Article as published in <M> Life & Living in Mindana0 (Travel and Lifestyle Magazine) Volume 8 No. 2
In this competitive world, a person must be better than the rest in order to stand out. With a lot of established names ensconced in their respective fields of interest, it is a challenge to come up with a new name to brave the convention.
Sculptor, artist, and designer Jan Leeroy C. New is someone who wants to defy the standards as he continues to interweave different forms of visual arts, such as film, theater, sculpture, and fashion. Born and raised in General Santos City, this 30 year-old artist has always been into the arts as far as he can remember.
“There was no one, single moment when I decided to pursue this creative vocation. One day I simply started using pencil on paper and since then, I never stopped. It has evolved into my current practice,” he revealed.
Growing up, New was always endearingly called by his parents as a “weirdo”. He said that he cannot help but form uncanny interests on certain things, like aliens, monsters, and horror flicks. He also sketched pages and pages of monsters in different configurations. He things that this was part of being “provincial” wherein there was limited access to contemporary art.
It was only until his last two years in primary school when he and his family learned about Philippine High School for the Arts at the foot of Mt. Makiling in Laguna. He applied and was accepted. It was where his formal arts training began. New graduated at PHSA with a course in Visual Arts, then later took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines.
While he trained at PHSA, he felt that he was culture-shocked the entire time. Most of his friends in school were either installation artists or conceptual artists. He also had no idea that art would be a lot more than just drawing and painting.
“While growing up, I was most exposed to art that was ‘hung on walls’, so to speak. At PHSA and UP, I learned that it does not matter what medium I use because art should never be bounded by just one medium,” New admitted.
At PHSA, he was already set on practicing art “professionally” through exhibits, doing street art, accepting commissioned works, and designing projects. The recognition of his works from people and from various organizations encouraged him to pursue his love for the arts. New developed his skills and was able to branch out to other forms while studying in the said schools.
He began his career as an artist by looking into opportunities and alternatives for demonstration beyond the gallery and museum. He regularly seeks the occasion to present his work whenever, however, and wherever he feels like or is allowed to in the hopes of affecting people with his art.
Immediacy is one thing that he continues to do. He makes use of what his naked eyes can see and what is available. For him, this is what artists should do — try to make something out of what is readily around them.
Aware of the fact that the art scene is competitive, he says that one must be authentic to himself.
“Constantly surround yourself — and read up on things that genuinely interest you in order to make you different from others. That alone will make your work worthwhile. Everything else follows,” he discloses. New proudly values authenticity more than originality. He says that the desire for originality is a distraction — authenticity is what really matters.
Refusing to be bound by one medium, New is called by many as medium-jumping artist.
“I am interested in a lot of things. Never restrict your practice by giving in to pre conceptions of how art should be made or displayed or distributed. I constantly expose myself to different and new modes of creative production not restricted to the gallery-fine-art model.”
New sources his materials wherever he can — from what is around him, in Divisoria, hardware stores, and even from dental supply shops, then he alters, modifies, and reconstructs them. It does not matter if the material is inexpensive for he can surely make something out of it.
On communicating through art, he emphasizes that one must determine who is his or her audience first as different artists have different audiences. New believes that art attains as potential as a work if it is able to communicate with an audience, when there is an encounter that happens.
New has a long list of achievements. His out-of-this-world works on film, theater, fashion, and visual arts have been exhibited in galleries, museums, and public places in different parts of the Philippines and some parts of the world. He has participated in the international art shows, like the Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale in Japan, Singapore Biennale, and Philippine Fashion Week. He also has collaborated with numerous theater and dance groups such as Ballet Philippines, Sipat Lawin Ensemble, Daloy Dance Company, Dulaang UP, fashion designer Kermit Tesoro, among others.
One of his famous early pieces, the muscle dress, which he co-created with Kermit Tesoro was handpicked by House of Gaga and was then worn by Lady Gaga herself in her music video, Marry the Night.
New was also the production head, in charge of building sets and costumes, for the movie adaption of “Ran”, a local video game.
Though admittedly talking in front of a huge crowd isn’t exactly his thing, he has done talks, such as in TEDxDiliman, and has been featured on television shows on ETC and CNN Philippines’ Good Company.
Despite the success of his works, he does not see himself as jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. In everything that he does, he puts his full effort into it. He does not try just for the sake of trying. New feels the need to excel in anything that he does. However, he does not measure excellence or failure by the number of awards of the lack thereof. He thinks that only you can know how well that much to him. He doesn’t believe in them.
“I guess, I grew up with the mindset of not relying on awards. If there is a prize, then it’s good but I will surely use it to advance my craft,” he revealed.
If there is something that he considers as his greatest achievement, it is his ability to continue and thrive in what he believes in doing. For him, this is the only achievement that should matter.