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Jose Tence Ruiz is a multi-media artist born in 1958 in Sta. Mesa, Manila. Educated at the Ateneo de Manila in his early years, he graduated cum laude with a Fine Arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas, Manila in 1979. For over 30 years, he has been involved in various multi-media visual activities, including set design, publication design, book illustration, media presentations, teaching, editorial illustration, painting, art for advocacy, sculpture, installation and performance art. He is also well-known for wry and compelling political cartoons, and worked on the editorial pages of major broadsheets in the Philippines and Singapore (The Manila Times, The Manila Chronicle, and Singapore Straits Times, among others) for more than a decade. Ruiz is a leading avatar of Social Realism in Southeast Asia, receiving numerous awards such as the 13 Artists Award given by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1988 and various awards from the Art Association of the Philippines, from 1979 – 2005.

The artist is regarded in key art circles and by the general public as a significant thinker about social issues. His nuanced approach to usually strident topics has influenced younger artists to express themselves with an appreciation of complexity. Among his peers, Ruiz is a calm but sharp co-worker in the inter-connected fields of art and politics. His work for this project delves into the mathematics of fractals, using botanical and other debris from various rural and urban Philippine environments—with an intriguing use of the word “ganap,” Pilipino for complete and completion, perform, act, point of arrival or birth.

It is precisely chaos in this cluster of cities of 14 million people that the Social Realist Jose Tence Ruiz decided to tackle in the first of the EDSA series. He began with an image collection of botanical and urban debris, and thought through Chaos Theory to arrive at a strangely symmetrical composition based on mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot’s work on fractals.

Tence Ruiz’ mammoth biomorphic image now confronts and is part of the chaos of EDSA traffic everyday. That this work regularly appeals to the bus-riding public, who alight at a nearby stop, sustains Tence Ruiz’ proposition that common folk are up to taking on art’s complexities.