top of page

In conversation: IJWBAA

Dive into the enigmatic world of IJWBAA (also known as Pao or Paul Hafalla), a versatile artist weaving digital and traditional realms to explore the depths of human identity. From Rothko's minimalism to Giacometti's elongated forms, join us on a journey that transcends visual representation. In this captivating interview, IJWBAA peels back the layers of individual identity, culture, and the human experience, inviting you to contemplate the profound dimensions of the human soul.

Joana Alarcão
6 de dezembro de 2023
Can you start by providing an outline of your work?

Hello, I'm Paul 'Pao' Hafalla, or IJWBAA. I was born in Manila, Philippines, and I'm currently based in Pangasinan. My artistic journey is quite diverse, spanning digital art, painting, sculpture, drawing, and writing. I'm known for exploring elongated, simplified figures in the digital medium, drawing inspiration from artists like Rothko, Giacometti, and Venus de Milo. My work aims for a striking balance between simplicity and profound depth, incorporating influences from minimalism to classic sculptures. Notably, I created a 3x4 feet acrylic canvas painting titled 'The Builders,' which was commissioned by renowned art collectors in my country. I also published "I Just Wannabe An Artist" Book 1, capturing my artistic evolution from August to December 2022. My impact extends globally with solo exhibits in VR format, participation in international group exhibitions, and recognition in competitions. My art has found its place in galleries in New York and London, and it's collected by individuals worldwide. I've collaborated with a UK art gallery in the past, and currently, I'm collaborating with a prominent art gallery in Asia, with locations in both Beijing and Singapore. I've been featured in publications like "Goddessarts Magazine" in Germany, The Arches Project Org in the UK, and 365 Art Plus Magazine in Japan. I have been interviewed by Al-Tiba9 Contemporary Art in Spain. Being a finalist in the ArtsFighters competition in Milan and securing 2nd Place in the unofficial World Children's Day event in Paris were defining moments for me. I continue to explore and express my creativity, aiming to inspire art enthusiasts around the world.


How do you navigate the fusion of digital and traditional mediums in your art, and how does this combination contribute to your exploration of human identity?

In my artistic process, navigating the fusion of digital and traditional mediums is a deliberate and dynamic journey. I leverage the precision and flexibility of digital tools to create a foundation, often starting with sketches or digital paintings. This serves as a springboard for my traditional work, where I might use various materials like acrylics or sculpture to add tactile elements and depth. The synergy of these mediums allows me to explore the intricate dimensions of human identity. Digital tools offer a modern, limitless canvas for initial conceptualization, while traditional techniques bring a tangible, human touch. The combination enhances the storytelling aspect of my art, enabling me to convey nuanced emotions and perspectives. Ultimately, this fusion mirrors the complexity and multifaceted nature of human identity, creating a harmonious dialogue between the contemporary and the timeless.

 


EmpowerHER by IJWBAA. Image courtesy of IJWBAA

Could you share how the artistic styles of Rothko, Giacometti, and the Venus de Milo have influenced and shaped your creative approach, especially in delving into representational figures in digital art?

The artistic styles of Rothko, Giacometti, and the Venus de Milo have significantly influenced my creative approach, particularly in my exploration of representational figures in digital art. Over the past year, I've delved into the realm of these figures, aiming to distil the essence of strength guided by simplicity, a principle inspired by Rothko's minimalist yet impactful style. Rothko's use of basic shapes and colors has become a pivotal tool for me to peel back the layers of individual identity within my art.


Giacometti's portrayal of elongated figures, devoid of intricate details and arms, has profoundly shaped my work, transcending mere visual representation. Each figure in my art becomes a canvas that encapsulates elements such as social standing, cultural heritage, historical context, familial bonds, and life's journey. These figures symbolize the intricate tapestry of experiences and emotions that define human existence, extending beyond the physical body.


The influence of the Venus de Milo further enriches my exploration, contributing to the delicate interplay between simplicity and complexity in my art. Beneath the surface of these figures lies the intricacy of the human self, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound dimensions of the human condition. My art serves as a meditation on identity, culture, and the human experience, where each brushstroke and hue speaks to the depth and diversity of the human soul. Through the fusion of digital and traditional media, I aim to encourage observers on a journey through the intricately woven threads of human existence, reminding them that beneath the surface, they are all intricate masterpieces, waiting to be unveiled and comprehended.

 

In your recent journey exploring representational figures, you mentioned distilling the essence of strength guided by the principle of simplicity. What can you tell us about this line of thought?

In my recent exploration of representational figures, the concept of distilling the essence of strength guided by the principle of simplicity has been a central theme in my artistic philosophy. Inspired by Rothko's minimalist style, I see simplicity not as a limitation but as a powerful tool to reveal the core strength within these figures. By using basic shapes and colors, I aim to strip away unnecessary details, allowing the inherent strength of each figure to shine through. This approach serves as a deliberate and contemplative act, echoing the idea that strength lies in the simplicity of form and the ability to convey profound messages without visual clutter. It aligns with my goal of creating figures that encapsulate the multifaceted nature of individual identity, cultural heritage, and the human experience, inviting viewers to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the essence of strength within the simplicity of my art.

