Biennale of Sydney

Manuel Ocampo

Manuel Ocampo, Escuela de Minimalismo, 2019, from the series ‘Tortas Imperiales’, oil on canvas, 300 x 200 cm. Courtesy The Drawing Room, Makati, Philippines

Manuel Ocampo

Born 1965 in Quezon City, Philippines
Lives and works in Marikina, Philippines


Manuel Ocampo is a painter who plays with religious and cultural symbolism and iconography. In 1985, he moved to California. In 2017, he represented the Philippines at the 57th Venice Biennale. In 2010, Ocampo started ‘Bastards of Misrepresentation,’ an international exhibition series created to promote the Manila art scene. In 2003, Ocampo moved back to the Philippines and co-founded the ‘Department of Avant-Garde Clichés’ Gallery and ‘Bureau of Artistic Rehab’ in Manila, where he lives and works.

"My ideas are often vague as they pertain to my cultural background and ever-changing interests. Basically, I do not know what I want – even as I embrace sudden stylistic shifts and changes in the creation of a work. My paintings are often constructed around contradictory tendencies, elaborating upon the discrepancies between what a painting appears to be and how it behaves in relation to the structures that legitimate its appearance. I believe that my works should present themselves in vague terms because I do not think my paintings are stories, nor are they symbols for a specific thing. I feel that the conditions of images in my paintings transform themselves constantly, remaining ambiguous so as to reclaim a certain degree of autonomy.

"I am conscious that this ambiguity can present a problem because, in this day and age, we are quick to ascribe words to our reality and these can precisely constrict an imaginative engagement with it. Nevertheless, I still believe that like the ancient cave paintings, after multitudes of civilisations have come and gone, the image will remain. Due to our current state of affairs, we have a tendency to polemicise art in order to give it a political function. I am not against this, but because of the uncertainty I have around my own morality, and because my work is always created from a perpetual feeling of doubt, I try to distance myself and my work from the responsibility of such a function."

Exhibited at