on cold cast marble, 2023

In her latest exhibition “Chronicles on Skin” at Galerie Stephanie, sculptor Julie Lluch combines sculpture with painting, incorporating “tattoos” in acrylic on her coldcast marble creations. The paint simply slides off the marble because it is so smooth. This is not an easy task. The artist could not stop working to get the paint to stick.

The initial shock brought about by this tattoo style she had “after seeing the ghastly photographs  of victims of the drug war shown to me by my friends, human rights volunteers engaged in documentation. Many tattoos featured horrifying images such as skulls, skeletons and dragons.  There were sentimental ones of hearts pierced by an arrow, Jesus with a crown of thorns, names of wife or sweetheart, slogans, etc.”

She said, “I would have gone for the wild and visceral images which were powerful  but realized that the host base, the sculpture torso, is classical and beauteous and the two contrasting elements would not  complement  each other. There was so much I needed to study about tattoos across cultures, classes, tribes, fashion, and I am just glad to have managed to incorporate them somehow  as part of the paintings.”

Peasants spolarium
Julie Lluch, Peasants’ Spoliarium, 24 x 12 x 26″ acrylic on cold cast marble, 2023.

Preparation and execution took a little over four months which she said was “so short a time. I wish I could have done more.”

The overall effect is stunning. It’s almost like discovering a new series Lluchs with tactile appeal. It would be wonderful if the gallery allowed visitors touch the artwork.

Lluch said, “The idea of something new, something I haven’t tried before like painting on sculpture, challenged me, but I did not foresee the difficulty that lay ahead. Then the thought of engaging in activist work, being allied with the people’s movement that seeks redress and justice for the victims of state-sponsored killings goaded me on, even if I’m outside the actual movement. I have always wanted to be part of it, but being senior, I can’t wave flags and carry banners or march in the sun anymore.”

Touch Me 1
Touch Me, acrylic on cold-cast marble, 24x10x40 in, 2023

She has found inspiration in “the men and women who are working quietly and faithfully for the cause of the helpless and downtrodden and poor victims of state brutality, who are fearless and passionate, putting even their lives on the line. I know many of them.”

Another source of inspiration is Juan Luna’s mural “Spoliarium.” She explained, “Luna has done a marvelous thing, and I would like to honor him in my own way. The image of the ‘Spoliarium’ becomes the leitmotif throughout the exhibition, the symbol of the country in travail or vanquished by a ruling master.”

Her sculptures were painted in marble or terra-cotta in the past. “But the painting here is quite different because it carries the narrative independently of the sculpture. The sculpture, as the host/base, is fixed and immovable. There is some aesthetic concern. This created unexpected challenges. Besides, the cast marble is so shiny and smooth that the paint didn’t easily stay on the surface, requiring some special technique and a lot of patience. But the effect of acrylic on marble was so lovely!”

Pieta ni Raffy
Pieta Ni Raffy, 19 x 8 x 17″, acrylic on cold cast marble, 2023

She is grateful to be able to share her life with her daughters, all of whom are artists and engaged in activism on a variety of levels. “My family members are in that same trajectory together while pursuing our paths/careers in art, be it painting, sculpture, film, installation, or music. Our engagement may not be to the extent that we fear for life, except in Kiri’s case at some point, but it is a privilege to serve in any way. It is its reward.”

Asked to comment on the state of the nation, she said, “I am deeply disappointed with our country. I ask her questions, such as “Where has the country gone wrong?” However, the answers are not forthcoming. It is hard to love my country. It is just that I need to love it more despite the hardships. Like the psalmist I pray: ‘How long, O Lord; how long?’”

In several works in the exhibit, 16 of them, she grieves and mourns “the state of our country and our mangled history,  specifically the thousands of  killings across the land.”

Badi Grapiti para kay Erickson
Badi Grapiti (Para kay Erikson), 19 x 8, 17” acrylic on cold cast marble, 2023

The painted images are from her old works like “Picasso y Yo,” “Georgia Bull” or “The Piscean Deluge” to express her anguish.” She borrowed from the late painter Pablo Baens Santos’ “Weeping Woman” and a nude male which she used as a  symbol of the “Spirit of the Filipino Artist” in defiance of oppressive and unrighteous governance. Raffy Lerma’s famous photograph was used by her to condemn these killings.

She added “In the works, it is the women who are shown weeping over the dead body of husband, son or father. Yes, it is the woman’s role to mourn. So be it.”

“Chronicles on Skin” runs from March 17 to April 3 at Galerie Stephanie located on the fourth level of the east wing, Shangri-la Plaza Mall, Mandaluyong City.

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