Modern art: John Cinco exhibits digital collages in the Philippines

By Kenna Caprio

FLORHAM (July 18, 2014) — Artist and Fairleigh Dickinson University assistant professor John Cinco is headed back home — across the oceans to the Philippines — for the summer.

With a group exhibition at University of the Philippines and a solo show at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Metro Manila, Cinco’s digital collages will be on display from the end of June through mid-August 2014.

Initially trained in the fine arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts and University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, Cinco worked with a number of media before starting to create digital collages. He now teaches computer graphics at FDU.

Cinko's artwork on display
Cinko's artwork
John Cinko headshot

In “Transmutations II (Extended),” John Cinco, FDU assistant professor of computer graphics, displays approximately 20 digital collages. This exhibition runs from July 3 through August 17 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in Manila. “The Goal Beyond” (center above) is featured in the show. (Photos and images courtesy of Cinco)

In college, “A number of us started exploring alternative materials — more affordable and inexpensive materials like household paints, found objects, pencils and charcoal,” says Cinco. “Back then, computer arts was not that widespread yet. Now it’s so common.”

In 1995, Cinco started graduate school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, transitioning from fine arts to computer arts. In pursuit of his MFA, he focused on telecommunications and then computer graphics. He says that his background in the fine arts helped him then and continues to benefit him now.

“Graphic design is commercial by nature, and attempts to find a visual solution to a visual communications problem,” Cinco says. “If you think like an artist, you can look at the problem from different perspectives and brainstorm for a visually engaging solution.” Graphic artists need “a good sense of design and aesthetic composition.”

Infusing his digital collages with otherworldly ideas and universal consciousness, Cinco finds inspiration in the famed artists of the early 20th century, including Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.

“I see a lot of correlation between what I’m trying to do and what they were trying to do,” says Cinco. “We’re using a different set of tools, shapes and forms. But the general thrust and empathy towards the works is the same.”

The difference between fine and graphic arts he says, “is in the eyes, attitude and knowledge that you bring to bear on the tools that you have and what you create with it.”

FDU students in Cinco’s Creative Imagery with Photoshop class create their own digital collages, too. “Mine are more abstract,” Cinco explains. He takes photographs and uses those in his digital collages. “My students tend to focus on illustration.”

Piecing together digital collages allows Cinco to “manipulate, destroy and form compositions,” he says. “When you’re creating a visual collage, you’re basically setting up a set of shapes or form. I don’t work from sketches or anything; it’s all a spontaneous arrangement of materials.” He likes having the ability to edit easily — which Cinco says is much harder when artists make traditional collages. With a digital tool like Photoshop he can click “undo” or “redo,” select sections of an image and make changes rather than ripping up or working around an artistic choice.

“With digital art, you don’t have the tactile quality with physical materials. It’s not something that you can touch. If you want to see it out of the computer, you have to print the work,” Cinco says.

His digital collages measure approximately 15.2 inches by 20.5 inches. Equipped with an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer and Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, he prints the collages and then mounts them on frames measuring 20.5 inches by 28.5 inches with a white mat surrounding the work. The works are covered with glass to preserve quality.

“Makiling X,” the group exhibition by select alumni from the Philippine High School for the Arts, will be on display in the University of the Philippines Corredor Gallery from June 28 through July 15. “Each visual artist is allowed only three works for submission. We are now down to 20 artists, representing the first class that completed four years (the school opened in 1977) down to the most recent grads still active in the visual arts,” says Cinco.

He’s looking forward to seeing how his former classmates, now active in the education, advertising and film industries, are applying their artistic talents.

In the solo show at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, “Transmutations II (Extended),” Cinco will display approximately 20 digital collages. This exhibition, which runs from July 3 through August 17, functions as a sequel to his exhibit at the Philippine Center in New York City in December 2013.

“Transmutations is the most appropriate word to describe what I was trying to with the images. The end result is one work that’s very different from the source images,” he says. “It’s similar to what the alchemists wanted to do, turn common base metals into something more valuable, like gold. I’m using raw, everyday materials and doing something with it, so that the end result is something higher, more resonant and valuable.”

Exercising his imagination to see beyond the original materials is something that Cinco shares in the classroom. He wants his students to “work on their imaginations and then use the tools, be knowledgeable about the techniques and tools to make projects compelling. I want them to come away with the knowledge that they can create something and that they have to persevere to learn their craft and come up with really great work. It takes persistence and single-mindedness.