The Filipino arts and entertainment community mourns the passing of Leo Abaya, a noted artist known for his works as a production designer. He died last May 26, 2021 at the age of 60.
Born on Dec. 13, 1960, Leo first earned an economics degree from the Holy Name University in Tagbilaran, Bohol. He then pursued fine arts studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) – Diliman and got his masters degree from the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton in the UK.
His artworks explored different mediums, from painting to sculpture and installations. In 2013, he entered the world of filmmaking by writing and directing “Instant Mommy,” a drama-comedy nominated for an award at the ninth edition of the Cinemalaya Film Festival.
According to Art in Embassies, his debut film went on to be showcased in different countries, billed at international film festivals like the 33rd Hawaii International Film Festival, the 50th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, the 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok, the 10th Dubai International Film Festival, the 9th Osaka Asian Film Festival, and the fourth Richmond International Film and Media Arts Festival.
“I subscribe to the notion that the proliferation of images used today for thinking and communication has broadened people’s sense of visuality,” Leo said. “It continues to increase porosity to the boundaries that restrict conventional art practices… But I also think that the more daily life is inundated by images, the more we aestheticise almost anything today, the more we should be mindful and critical of their use–ethically, socially, and politically.”
Leo was also an agent of arts education. He shared his expertise on studio art and production design to undergraduate and graduate students at UP Diliman.
Among his last works is “Unsang Dapita,” which is a phrase meaning “what place.” It is a series of dioramas inspired by various locations in Bohol where Leo grew up. “As a serialized visual-textual narrative, this project features one photograph a week, each bearing subtle or distinct changes from the previous ones, exemplifying or describing our footprint on this world,” the artist said.
Tributes from fellow artists and friends have poured in online to honor the late artist and the legacy he left behind.
Rest in peace, Leo Abaya.