How Fillipino artist Anina Rubio challenges consumer culture

The artist expresses herself using varied disciplines, from murals to digital art. We find her channeling the negative energy she feels about consumer culture, into something positive.

Using the varying lens of anti-establishment philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze and Jean-Francois Lyotard, Anina Rubio’s artwork can be seen as thrillingly postmodern. In twentieth-century philosophy, it was predicted that a future where difference exists, and thrives, would be around the corner. This would only be possible if modernity’s persistent tendency to obliterate everything, and continually ‘make new’, was forgotten. Thankfully, artists like Anina Rubio have a talent for expressing the sublime moments in the twenty-first century, such as the negotiation (by the younger generations in particular) of a sustainable, natural world. For example, she works with trustworthy businesses who pride themselves on doing ‘the right thing’.

Anna Rubio’s murals, passionately painted to highlight the need for conservation, advocate beauty in the form of nature. There are many philosophical and psychoanalytic lenses that could be worn to view her work. But which thinkers suit her advocacies for a natural environment? Critiquing the patterns of knowledge that govern all educational disciplines, Gilles Deleuze in particular questioned the philosophical thinkers of his time. Michel Foucault often promoted him as the great mind behind ‘anti-fascist thinking’, being a student of Karl Marx, and it is true that Delueuze’s activism liberated those searching for a different way of life. Capitalism was critiqued in his essays, just as is seen in Rubio’s paintings; the vibrant colours of jungles and natural land serve the purpose of expressing the free-spirited artist’s ways of seeing the world.

As can be seen by her digital art in particular for various postcards, Anina Rubio is more interested in freeing the forces that have been constrained by capitalist society, than suggesting an alternative or utopian world. She uses smooth, precise calligraphy to depict positive words like ‘yes’, complemented by a jungle-themed, freeing background. This way of thinking is rhizomatic (promoting becoming, not being) and is a pragmatic assemblage for a new way of creating one’s self, with a perhaps more optimistic and hopeful mindset. You can imagine the consumer penning a postcard to somebody halfway across the world, somebody perhaps going through a hard time, and hoping for them to be cheered by Anina’s bright themes.

Anina’s aquamarine digital art, used for an ice-cream brand handcrafted in Sydney, captures the existence of whales and the underwater, natural environment. The philosopher Monique Canto-Sperber viewed art and culture in order to assess their consequences; for example, the duties and ideals that would lead to the self-actualisation of the consumer. She posited that long-held beliefs, with various origins dating back through human existence, prevail even when that particular world has fallen into eclipse. For example, Anina’s paintings of nature’s beauty seep through a world obsessed with consumerism, objects; a side-effect of the industrialisation of the early twentieth century. We still feel the hangover from modernity’s consumer culture now, and while there are powerful reasons why we should have arrived at that particular moment in civilization, Anina’s artwork argues that to work with the ‘old’ and the natural world is the ethical way. The instant gratification of desire, both of the artist and the viewer, is secondary to this.  

The seaside designs of her work are clearly made with love, which is described by the philosopher Helene Cixous as an otherness, another who is foreign to us. This unknowable person holds our life in their hands, and can destroy us, because self-priority is cast aside. Love is dreadful; we all know this. We are all victims of it. But what can this message teach us about art, about Anina Rubio’s in particular? What is the links between love of nature, and love of art? 

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