 


Harmony in Diversity by IJWBAA. Image courtesy of IJWBAA

How do you transcend visual representation, using each figure as a canvas to encapsulate aspects like identity, social standing, and cultural heritage?

I transcend visual representation by treating each figure as a canvas, a concept deeply influenced by Giacometti and Rothko. Inspired by Giacometti's portrayal of elongated figures and Rothko's minimalist approach, I believe that art should go beyond mere visual aesthetics. In my work, each figure becomes a vessel for storytelling, capturing nuanced elements like individual identity, social standing, and cultural heritage. By deliberately omitting intricate details and arms, I invite viewers to engage in a contemplative exploration, encouraging them to delve into the complexities beneath the surface. This intentional simplicity becomes a conduit for a broader narrative, allowing the figures to symbolize the rich tapestry of human experiences and emotions. Through this approach, I aim to elevate my art beyond a static visual display, creating an immersive experience that resonates with the profound dimensions of the human condition.

 

Your art reflects a delicate interplay between simplicity and complexity. How does this balance invite viewers to contemplate the profound dimensions of the human condition beyond the boundaries of the physical body?

The delicate interplay between simplicity and complexity in my art serves as a gateway, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound dimensions of the human condition that extend far beyond the confines of the physical body. Inspired by Rothko's minimalist yet impactful style and Giacometti's stripped-down figures, I intentionally strike a balance between simplicity and complexity in my representations. This balance acts as a mirror to the intricate nature of human existence, encouraging observers to explore deeper layers of emotions, experiences, and cultural contexts.


The intentional simplicity of form serves as a starting point, drawing attention to the essence of the figure. Yet, beneath this seemingly simple exterior lies a complex narrative waiting to be discovered. Each brushstroke and hue carries a multitude of meanings, symbolizing identity, cultural heritage, and the human journey. By evoking emotions through minimalistic forms and nuanced details, my art transcends the physical appearance of the figures, inviting viewers to ponder the intangible aspects of humanity. This interplay encourages contemplation, sparking a dialogue about the complexities and richness of human existence, fostering a connection that extends far beyond the visual realm.



Solitude-of-time by IJWBAA. Image courtesy of IJWBAA.

What can you tell us about your submitted work, Solitude of Time?

The artwork, "Solitude of Time," intricately weaves symbolic elements to illustrate the human experience within the framework of time and personal evolution. Depicting a man adorned with a clock, it signifies the symbiotic relationship between individuals and the passage of time. Surrounding elements like the sun, star, moon, cloud, and rain denote diverse phases and nuances of life—brightness, contemplation, challenges, and growth. The leaf symbolizes new beginnings and the perpetual potential for personal development amid the ongoing march of time. Anchored by a linear representation of an aged hanging bridge, it metaphorically embodies life's journey—a path marked by direction yet riddled with uncertainties. The attached symbols—knowledge (as a bulb), work (depicted as a gear), education (portrayed by a bag), and the interplay between positivity and negativity (embodied by a circle)—emphasize essential components and challenges encountered throughout life. Meanwhile, the liberated birds symbolize the human yearning for freedom and the pursuit of lofty aspirations despite the constraints imposed by time and the journey of life.


Through digital and traditional media, you encourage observers to embark on a journey through the intricately woven threads of human existence. Could you elaborate on how your art invites this exploration and understanding?

In my artistic journey blending digital and traditional media, I aim to invite observers on an immersive exploration through the intricately woven threads of human existence. The fusion of these mediums allows me to create a multifaceted experience that transcends mere visual representation. Starting with digital tools for their precision and flexibility, I lay the foundation for my art. This phase serves as a canvas for initial conceptualization, embracing the minimalist principles inspired by Rothko and the distilled essence of figures influenced by Giacometti.

Transitioning to traditional media adds a tactile and human element, enriching the storytelling within each piece. Whether through painting, sculpture, or drawing, these mediums introduce depth and texture, inviting viewers to engage with tangible forms that convey profound narratives. The deliberate choice of simplicity in form and complexity in narrative encourages observers to embark on a contemplative journey.


By deliberately omitting intricate details and arms in my figures, I prompt viewers to explore beyond the surface. This intentional visual simplicity acts as an invitation, encouraging individuals to unravel the layers of meaning embedded within each piece. I aim to evoke emotions and spark introspection, prompting observers to connect with the universal themes woven into my art—identity, cultural heritage and the human experience.


Ultimately, my art becomes a conduit, guiding viewers through a narrative that transcends time and space. It encourages them to reflect on their own stories, experiences, and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of the intricacies that define the human condition. Through this exploration, I hope to create a shared space where observers can connect with the profound and diverse aspects of human existence, inviting them to weave their own narratives into the intricate tapestry of my art.

 


Reviving Our World by IJWBAA. Image courtesy of IJWBAA

In your opinion, how can art be a positive driving force in the current contemporary atmosphere?

