Marigold Santos is an interdisciplinary artist who draws on her experience of immigrating from the Philippines to Canada to create work that explores ideas of identity and self-hood. Santos’ work is heavily influenced by the folklore of the Philippines; the vampiric figure of Asuang appears across her work in different forms.

Santos is drawn to Asuang because she is a complex character whose story accounts for colonisation and its effects and because she is a figure who allows Santos to explore the nature of transformation but also because ever since she was a little girl Santos has loved scaring herself.

Marigold Santos’ exhibit MIRROR/MOTHER (fragments) is showing at Eastern Edge Gallery from May 27th – July 5th. “Shrouds, Wax & Witches: a conversation with Marigold Santos” will take place Saturday, May 28, 2 PM at Eastern Edge. The event is free.

What is MIRROR/MOTHER (fragments) about?

M/M (f) features work that poses questions rather than provides answers. The work has a precariousness that touches on mutability, plurality, hybridity, empowerment, darkness, lightness, and how each experience informs the definitions of our own self-hoods.

MIRROR/MOTHER (fragments) draws on work from two of your previous shows, BLACK MIRROR and INVISIBLE MOTHER. What made you want to return to those works?

These two bodies of work are my most recent, and reflect most closely my explorations of the themes and notions I’ve been investigating for years. They are also the most personal, and equally so, the most cryptic.

What role does autobiography play in your work?

A big role, because all the work stems from a departure point that is my own personal experience. Though it may not be obvious, the work is generated through the reflection of my own family’s immigration from the Philippines to Canada in the late 80s.

Through looking at this particular time, I have been exploring the ideas of identity and self-hood through the lens of a young person uprooted and placed in a new context, new landscape. What we bring with us, what we leave behind. Language, social politics, pop culture, all that stuff factors into what the work is about, when reflecting on ideas of a fragmented and multiple self.

A lot of your work draws on myths and folklore. What about those genres interests you?

Specifically the folklore of the Philippines, a ‘thing’ that was brought with me to Canada, is something I turn to when speaking about these themes. And the Asuang character in particular – the hybrid multiple creature that is half vampire half witch, all-viscera sucking ghoul. I love her.  She has a complex history that involves taking into account colonization and its effects.

So I reconfigure her monstrous character so that instead of being demonized and marginalized, she speaks of her multifariousness in empowered ways. Every character that appears in my work is a version of an Asuang.

And I should also mention that my initial draw to this character as a little girl was not out of the ordinary for me, I like to scare myself. I grew up with supernatural occult horror as a genre that was an automatic part of my creative landscape.

A lot of your work deals with the concept of transformation, how does your work change by being exhibited in different locations and contexts? Are you ever surprised by meaning that surfaces in your work when you show it in a new place?

Exhibiting the work definitely goes hand in hand with the production of the work these days – in that I take into account the space in which these pieces are going to be presented in. Often times I am creating new bodies of work for every exhibition (this one is an exception – though it highlights that it is an amalgamation of the two, and so in many ways different dialogue can be generated).

Sometimes however, I don’t have the opportunity to make new work for every show, and don’t feel I need to, because the works themselves have multiple lives – once exhibited alongside other works from other series, they create new conversations.

Also, each physical space changes, so the ways in which they are formally mounted and presented also influence how they live in that space for that time being.  Another thing to consider is the non-physical space, the social space, in which the work is received. Every city, every gallery, is different, and every crowd and audience that come to visit the work, bring with them their own histories and projections and methodologies of how they engage with the work.

You work in lots of different mediums like painting, film, and sculpture. Is there a medium that comes to you more naturally than others? Do you find that certain ideas are more clearly expressed through certain mediums, or do you work an idea out by exploring it in several different mediums?

My BFA and MFA are both in print media, but I generally think of Print as just another way of drawing, or another way of achieving a particular mark. A method, which I can turn to if I desire that kind of mark. Same with painting, same with sculpture.

But I guess the most immediate form of mark making for me would be a style of drawing that doesn’t require too much planning or too many processes in order to achieve a mark (thus my love for ink). Ink is fluid and yet bold, it has the ability to flow, and yet be absorbed. It is also able to be built up in layers, but is incredibly permanent.

There is a bit of anxiety involved in drawing with ink. But there is also this crazy sense of joy when I draw with it because I’m never exactly sure what it will do, so that’s a bit scary. But as I mentioned, I love scaring myself.

You teach painting and drawing at Concordia, does teaching influence your own art practice?

Only in that it serves as a constant reminder that growth and change is inevitable, and needed.