This June, as we celebrate Pride Month, we feature young Cebuanos and Cebu-based artists who embody the spirit of Queer Pride in the most inspiring ways.
In this week's spotlight, we present Kring Demetrio, an exceptionally gifted illustrator, visual storyteller, and painter who hails from Cagayan de Oro City and now calls Cebu her home. Her remarkable artworks have graced exhibitions in the Philippines, the UK, and the US, garnering well-deserved recognition and awards.
While Kring holds a degree in Philosophy, her creative journey began at the tender age of 5 when she first picked up a pencil. Even then, she sold her drawings to fuel her unwavering passion for art, enabling her to purchase additional supplies and even indulge in Sailor Moon stickers.
As a child, her heart was drawn to mesmerizing tales, lovesick deities, otherworldly creatures, and realms steeped in the mists of time. However, as her artistic journey unfolded, she transcended the realm of mere aesthetics, embracing a profound fusion of intellect and technical expertise. Her passion shifted from crafting visually pleasing drawings to meticulously composing art pieces that weave captivating narratives. She fondly refers to her unique art style as "mugna-mugna," a fusion of her self-taught techniques and an attempt to emulate the delicate line strokes found in the sketches of revered masters she discovered within the pages of library books. Over time, her style has evolved, incorporating contemporary influences and references, adding depth and dimension to her creations.
In the following interview, the artist graciously shared her thoughtful insights on queerness, identity, and the transformative power of art. Her responses offer valuable glimpses into her artistic journey and the profound connections she explores through her work.
How would you describe your art style in a few words or phrases?
Beauty and terror combined; the old spirit in a new vessel.
What influences or inspirations have shaped your unique art style?
Aesthetically, my art has been influenced mainly by Western art movements, especially by baroque artists, pre-Raphaelites, and symbolists. As I grew up in the 90s anime boom in the Philippines, my work also has a significant osmosis of Eastern and Western influences.
How has your experience been as an LGBT artist in Cebu? Can you tell us about some of the challenges you've encountered?
Fortunately, I have met and befriended many fellow LGBT artists and their friends in Cebu. I have never felt ostracized for simply being bisexual. The phobia is mostly from me. Growing up with conservative parents, I have been taught to think that the important part of my sexuality is my attraction to the opposite sex. Any attraction to the same sex is a lie, sinful, and of the devil. This made me hide so much in my art that I didn't notice I had been drawing nothing but provocative women and effeminate men till later in my career.
How has your sexual orientation influenced the style of your paintings?
As I grew up closeted in a household that valued conservative views on gender and sexuality, I began to bury myself in the media I consumed and created. My favorite writer was Oscar Wilde, my favorite artist; Sandro Botticelli, my favorite monarch (obviously not a thing, but who could resist Garbo); Queen Christina of Sweden–all queer people who had to hide yet also shone for their queerness.
Are there any specific techniques, symbols, or visual elements you use to convey concepts of sexuality and gender identity in your artwork?
Do you believe that art has the power to challenge societal norms and stereotypes regarding sexuality and gender identity? If yes, how do you aim to achieve that through your work?
As someone who has aimed to consume every queer media I could get since the early 2000s, art has significantly contributed to changing views from then to now. Artists like Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Lempicka, Francis Bacon, and Robert Mapplethorpe, whose works are quintessentially queer, have partly shaped an upending of societal norms and stereotypes of queer women and men in the last century. For example, illustrators like J. C. Leyendecker have set the visual standard of what is considered the cultured man, which his audiences have openly adapted, unbeknownst to them that it was a gay man's perspective of masculine beauty.
Are there any other LGBTQ+ artists in Cebu (or anywhere) whose work you admire or draw inspiration from?
I am mainly into the work of Abel Klaer (@superstarfighter), a German illustrator whose marker and gel pen works are so beautifully intricate and mysterious. Albert Victoria (@albrt.victoria), whose neo-victorian drawings evoke a great sense of marriage between old and new, satirical and serious. I also enjoy Lauren Raye Snow's (@laurenrayesnow) emotional paintings, inspiring me to create equally thought-provoking and profound portraits. Nikolas Kafasis (@nikolas_tower) makes beautiful and moving portraits of women in colored pencils and watercolor media. Ginoe's (@hubineer) drawings and images embrace and elevate true Filipino kitschiness while skillfully retaining its visceral qualities. Cebu's very own Kat Layno (@denimcatfish) has also been making the most moving illustrations of sapphic love resonating with various audiences. Zar (@zaroncanvas), Van (@tapiocaterror), and Wee (@WeeBong) also create beautifully strange, wonderfully queer artworks.
In the footsteps of her predecessors, Kring Demetrio aspires to continue the tradition of shaping a more diverse world. In this world, no particular sexuality or gender identity is deemed the default. Her artistic vision aims to create a space where individuals can live their most authentic selves, free from societal constraints and expectations.
As we continue to celebrate and uplift LGBTQ+ voices, let us embrace the transformative potential of art. By appreciating and supporting artists like Kring Demetrio, we actively contribute to creating a society that celebrates the beauty of diversity and provides an inclusive platform for individuals to express their unique identity with pride.