In the contemporary atmosphere, art possesses the transformative power to serve as a positive driving force in several ways. Firstly, art has the ability to spark crucial conversations about social issues and cultural diversity. By showcasing diverse perspectives and narratives, art fosters empathy, understanding, and inclusivity within communities. It acts as a catalyst for dialogue, promoting social change and advocating for equality.

Moreover, art serves as a powerful medium for introspection and self-expression, offering individuals an outlet for their emotions and experiences. In today's fast-paced and often stressful world, art provides a therapeutic space, allowing people to process emotions and navigate complex feelings, fostering mental well-being and resilience.

Art also has the unique capacity to inspire innovation and creativity across various disciplines. It encourages thinking outside the box, pushing boundaries, and challenging the status quo. This creativity is instrumental in problem-solving, driving innovation in technology, science, and societal advancement.


Furthermore, in an increasingly digital era, art's accessibility through various mediums, including digital platforms, makes it a tool for global connectivity and cultural exchange. It transcends geographical boundaries, enabling diverse voices to be heard and appreciated on a global scale.

Ultimately, art's positive impact lies in its ability to connect, inspire, and provoke thought. It has the potential to unite communities, stimulate critical thinking, and offer solace, making it an invaluable force in shaping a more empathetic, inclusive, and innovative contemporary society.

 

What message or call to action would you like to leave our readers with?



I'd like to invite readers to engage with art not just as a visual experience but as a journey into the intricate layers of the human experience. Let art be a mirror reflecting the richness of our diverse stories and a catalyst for empathy and understanding. Embrace the power of creativity in fostering positive change and inspiring dialogue about crucial societal issues. Let's explore art not only for its aesthetic appeal but also for its potential to connect us, provoke thoughtful discussions, and drive us towards a more inclusive and compassionate world.


Know more about the artist here.


Cover image:

Maniq by IJWBAA. Image courtesy of IJWBAA

hardcover-book-mockup.png

Exploring the Depths of Identity in Digital Art: The Enigmatic World of IJWBAA

Meet IJWBAA, also known as Pao or Paul Hafalla, a versatile artist hailing from Pangasinan, Philippines. His creative pursuits encompass the roles of digital artist, painter, and author, driven by a fervent commitment to capturing the intricacies of human identity. Drawing inspiration from acclaimed artists such as Rothko, Giacometti, and the Venus de Milo, IJWBAA skillfully blends digital and traditional mediums to embark on a profound exploration of the multifaceted nature of the human self.

In recent times, IJWBAA has embarked on a captivating journey within the realm of representational figures in digital art. This odyssey commenced a year ago when he embarked on a quest to distill the essence of strength within these forms, guided by the principle of simplicity. Rothko's minimalist yet deeply impactful style has profoundly shaped his approach, inspiring him to employ basic shapes and colors as tools to peel back the layers of individual identity.

Two iconic figures from the annals of art history, Giacometti and the Venus de Milo, have played pivotal roles in molding IJWBAA's artistic vision. Giacometti's portrayal of elongated figures, stripped of intricate details and arms, has left an enduring mark on his work. IJWBAA transcends mere visual representation, crafting each figure as a canvas that encapsulates an individual's identity, social standing, cultural heritage, historical context, familial bonds, and life's journey.

Beneath the surface of these figures lies the intricacy of the human self, transcending the confines of mere physicality. They stand as a testament to the intricate tapestry of experiences and emotions that define human existence. IJWBAA's art symbolizes a delicate interplay between simplicity and complexity, inviting viewers to contemplate the profound dimensions of the human condition, which extend far beyond the boundaries of the physical body.

In essence, IJWBAA's art is a profound meditation on identity, culture, and the human experience. His unique fusion of influences and techniques elevates each of his works to a realm where every brushstroke and hue speaks to the depth and diversity of the human soul. Through digital and traditional media, he encourages observers to embark on a journey through the intricately woven threads of human existence, reminding them that beneath the surface, they are all intricate masterpieces, waiting to be unveiled and comprehended.

------------

Website: https://wannabelabs.com
Contact: info.wannabelabs@gmail.com
Social Media:
IG: https://www.instagram.com/ijwbaa/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ijwbaa
FB: https://www.facebook.com/ijustwannabeanartistnow

MORE

In conversation: Mark Lawson Bell

In conversation: Mark Lawson Bell

In this interview, delve into the captivating journey and innovative creations of Mark Lawson Bell, a visionary artist whose story unfolds from the rural landscapes of Cornwall to the vibrant streets of London and beyond. Discover how his childhood as a naturalist laid the groundwork for a multifaceted career spanning photography, sculpture, and creative direction. Join us as we explore the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs that have shaped his remarkable trajectory in the world of art and design."

In Conversation: Natalia Kapchuk

In Conversation: Natalia Kapchuk

In this interview, step into the world of Natalia Kapchuk, a Contemporary Artist, Eco-activist, and Philanthropist, where artworks become a powerful dialogue between Earth's beauty and human impact. Journey through her artistic evolution, from childhood inspirations to environmental revelations, as she crafts a visual narrative echoing the ongoing struggle between nature and humanity.

bottom of page