Artist provocateur: Sinyas’ thought-provoking art

Artist provocateur: Sinyas’ thought-provoking art
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OPERATING under the artist name Sinyas, Yves Mathieu Africa seeks to challenge his audience through his art. His intention is not merely to evoke discomfort or unease, but to incite introspection and questioning. As an emerging artist, he is navigating the complex landscape of the visual art world, using it as a platform to stimulate thought and provoke reaction. 

His journey is a testament to his commitment to pushing boundaries and challenging norms. His artistry is not just about creating, but about instigating a dialogue, a conversation that begins with a feeling – be it discomfort, unease, or curiosity.

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Sinyas embarked on his artistic drive at the age of six, immersing himself in the world of painting. Under the guidance of a mentor, his early works were steeped in realism, often depicting scenes from nature. However, his passion for painting was put on hold when he enrolled at Ateneo de Davao University. There, he delved into campus journalism, serving as both the Art Editor and Feature Writer for Atenews.

Sinyas’ transition from an engineering course to business management also paved the way for him to become a member of the cultural art group, Sidlak. This newfound exposure significantly deepened his appreciation for the arts and culture of Mindanao.

After graduating in 2019, he gained experience working in various parts of the country. But when the global pandemic reached the Philippines, he decided to leave his job and relocate to GenSan. This period of upheaval reignited his passion for visual art, leading him back to his first love.

“I feel my mind isn’t stable when I’m not doing anything,” he says. 

Sinyas stumbled upon a magazine, from which he carefully extracted cuttings. He then combined these with watercolor paint, and at that moment, a new creation was born. As he delved deeper into the art world, he transitioned from realism to neo-expressionism, inspired by the works of the renowned artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. 

Sinyas’ transition from realism to a new artistic style was a challenging journey. He found himself questioning how to create a painting that strayed from the conventional norms of realism. His initial foray into this new style was marked by the creation of irregular lines, a technique heavily influenced by the works of Basquiat. 

Despite the challenges, he found satisfaction in his results. His first piece, titled “Smoker v1”, was a testament to his evolution as an artist, marking his first work on a small canvas. This piece symbolized the beginning of his exploration into a new realm of artistic expression.

As part of his artistic exploration, Sinyas sought to understand the marketability of his new style.

He turned to Facebook, searching for relevant groups where he could share and showcase his work. He began by posting and offering his two “Smoker” paintings for sale. To his delight, someone purchased his works. This sale was not just a financial success, but also a validation of his artistic evolution. 

It confirmed that there was an audience interested in his new style. Encouraged by this positive response, he felt a surge of happiness and a renewed desire to expand his work onto larger canvases. His journey continues, fueled by passion and validated by the appreciation of his audience.

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Sinyas’ “Smoker” series is a thought-provoking commentary on cigarette advertisements, particularly those that graphically illustrate the detrimental health effects of smoking. In his unique reinterpretation, Sinyas manages to make these images both alluring and repulsive. 

The “Smoker” series presents a paradoxical message, seemingly promoting smoking while simultaneously highlighting its health risks. It is a stark reminder of the contradictory messages often found in advertising, and a testament to the power of art to challenge and provoke.

“It is a ‘slap in the face’ message to the viewers. I want them to feel insulted. I am prepared to face criticism,” he says. 

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Contributed photo

Sinyas’ portfolio is a diverse blend of the sacred and the ordinary. Among his pieces is a provocative work featuring an inverted cross, a symbol often associated with Christian religious iconography. This particular piece sparked a heated debate with his mother, who found it distasteful. After a period of discussion and reflection, they reached a mutual agreement to temporarily withhold the piece from public display.

“You cannot express something if you can’t explain,” he says. 

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Contributed photo

Sinyas’ art is designed to convey a unique narrative to each observer, intended to challenge and stimulate the viewers’ perceptions. He seeks to foster a dynamic engagement with his audience.

Regardless of the audience’s response to his artworks, they fulfill their intended purpose for Sinyas. At present, he derives immense satisfaction from the entire process, from creation to public exhibition.

“Through my art, I’m somewhat explaining what’s good and bad. At least you know the difference. What you should feel about it is none of my business.”

On pricing his artworks

Similar to many neophyte Filipino artists, Sinyas grapples with the challenge of pricing his artworks. However, he firmly understands the value of his art and refuses to compromise on its worth merely to accommodate the unjust demands of certain clients.

