Charles Clapshaw presents 40x40 exhibit in Manila

IMAGE Nikko Tuazon

Charles Clapshaw on his favorite art piece for his 40x40 exhibit: “A year ago, I’ve made the decision to focus a hundred percent on painting, and have a pure mind and only really focus on that. And so, it’s kind of like it was a major milestone in my life. Hence, for me it’s a strong painting.”

Charles Clapshaw, former president of TBWA WorldwideDigital Arts Network, shares his works of art about decision-making in his 40x40 exhibit, which opened last October 10 in Makati City.

Though a series of paintings and installation art pieces, Clapshaw portrays moments where one has to decide and choose between two things or situations. (Philippine Entertainment Portal) interviewed the New Zealand-born artist at the opening of his exhibit.

“So the inspiration is really about decisions,” Charles told PEP.

“And when you make a decision, it takes you through a pathway, whether you realize it’s a big decision or a small decision, it can make a big or a small change in your life.

“And so, all these switches and all the artwork in this room, articulates decisions that I’ve been making and decisions that I’ve personally made.

“It’s really documenting like where I’ve gone and where I’ve been. And also I think it’s pertinent to decisions the people are also making.


“Sometimes it’s a really brave decision; sometimes it’s just a minor decision. But for me personally, I think it’s really important that you do make a decision. So that’s one of the points I’m trying to make here.”

OF SWITCHES AND DECISIONS. It is interesting to note how the important encounters in one's life can be expressed in quite a simple manner, as the artist Charles Clapshaw has conjured.

For important decisions, he turns to the light switch.

“I was thinking one day about myself and, to be honest, why do I do things? Like why do I go out all night? And then I was thinking about... it’s because I’ve got a switch.

“And the switch just goes that way or that way. And I wanted to try and kind of come up with a visual metaphor for what that is.”

Charles elaborated that the simplicity of his subject has perfectly suited his simple personality and his way of making decisions.


“I’m a really simple person and so a light switch is a very simple object, which is binary and only goes one or two ways.

“And so for me, that perfectly articulated kind of where my thoughts are and what that is. But I also feel like it’s kind of got a bigger place in terms of other people and what you have decided to do.”

DECISIONS ON A CANVAS. Making decisions are sometimes hard, be it between your passion and getting a good paycheck or between getting an orange juice or diet soda.

In Charles case, he has simplified all that by putting it all on a canvass using acrylic paint, and occassional use of linen and oil.

His exhibit is a mix of visual tricks and color theories, a combination of space, dimension and weight that together depict personal stories and decisions.

“I didn’t need oil; I didn’t need the complexity of oil. I didn’t really need to mix. Again, I’m simple. Like when you look at my shapes and colors it’s simple bold colors.


“So acrylic really does it for me. It’s my favorite medium. The paint, the structure, the canvass, it needs to be true what the thought is and what I am.”

When asked about his favorite pieces in his collection, the painter pointed to the 40x40 artwork he did while in Palawan.

He recalled, “The reason being is, because when I was painting these, there was a problem where my paint and brushes got lost and I was on the island on Palawan.

“I was two hours by small boat away from Coron and I had no paint, no brushes, but one really large canvass. Some of the local guys allowed me to use some of the paints that they use on their boats and they gave me some of their brushes. So I had to cut the brushes to make them the right shape then I had to mix to make my paint.


“I had to try work out what I can do with it. And for me, that was like really it’s invigorating because I had the ability... really kind of move it forward.”

Another significant piece from his art collection is the Art versus Advertising painting, which depicts his career shift. He left his pantheon as one of the most sought-after digital advertising practitioner to focus on his passion, the pursuit of arts and painting.

Charles started as a graphic designer but later shifted career and industry to client-side in order to help address changes in media consumption.

The digital artist recalled, “A year ago, I’ve made the decision to focus a hundred percent on painting and have a pure mind and only really focus on that.

“And so it’s kind of like it was a major milestone in my life. Hence, for me it’s a strong painting.”


The kind-hearted artist is donating the proceeds of his exhibit to the TBWAcademy Scholarship Fund.

“For me it’s not about selling the art, it’s not about the money. It’s about making the art.

“And you know, I’m from Australia, it would be wrong to take money from the Philippines where there’s lots of people who need money. Ethically for me, personally, it just didn’t feel right.”

THE PSEUDONISTS. Being part of a post-modern movement in the art industry, Charles elucidated that pseudonysm is an art movement aiming to change the art world.

“The pseudonists, it’s an art movement that’s happening in Sydney but it’s also moving to... heading in Paris and also a little bit in Los Angeles.

“It comes back from the thinking about what’s happening in the current art world where when you look at the painting, you look at the name before you look at the painting. So it’s a little bit to do with [Andy] Warhol and the color personality.


“So as pseudonists, our belief is, therefore, to change the way the perception is... be famous, in terms of our names, so we build our names as a brand and then we look at what the artwork is because we know in some way that’s how the art world’s working.

“So we’re kind of like revolting against the status quo. And we’re trying to move it back to actually what is the picture rather than what is your name.”

IT’S MORE ARTISTIC IN THE PHILIPPINES. The Australian-based artist described his trip to the Philippines as a "very cultural experience."

He said he very much enjoyed being here and with the Filipinos, adding that he has been impressed by the fact that "art is respected" here.

“In Australia and some of the other countries, unfortunately, an artist is no longer a job that’s considered as a real job, whereas here, it is respected and people have an enjoyment from it,” he said.


“And as an artist, I’ve made so many friends, anything like to deliver these paintings, I would go out and get a jeepney and that’s how I delivered them.

“Everyone was just so excited to see art and meet an artist. Culturally, it’s fantastic. Everyone’s so friendly and helpful.

“Even when I was coming back from Palawan, I had my canvasses on the plane, and even the cargo loaders where waiving goodbye to me and saying like, 'Byebye, artist!' and so that’s what I love."

Charles Claphshaw's 40x40 exhibit opened last Friday, October 10, TBWA Santiago Mangada Puno on 1195 Yakal St. cor. Chino Roces Ave., Makati City. For more information, visit and


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