April 25, 2023 – Redge
Young artist Yok Joaquin on beginnings, the allure of getting his art faked, and seeing the world through a vandal’s eyes.
Yok Joaquin confesses that he can’t remember when he got into art…
…because he was always doing it.
“Most of my early years were spent sitting in a corner, creating,” he shares in Filipino, “I had no end goal or art style to speak of— I just wanted to get what I felt out as much as possible.”
His parents were delighted. “They approved because it was economical! They didn’t have to buy me toys. Art supplies like paper, pencils, and ball pens were my playthings.”
That said, Yok certainly appreciated his classmates who were into conventional childhood past times. He narrates an incident when he sold drawings of Zoids (a robot cartoon) to buy Oreos. “I got around 3 to 4 pesos (about 7 cents) apiece. My mom was furious when she found out and made me return all their money!”
The pieces, stayed with his friends.
Yok’s latter school years would bring about new challenges and test his mettle, particularly in the form of critics. “My professors never believed I drew my assignments,” he recalls, “maybe because I could draw in different styles, or that I never joined poster-making contests, but it irritated me.”
Denied of recognition on paper, he turned to a different canvas…walls. And his weapon of choice? A “refillable acrylic marker which, since I didn’t have enough money, filled with water and alcohol and ballpen ink.” Using this, Yok proceeded to vandalize his school with his unique tag — leaving impressions wherever he could. “By the time I started doing art professionally, I realized that I had so much experience with the medium, so ultimately that was what I choose…with professional-grade ink this time, of course.”
Nowadays, Yok laughs when recalling his doubters, especially since they were in some ways, part of why he’s become a professional artist. “I painted as a form of stress-relief for my course (architecture),” he says.
And while having just turned 25, Yok’s 2-decade-long incubation has given him a trait most artists notoriously lack— speed.
“I’m not like other painters who spend two weeks to a month perfecting a piece,” he quips. An anecdote of Picasso selling a napkin sketch for a hundred thousand dollars comes to mind, with the master replying to an incredulous witness that it took him 40 years to create the 30-second work. “On a good day I can finish one to two pieces,” Yok states.
Each of these pieces however, draw on different motivations.
“I want to tell a story,” he begins, “I don’t take commissions so much. I am free-spirited, and listen to my muse.” Indeed, most Yok’s work comes from what he feels in the moment and what he sees in his surroundings.
In which case, one wonders where his designs of: naked figures with flowers blossoming from their butts whilst in front of an erupting volcano, colorful renditions of animals burning under a smiling sun, and a household chimney emitting smoke in the form of a middle finger— come from.
“I’m attracted to the hypocritical,” Yok reveals, who considers Jean-Michel Basquiat, Yayoi Kusama, and Keith Haring as artistic inspirations. “My style is very child-like and simple, but on closer inspection it makes parents wonder if the painting is for children.”
Yok says that he deliberately wants his work to be controversial, and challenge appropriateness, lamenting that “many young artists fear expressing what they want to express. They shouldn’t!” He reminds that art is subjective, and that “if some people don’t like you art, others will.” Indeed, Yok is so intent on expression that he dreams of collaborating with big brands, while at the same time wishing his designs were faked. “I want my style to be so popular that people pirate (my work). They don’t even have to know who I am— just the art.”
“Forbidden Flowers” is the title of Yok’s May 21 exhibition to be held at the Secret Fresh Art Gallery, Ronac Art Center. And while predictably being the man-of-the-evening then, Yok confesses that he shuns being put on a pedestal. “I just want a normal conversation with collectors,” he says, “I don’t want to feel idolized.”
Thus to ground him and facilitate his creative life, Yok spends much of his time painting (and dancing) at his studio/home in Bulacan— Studio Y. For even more get-away-from-it-all energy, Yok likes to visit a plot of land he purchased in Zambales, back in 2020. “I really liked this property but it was reserved,” he remembers during his visit, “luckily, on our last day there the prospective buyer opted out. I bought it immediately!”
Even more important than where he goes though, is who Yok chooses to take along with him.
“I love being around people who feel light, who have this happy, contented energy around them.” He reveals that such people have a more of a playful vibe, which his art resonates towards. “They get excited more easily so, masarap silang kausap (they’re a pleasure talking to).” His faith in warm people is perhaps such that his dream destination is Antartica— together with long-time partner, Patty Fuentes. “That’s what we look for…and adventure.”
As life goes, Yok’s has barely begun.
Interestingly, Yok reveals that his moniker is shorthand for ‘egg.’ “My parents named me John Angel, but when I was born a relative exclaimed that I looked like an egg, so the name stuck.”
Bearing in mind that eggs broken from outside forces are destroyed, while those which break from the inside, thrive— perhaps the only challenge to this young artist is whether he buckles under the pressure of early fame, or manages to grow by constantly re-inventing his art to surprise everyone…including himself.
Real stories. Real people.
We believe that life isn’t about a binary of ones and zeros - but about the sum of our hopes and dreams, our struggles and heartaches, our tragedies and triumphs.
The things that unite us are far stronger than the things that divide us.
And those stories are why we are alike.