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Sinyas characterizes his journey in visual art as a balanced endeavor: 50% business-oriented and 50% dedicated to exploration. This exploration involves experimenting with various canvas sizes, adopting new approaches to neo-expressionism, or venturing into different artistic mediums.

As an artist who also engages in selling his work, the process fuels his motivation to create more, underscoring the joy he derives from the art creation process. For him, this does not feel forced as it flows naturally from his passion for art.

However, persuading art buyers to appreciate his chosen genre remains a challenge for him. He consistently emphasizes that if a client commissions him for an artwork, he insists on infusing it with his unique touch. He also declined to engage with clients who attempted to negotiate the price of his artworks.

He harnesses the power of social media to showcase and market his artistic creations. He articulates the worth of his pieces to his clientele, ensuring to convey their value without resorting to hard sell tactics. He consistently emphasizes that his pricing strategy does not merely reflect the cost of materials used in his artworks.

While it continues to be a challenge for Sinyas to market his unique art style to the broader public, he immerses himself in the art community by participating in exhibitions and related events. Given the opportunity, he is always ready to elucidate his work to individuals. It is like “evangelizing” his art, one person at a time.

On his first solo exhibition

His fellow artists, such as Mark Ty and Edrick Aguirre of Mugna Heneral, have always encouraged him to persist in his passion for the arts. However, Leonardo Rey “Bing” Cariño urged him to venture beyond his comfort zone, to discover his own identity, and to step outside the stylistic influence of Basquiat. He has always held Carino’s advice close to heart, remembering his words, “Do not stick too much to the style of your influence.”

Cariño is committed to both the local and national art scenes. He dedicated many years to nurturing young talent and guiding them through the intricate maze of the art world. He is the driving force behind “Emergence: Emerging Young Artists of SOX,” an innovative art exhibit that creatively repurposes various spaces within SM City General Santos to showcase their work. 

“This exhibit serves as a platform for me to demonstrate that both brut (raw) and outsider art are thriving. It underscores the fact that artists, regardless of their discipline, do not need to conform to any specific standards or norms,” Sinyas says.

“I hope that other artists will gain the exposure they deserve through this exhibit. As for myself, I look forward to engaging with future clients who resonate with my artistic expression.”

Sinyas’ inaugural solo exhibition, entitled “The Peculiar Provocation of Sinyas”, was a notable component of the “Emergence” series. This captivating showcase was on display from April 20 to May 3, 2024.

Sinyas’ artistic exploration has led him to appreciate the importance of mastering the fundamentals of art before attempting to deconstruct them. He understands that as an artist, it is essential to grasp the basics before venturing into new territories. In his view, evolution in art is a personal journey. 

“If you have mastered the fundamentals, don’t limit yourself to them. If you already know something common to all, strive to approach it in your unique way or style. Cultivate your style. Refrain from imitation,” he says.

Sinyas harbors aspirations for several dream projects that he hopes to bring to fruition shortly.

These include an “anti-establishment” piece, a commissioned mural painting project in Tacloban, and a collaboration with an abstract expressionism artist. 

He is also keen to delve into the realms of graffiti or street art. In addition, he is eager to experiment with live performance art while creating his pieces. He looks forward to the prospect of more venues showcasing his art exhibitions in the times to come.

Sinyas’ unique style is characterized by a compelling juxtaposition of scarcity and abundance. He advocates for promising artists to create art in a manner that aligns with their comfort level, utilizing both abundant and minimal art supplies. This approach not only tests an artist’s boundaries but also fosters a spirit of experimentation.

Sinyas acknowledges that he is still on the journey towards becoming an established artist. He aspires to contribute significantly to the country’s art landscape and envisions a grander future for his work, understanding that the process may be gradual.

In alignment with the essence of his moniker “Sinyas” – which signifies “to give a signal”, he seeks a green light. For him, it is akin to granting himself the authority to influence others through the medium of visual arts.

Sinyas now characterizes his art as “more reckless”, a description reflecting the increased complexity of his work through the incorporation of additional lines and playing with texture. He remains open to collaborations with other artists. It is fair to assert that Sinyas is a trailblazer in the realm of neo-expressionism within the region.

“If you want to do art, make sure you’re driven. Do it with purpose,” he says.


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