Salad Day x Jellyfish Kisses
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Jellyfish Kisses & Willar Mateo
A decade-long friendship that originated with a background in fashion comes full circle in this two-artist show, a first of the duo’s collaborations within a gallery format. Anton Belardo (Jellyfish Kisses) and Willar Mateo (Salad Day) met at the very beginning of their practices, when Belardo was working as a fashion stylist and Willar was starting his clothing brand Salad Day. During this early period, they would regularly meet for what they call “play dates”—spending days together in each other’s studios, creating objects, clothing and other textile work. “We liked different things but would share our obsessions. It was a very carefree time because we made those things just for fun.” Belardo’s first group show was a collaboration with Salad Day, presented at Cubao Expo, where Mateo worked at the I Love You store. At the store’s ground floor was the cult classic bar Today x Future, whose music and community were one of the important influences in his work.
The show “Salad Days” is an exercise in creativity and exploration. The artists’ intentions were to re-create their former “play dates” during which the focus was on experimentation instead of perfection of technique. Its main theme is the possibility of textile as a storytelling device, particularly by employing child-like sensibilities: bright colors, multiple textures, shiny fabrics, toys as embellishment and storybook-like characters. Installed together, their works may seem very similar, almost as if created by the same person. In fact, the artists differ in process. Whilst Belardo prefers progressing slowly to contain the chaos that he creates, Willar works in short, explosive bursts, in an energetic manner. Willar is spontaneous while Belardo plans his compositions, inserting experiments just before finishing a piece. The show immerses us in a vibrant, unified world as expressed in mixed media paintings, soft sculptures, tapestry, objects and textile art.
Throughout their ten-year journey, the artists have each developed greater skill and technique. Belardo shifted to mounting interactive installations, performance, painting, sculpture and video, often in the context of converting the gallery or art fair space into an environment for communal healing. Some of his past scenographies include a karaoke bar, a disco, a bedroom, and a panic room, all designed in reference to kitschy 1950s housewives aesthetic, picture-perfect façades that mask darker realities. Mateo continued to build his craft, taking his independent fashion label to international audiences. He makes his own textiles by layering them into what he refers to as “problematic patterns”—patterns built from other existing patterns. These textiles are turned into pieces of wearable art: full outfits and accessories such as aprons or gloves, with recurring particularities like checks, patchwork, glittery ornamentation, ruffles, faux fur, and other camp decoration. Coming together for the show was a way to disrupt their regular patterns and create new types of work. It is a recognition of Willar’s transition from fashion design to fine art and a celebration of the artists’ enduring friendship. – By Stephanie Frondoso