Lean Re­boja’s tech­ni­col­ored night­mares

Artist Lean Re­boja rev­els in sur­re­al­ism

Cebu Living - - Contents | Editor’s Note - By OLIVER EMOCLING Images by JIM UBALDE

“I used to fear Troll dolls when I was a kid,” artist Lean Re­boja shyly con­fesses when probed if he was ever fright­ened of mon­sters. But now at 26 years old, his work leans to­wards odd­ity sim­i­lar to the dolls that used to scare him.

At Eli­con Café, where we meet, walls are cov­ered with mu­rals of Re­boja’s char­ac­ters that, sim­ply put, re­sem­ble mon­sters. The one on the ground floor fea­tures an­i­mated char­ac­ters of var­i­ous sizes saun­ter­ing around what seems a for­est. “I’m driven by sur­re­al­ism. I like [art to be] out of this world,” he says.

Re­boja’s in­ter­est in art started at a young age. “I was usu­ally scolded by my teacher be­cause I was al­ways draw­ing in class,” he re­calls. He was sup­posed to pur­sue a med­i­cal de­gree in col­lege, but his mother per­suaded him to take up fine arts in­stead at the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines-Cebu.

Here, Re­boja de­vel­oped his affin­ity for car­i­ca­ture. “I de­vel­oped my in­ter­est in sur­real char­ac­ters be­cause I didn’t want to be boxed,” he ex­plains. While other forms of art fol­low cer­tain stan­dards of representa­tion, car­i­ca­ture gives Re­boja the free­dom to dis­tort re­al­ity and present a world ac­cord­ing to his per­cep­tion.

Be­yond its quirky, some­times trippy ap­peal, his art delves into hu­man be­hav­ior. “Usu­ally, my char­ac­ters have a deeper story,” he says. When work­ing on a car­i­ca­ture, he finds his sub­ject’s dis­tinct char­ac­ter­is­tics first be­fore play­ing with anatomy.

But while this form of con­tem­po­rary art is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity, Re­boja ad­mits, “There are those who tell me that what I do is un­nat­u­ral and scary.” Still, he con­tin­ues to seek in­spi­ra­tion in his daily ex­pe­ri­ences, as his re­cently con­cluded ex­hi­bi­tion “Stub­born Ef­figy” proved. Shown at Qube Gallery in April, the ex­hibit had Re­boja

ex­plor­ing his per­sonal strug­gles and trans­lat­ing them into ec­cen­tric pieces. They were par­tic­u­larly ex­pressed through two of his works: “Pas­sive” and “Ac­tive.” “‘Pas­sive’ sig­ni­fies my pas­sive state where I don’t have the drive to paint,” he says of the art­work that fea­tures a car­i­ca­ture of him­self sur­rounded with som­no­lent fig­ures in black and white. “Ac­tive,” on the other hand, fea­tures his six­eyed por­trait to­gether with vi­brant fig­ures.

Re­boja’s works are signed with his pseu­do­nym Le­an­derthal, a word­play be­tween his name and the word Ne­an­derthal. “It’s a fun­da­men­tal stage in hu­man evo­lu­tion,” he ex­plains. It’s also the proper term to de­scribe the state of his char­ac­ters as they con­tinue to evolve. While his cho­sen art form is his re­sponse to in­ner strug­gles, car­i­ca­ture may also be his an­swer to man’s un­end­ing search for mean­ing. “Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent points of view,” he says. “And they are al­ways look­ing for some­thing new.”

Re­boja’s works are not as quiet as he is; His can­vas even some­times seems too small to con­tain all of his mon­sters. At a glance, it’s as if they’re glar­ing at the viewer, and that’s when one re­al­izes that the artist speaks with­out re­straint through his bizarre art.


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