A seat at the table



THE “Genesis Table” – the stirring heart of QuoLab Iloilo 2017, exhibited at the Festive Walk Parade of the Megaworld Business Park Iloilo in early October – has a way of compelling a sense of splendor on its audience.

The imposing roundtable’s severe concrete is juxtaposed with the cross section of what looks like an age-old mahogany tree, revealing its rings and its natural grain.

What “stirs” the slab into perpetual motion is a large glass aquarium suspended overhead, filled with water agitated by a motor, its surreal ripples forming rolling shadows on the table below. Deliberately or by accident, the “Genesis Table” almost resembles the face of a full moon.

Around the centerpiece are arranged an array of chairs designed by the emerging artists and designers of QuoLab Iloilo 2017–among them Goldwynn Navarro’s avant-garde “Venus” with its plastic tentacles inspired by the venus flytrap; and LaHuBre Designs’ / Joan Reyes and Pam Laserna’s “Taas” chairs with their unorthodox twists on classic Filipino design sensibilities.

The rest of the exhibit’s pieces seem to branch outfrom the heavy central piece: This interactive installation that marries art with furniture, a show of force from some of the most talented young designers in the region – and a fitting image from emerging artists seeking a seat at the proverbial table

”While other regions in the country now boast their ‘legends’ in the furniture design scene, we envision that Iloilo could be the venue where startups like us could experiment and develop,” explained architect-entrepreneur Stephen Peñaranda, one of the conveners of QuoLab Iloilo 2017, explained during the exhibit’s opening night.

Coined from “status quo” and “laboratory” – and a double entendre for collaboration, QuoLab Iloilo aims to be a yearly affair in the hopes of inspiring an endless pursuit for design innovation in Iloilo City.

“QuoLab is an attempt to challenge the status quo of the design industry,” added Peñaranda, alluding to the art and design world’s unspoken hierarchy, wherein masters and the old guard are raised on pedestals, as new generations of artists often struggle to get the opportunities and encouragement they deserve.

Joining Peñaranda, Navarro and LaHuBre Designs’ Reyes and Laserna are Ilonggo installation artistBryan Liao with his Gestalt sculptures, fresh from his second solo show “Exploration and Exploitation”; Bacolod-basedinterior designerRon Miranda Baba; photographer and visual artist Shiela Molato; graphic and furniture designer Ron Matthews Espinosa; and architect Daryl Refuerzo.

Peñaranda toys with the forms Scandinavian furniture in his “Ramus (Latin for branch) collection” of lounge chairs and tables – evoking the subtle curves and symmetry of trees; while Navarro employs sculptural elements for his “Domicile” and “Interrogation” coffee tables.

Molato shines with her wounded canvases, as Espinosa pays tribute to his family with his standing stools and their intricate knit details. In “Ends of Explorations,” Liao repurposes the retaso of his works from the last few months into a whole new masterpiece; Baba gives homage to functional and pragmatic Shakers designs but injects a tinge of oriental inspiration; as Refuerzo’s reclining lounge chairs exude effortless style and comfort.

“During our preparations, I noted one common view and aspiration among our ‘quolaborators,’ we see furniture and design not only as utilitarian objects but also as representations of our visions,” said Peñaranda.

QuoLab Iloilo 2017 proved successful in its goal of gatheringlikeminded people at the early stages of their startup businesses and art careers, all the while showing Iloilo’s burgeoning pool of potential and up-and-coming talent.

“Startups can challenge the status quo,” Peñaranda succinctly summarizes QuoLab Iloilo. “And when you’re looking for a hub foremerging designers, it has to be Iloilo.”