Graphic designer by day and underground street artist by night, Frank Amigo lurks through the metro, taking over the art scene one wall at a time.
Who is ARAL Cru? What’s the meaning behind your name?
ARAL Cru consists of three members: Frank Amigo, Myk Galido (who goes by the name Cinos), and Jarrel Soliman (who goes by the name Bvdot). ARAL came from the term ‘ARt novAL’ as we, the members, started our street art as a group on the streets of P. Noval, Manila along UST, our alma mater. We chose the Filipino word aral because it conveys a positive meaning which is ‘lesson’ in English. Every single time we paint the streets, we learn, we explore, and hopefully we teach whoever is watching.
How did your collaboration begin?
The three of us were UST College of Fine Arts and Design majors. We, of course, didn’t know one another at first. We were just a couple of kids writing tags on our building and slapping some crappy stickers everywhere. Eventually, we came together to make our very first mural together in 2014. That’s basically how we discovered each other—it’s just too bad that first mural wasn’t preserved.
We’re curious about how you work as a trio since the three of you have your own respective aesthetic. How does that work?
We always come up with three characters and each of has its own unique identity, kind of like how the three of us are different individuals. Cinos’ style is more of pop surrealism, my style leans towards traditional tattoo designs, while Bvdot’s style is more of a graphic and 3D illustrative style with a convergence of several influences like childhood toys and whatnot.
Is there a specific process to how you do work?
We think of a theme or a concept first, and then we sketch the positions of each characters, whatever their angle may be. We often use the same color swatches for our characters and backgrounds to make the overall mural look like a collaboration.
We know that you’ve done a couple of murals in Manila. Where can we find them?
Our first wall was along UST. Within Metro Manila, we’ve done art on walls around Pedro Gil, Legarda, Mandaluyong, and P. Noval. We also have murals outside of Manila in provinces like Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite, and Laguna.
What do you think sets you apart from other local street artists?
We always work together. We’re three members and we stick by that so if one of us can’t make it, we move the schedule to another day. I think that’s the bond that keeps our crew unique. We have a sense of togetherness and it’s a quality we possess that keeps us whole. As artists, we also make sure that our murals convey a message in able for us to learn and teach at the same time.
Individually and as a group, what does street art mean to you? Why did you choose this specific form of art to express your creativity?
For us, it’s basically freedom art. With street art, you don’t need to think about how much you’re selling it or what others’ opinions will be about it. We do what we do because we enjoy the thrill of it and that’s really our way of expressing ourselves.
Whenever we paint walls, we encounter many different audiences. Some of them like it and others ask “Para san yan?” We’ve heard others say things like, “Nakakatakot naman niyan, dapat mga bulaklak i-drowing niyo.” And we think that’s the best thing about street art, the fact that we elicit different reactions from all kinds of people.
What are some of the common misconceptions about graffiti art?
Actually, there are many of those negative notions and misconceptions about what we do. Some people see street art and consider it a“bad” art. Some people even call it vandalism, but for us, that’s really a part of it. We can’t blame viewers for what they think or feel.
Who is your art for? What’s the message that you’re trying to send?
We don’t have a specific audience. We don’t pick them. Our art is presented for whoever wants to view it. As for the message, we don’t get into the specifics because we believe in just painting and letting our work communicate with the people.
How important is it for your art to be seen and understood?
Even the simplest compliments serve as great motivation for us. We’re proud of one another as a crew and as individual artists because we feel the progress of our work. We don’t really have an ultimate goal but right now, things are going great. We’ve been receiving a lot of commissions and invitations to do some more art and we hope that this is just the start of bigger things.
So, what’s next for you guys? Is there anything that we should watch out for from ARAL Cru?
As of now, we don’t know what’s coming for us yet, let alone what we’ll bring out next. What’s important for us today is to keep working together to strengthen our crew.
Photography by Jp Talapian