Raf Antonio uses the form of photography to capture a realistic x romantic image of self.
In western art history, Realism comes to trend in France in the early 18th century. It brought the idea that the grotesque and non-courtly way of life could be objects in portraiture and painting. It was a rejection of Romanticism, which realist criticised to be over-exaggerated and falsely-depicted a better reality.
Antonio creates a blend of both romanticism and realism in his depiction of self. Painting himself in colours with light, costume and make-up he emphasises a self-love that is celebratory and caring. Antonio revives Romanticism for its ability to emphasise and make heroic real people. The political movement for which it was rejected in Past France, romanticism has been reinvented for a necessary depiction of contemporary people.
“I’m trying to explore a feminized male beauty,
a less-Eurocentric Latin American beauty that I feel doesn’t get seen enough”.
--- Raf Antonio in conversation with Alex Arsenych DeCastro,
for Panther Daze Designs, a new independent lingerie company.
The Stuff We Keep, Raf Antonio (2017), 3 stills from collection.
Antonio puts on a pedestal everyday objects close to his personal history and past. His technique is subversive, reinventing the meaning of icons through exposure to personal histories via a camera lens.
Contextualising or consuming Antonio’s work involves looking at several pieces in different forms, and that would be the experience. Seeing one thing and the next allowing the space between to think, process or reflect.
Raf Antonio makes public his experience growing up through a series of essays titled ESS-HAAAAAYS!Antonio has opened up his perspective to you. Coming from a marginalised background and generally unaccepted for his identity in his life. It makes his work unique and his voice unique. Reading each essay allows you to piece together the psyche behind the work and why each one is important to Antonio and it changes what you think when you consume the next piece…
Rope Running Out is Raf Antonio’s larger narrative work. A delicately woven poetic tale with characters based on people in Antonio’s own life.
The story begins with Nacio who instinctively takes a photo of Lobo as he enters a café making eye contact, holding it. Nacio shows the photo to Felix his partner, and you learn their relationship is not sexual but cerebrally sexual.
Words. The characters don’t speak as much as they say words and words are given their importance. Colour, the ‘shortcut to emotions’ Antonio tells me. Posturing, the characters placement in correspondence to the others.
The overall feeling while reading the play is romantic, oh so romantic. And in this way makes powerful and beautiful three queer men. Raf Antonio’s narrative writing puts characters on a pedestal. In the necessary way, rope running out subversively portrays queer men successful in creating strong relationships and strong in helping each other through their traumas.
In has not been the case in the last decade for films to portray strong queer men, rather the portrayal shows suffering that ends in suicide. Raf Antonio spoke to me about “personal propaganda” which he learned of after attending Jill Soloway’s Master Class on The Female Gaze at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) [hyperlink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBvppooD9I]. Antonio was inspired to work from his own perspective as a queer person of colour. “Personal propaganda” being an art form that shares a person’s world view generating greater empathy in the dominant culture, hopefully, creating a safER space to exist.
Raf Antonio cites influence from Roger Maplethorpe, Zanele Muholi, and Quinnford & Scout. Learning from them the malleability of perspective in photography. A portrait can be a small intimate detail framed to give distance.
The self-portrait series expands on the propaganda nature of rope running out. If narrative and drama is moving image, Raf’s photography project lets the narrative pause so we can investigate a single image and character.
Antonio practices the artist’s body as subject. Subjecting the self to a platform and exploring the parts within one’s identity and the
Amongst writers there is a saying ‘there’s only 7 types of stories to tell’, but there is still a point to telling stories because of the individual background and personal history of each writer. The way each writer tells the story will be different than any other. Raf Antonio’s work is representative of this, self-validating, empowering and emotional.
And then the Instagram work that is continuous. Continuous work: we follow. vulnerability.
Further exploring! Raf Antonio’s Instagram is where you can track his process and see new piece in his self-portrait project. And look to the sky for Raf’s next work THE EFFEMINATES: A Queer Tale of Bloody Vengeance, currently in development with Cahoots Theatre Projects in Toronto. Toronto, where Raf Antonio is based and active.
Contact Raf Antonio, click here.
Profile by Bertha Lee
____ May, 2018