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Filipino artist Gabby Prado, who lives with Chromesthesia, shares all about her journey in inspiring people through abstract art and dance.

“I probably got my dad’s talent,” says Gabby Prado whose affinity for the arts began as a child playing around with crayons and markers. But when she first saw Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, she was inspired to paint like the great post-impressionist artist. She realized that art made her feel alive. “I became obsessed with the color palette,” she shares. “I was very drawn to art because of the freedom it gave me.”

Prado recently launched her solo exhibit titled “Lexikon” with the help of Modeka Art. Here, she presented her works and choreographed a dance reflecting the theme. The show is deeply personal to the artist as it reflects her experience living with Chromesthesia. It is a form of synesthesia, a rare neurological condition that allows her to involuntarily see and experience colors from sound.

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Gabby Prado.
Prado’s undergraduate thesis in 2019. “Painting with Synesthesia: Translating Auditory Memory with Abstract
Expressionism.”

Creating identity

Aside from painting, Prado also fell in love with dance, and she learned ballet for around 15 years. She spent two to three years honing her skills in contemporary dance at the Halili-Cruz School of Ballet. She then incorporated movement in her art style, taking inspiration from Serbian conceptual and performance artist Marina Abramovic.

“There have been times where I become very frustrated with my paintings,” Prado reveals. “So, I thought, why not be like her and perform with my body to express with canvas? Like visual art, dance lets me tell a story without using my mouth.”

This journey to discovering her identity was not easy, and Prado admits to being afraid of what others might say about her work. That search for a unique voice is an essential struggle. Thankfully, the 26-year-old found comfort in abstract and a variety of color palettes. Her junior year in college, in the course of preparing for her thesis and her career, was pivotal to her artistic journey. “I chose to share about my unusual experiences that nobody knows: synesthesia,” she says.

Prado turned her rare neurological condition into the core of her paintings while allowing her dance experiences to influence it. Now, she is proud to have created her identity, and describes her works simply as “minimalist, breathe, and poetry.”

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“No Other Love and Sugar Plum Fairy” (Thesis: Painting with Synesthesia, 2019)
90″ x 52″
Acrylic and pencil on canvas
2019

Colorful sounds

Synesthesia is a condition where sensual stimulation of one of the senses evokes the involuntary stimulation of another. Its most common form is Chromesthesia, which Prado was born with. There are certain pitches, timbres, and sounds that elicit colors and textures in her vision. Gray, for instance, is the dominant color that appears when she hears unfamiliar words while blue and orange or brown reflect hard work and curiosity.

A glance at her paintings demonstrates how certain sounds and music move her. In turn, she translates these into impulsive and spontaneous movement of colors—the way it triggers her vision to see them.

In one of her artworks for her thesis back when she was a Fine Arts student at the University of the Philippines, she played “No Other Love,” adapted from Chopin’s Etude in E and “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” by Peter Tchaikovsky on the piano.

The first composition has somber tones and so Prado thought of fusing it with the second one for its high pitch and high tone. For the latter, she saw the colors yellow, gold, silver, and light green. Adding the darker hues, the two compositions translated well on her painting with the same title, “No Other Love and Sugar Plum Fairy.”

“Little Sweven I & II”
2″ x 3″
Acrylic and spray on canvas
2021
ICAF 2021

“My work is dispersed and diverse. The inner life and the working process would inevitably change,” she shares. So, although her works are abstract, she still builds them around the theme or concept she is faced with.

“My work has always been about being a Filipino female artist, about the experience and about how I feel about being in that space,” she explains. If the concept is about Filipino breakfast, for instance, she reflects on what images to portray. While other artists may interpret this as the food the meal consists of, she turns them into abstract elements instead. “Over time, my art has become more challenging and more intuitive,” she muses.

Sincere strokes

Like many other creators, Prado has the tendency to be stuck with her work. “Starting [with a] white blank [canvas] is always scary because I don’t know where to start,” she admits with a chuckle. Before she starts, she cleans up the studio first to help calm herself.

In the process, there are times when she has to stop after painting a certain number of layers. Rather than pushing herself, she comes looking for inspiration. Otherwise, the work would not reflect what she initially envisioned.

“When I feel [burned out], I would take a break [and] go out of town with my parents or take a stroll in the mall,” she shares. Now with the pandemic, she resorts to watching films and series on Netflix to relax.

What Prado looks forward to the most after the pandemic is taking a Master’s program in Fine Arts abroad. After all, online classes are tough especially for studies involving hands-on activities. Apart from honing her talent, she hopes to hold future exhibits with Galerie Stephanie and visit other exhibit spaces soon.

“Airplane” (Thesis: Painting with Synesthesia, 2019)
90″ x 52″
Acrylic and pencil on canvas
2019

For now, she focuses on creating more art. “I love that I’m connecting with a lot of people who love my works,” she says. “What fulfills me most as an artist is when buyers tell me how much my artworks bring joy to them, to their homes. It matters a lot that my works have a positive impact on others.”

That’s why she made it her mission to inspire through her art. This sincerity translates to her attitude about her chosen path, which she succinctly encapsulates as “doing your best, making the most out of your God-given talent to bring joy to society makes a meaningful life.”

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