Turning Japanese: These 2 Pop Surrealists are Inspired by the Land of the Rising Sun in their Side-by-Side Shows - Arts & Culture

While cartoonish, the exhibits carry strong themes relevant today.

This month, Galerie Stephanie is holding two solo exhibitions simultaneously by Mark Jeffrey Santos and Roby Dwi Antono, both of whom are inspired by Japanese pop culture.


Both pop-surrealists direct our attention to the alluring world of surreal art through their simultaneous solo exhibition Intensity, Intimately and Reflections by Mr. S.

“Doppelganger,” by Mr. S

Antono, who is from Indonesia, has been a staple of the gallery’s programs since 2016, and gained trajectory from a major exhibit in Art Fair Tokyo. Known for his rich, smooth, color-infused brushstrokes depicting a selection of symbolic icons inspired by nature, down to pop culture.

Intensity, Intimately is Antono’s second solo show which shines the spotlight on his inclinations toward iconic Japanese characters such as the Kaiju.

The artist uses the duality of the Kaiju as a mythical creature and expounds on this concept through the lens of a child forming a parasocial relationship with the TV characters they grew up watching. This was back when society wasn’t consumed with the internet, social media, or smartphones.

His works delve into what appears to be an emotional connection between the child and the Kaiju through “Us” and “We Are Together.” Meanwhile, in “Lonesome Hero,” he makes use of another familiar Japanese superhero silhouette. All of his works were materialized through black and white oil pastels on canvas. Other illustrated pieces from Antono are also highlighted in this exhibition, which shows a more pensive depiction of the artist’s style.

Mark Jeffrey Santos, popularly known as Mr. S, began his career in video and film until 2014 when he found his way into becoming the rising visual artist we know today.

Santos’ creations are steeped in fantasy, and usually reflect wide-eyed characters in a dreamlike setting. With images that show his penchant for adventurous and larger-than-life personas, there’s an instant and comfortable connection that is established once a viewer comes to experience his art.

In Reflections, Santos shows how society affects the way we live our lives and how norms contribute to our fears. In his quest to acknowledge human nature’s longing for acceptance, Mr. S touches on the manner in which we adhere to what others dictate and compromise our authentic selves.

As seen in “Encounter with Myself’, “Mirror Image,” and “Eye to Eye,” there is conflict when we appease others at our personal expense. The emotions of disappointment and anger from his subject is clearly manifested in this series.

While Antono’s work showcases his nostalgia for TV and comic character, his pieces are able to complement Mr. S’s somber use of famous Japanese iconography.

“We are there together,” by Roby Dwi Antono

Spectators who grew up in the 90s will most especially find their collections familiar and appealing, as they lived through the era when comics served as one of the most popular and accessible forms of literature. Besides offering an outlet for escape and entertainment, comics also echoed the sentiments and interests of a wide audience hailing from the middle to low-income social classes. 

“Intensity, Intimately” and “Reflections” will be on view starting from April 2 to 17, 2022 at Galerie Stephanie, East Wing, Shangri-La Plaza, Mandaluyong. For more information, email [email protected] or call 7940-5726.

Banner: “Mirror Image,” by Mr. S

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