In his paintings Rodel Tapaya grants viewers access to a universe molded from multiple worlds of myth and fantasy, both from the modern-day and his imagination. His whimsical pictures appropriate traditional folklore to open dialogue about contemporary issues. His paintings draw on Filipino myths to tell new tales, recalling the narrative style of painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and Le Douanier Rousseau. Further to this, Rodel Tapaya's strong interest in Creationist themes stems from his religious
upbringing in the Philippines, a nation that was colonized by the Spanish and their Catholicism for more than three centuries. Executed with remarkable technical prowess, his paintings explore the tension between perception and experience, the blending of the past into the present and bending of reality into fantasy.
Since earning the prestigious Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Pr ize in 2011, Rodel Tapaya has garnered international acclaim and is now recognized as one of the leading artists of the Southeast Asian region.
Using sumptuous colours, meticulous technique, and rich imagination, Rodel Tapaya conjures up a mythological world which contains within it The Giant Watermelon. The artist paints with a red so vivid, the crescent-shaped slice of watermelon seems more alive than the painting's main female figure. The wedge of bright life dominates the picture and sharply contrasts the dark, overgrown foliage from which it has been plucked. With a bull's head hooked around her navel and a cloak of flowers and vines from her surroundings, the eerie phantom-like figure merges with her backdrop of shadowy, magical flora and fauna. In a tropical appropriation of the Garden of Eden, the figure looks tentatively to the side, opening her mouth to take a bite from the fruit.
Painted in 2013, Mountain Fantasies exemplifies Rodel Tapaya's move towards a more surreal i s t style. In this later work, the artist displays a more audacious use of Latin American magical realism and in doing so, aligns himself even more so with Filipino mural tradition. The epic canvas is abundant with mythical creatures and creates a narrative that is both capricious and relevant to global social issues. Set upon a backdrop of an idyllic green pasture and geometric shapes, the composition transfixes the viewer at first sight. On the right, the face of a halfstag, half-female creature looks out onto the scene. A man climbs upwards into the landscape, while a forest vista appears like an image from the beast´s dream. A flock of birds emerges from a larger bird's mouth. At the centre, an amalgam of machines sets the whole canvas into motion. From this machine a web of white lines is discharged, connecting the disparate images together. Rocks fall and smoke rises while nymphlike creatures hover above a barren, mine-stripped landscape. Hanging upside-down the bare branches of a tree connects the tangle of images below and serves to enhance Tapaya's depiction of modern-day environmental disorder and destruction. The result is an apparition that is both nightmarish and hypnotic.