Filipino Artist Annabelle Papas On Her Latest Series, ‘Symbiosis’


March 14, 2024

Cyan Dacasin

Filipino artist Annabelle Papas is set to mesmerize art patrons and enthusiasts once more with the launch of her latest series, aptly called ‘SYMBIOSIS ‘ for Filipinart, an exciting exhibition done in collaboration with the Crimson Hotel and the South Arts Festival which will be open to the public from March 6 to March 23 2024. The showcase is an ode to Filipino women and their prowess in the art world. 

Papas’ journey for meaning is represented in the new series, which, for the artist, reflects her profound connection with nature and her never-ending pursuit of capturing its essence through art.

A close up image of painter, Annabelle Papas, wearing a white tank top and black pants standing in front of one of her paintings laying down on a table while holding a paint brush to the work of art, adding paint to it.
Annabelle Papas at work in her studio.

As a self-taught artist, Papas discovered her penchant for Abstract Impressionism through experimenting with various mediums. She was able to craft a distinctive style that is wholly hers alone. Coming from a multicultural background, Papas was able to foster her love for the fine arts. For SYMBIOSIS, Papas drew inspiration from the changing seasons and the vibrancy of nature’s flora and fauna juxtaposed with spirituality. 

She aimed to symbolize the interconnected relationship between living beings and nature’s thriving ecosystem, hoping to convey a message of harmony and balance by delving into the nuances of identity, transformation, and resilience. Born in the sundry tropics of the Philippines and raised in California, the artist grew up surrounded by nature, which is a continuing theme in her work. She wanted to convey the feeling of being lost at sea, in search of something or someone to guide her through life’s tribulations, a feeling that most of the world relates to in varying degrees. 

A mixed-media painting with acrylics and gesso by Annabelle Papas.
A mixed media painting by Annabelle Papas.

Congratulations on your latest exhibit. What inspired your new art series, and what is it called?   

Thank you! The inspiration behind the new art series stems from my fascination with nature and the beauty surrounding us daily. I wanted to capture the essence of the changing seasons and the vibrancy of colors found in flora and fauna. The series is called SYMBIOSIS, symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things and the environment. I want to convey a message of harmony and balance through my art. 

What themes and motifs did you choose to explore this time in your work?

Through my art, I explored themes of identity, transformation, and resilience. I aimed to examine the complexities of self-discovery and growth and the ability to adapt and overcome challenges. I incorporated nature and spirituality in this series to convey inner strength and interconnectedness.

Tell me more about the message you’re trying to convey to your audience. 

I always strive to communicate the importance of empowerment, positivity, and resilience to inspire others to believe in themselves. It’s vital to embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and to cultivate a mindset that revolves around perseverance. Ultimately, I want to ignite a sense of motivation and determination within my audience, encouraging them to pursue their dreams and overcome any obstacles they may face.

A painting of a small red boat moving through water, leaving a long, wide ripple behind it.
“Find Me”. Acrylic paint, mixed techniques with Gesso.

Can you give me some insights on what your process was like this time around? 

Creating art under time pressure can be both challenging and rewarding. In this case, I had to streamline my process and work more efficiently to meet the deadline. This meant making quick decisions, being bold in choosing colors and techniques, and trusting my instincts more than ever despite the time constraint. The pressure pushed me to think outside the box and produce some of my most unique and dynamic pieces. Overall, the experience taught me to embrace the chaos and find creativity within limitations. 

Given that this exhibit focused on Filipino women demonstrating their capabilities as phenomenal artists, what makes your work inherently unique, and what inspires you to be an artist?  

My artwork is unique because it reflects my experiences, cultural background, and perspective as a Filipino woman. I draw inspiration from my heritage and the stories of strong women who have come before me, those who are so strong and resilient. Being an artist allows me to express myself in a way that words cannot. I am passionate about using my voice to advocate for social change and celebrate Filipino culture’s diversity. 

A colorful painting made with acrylics and gesso by Annabelle Papas titled, "Hidden Figures".
“Hidden Figures”. Acrylic and Gesso.

Do you have a particular favorite of all the pieces you made? Tell me more about what made it striking for you.  

My favorite art piece, “Find Me,” holds a special place in my heart because of the emotion and creativity behind it. The idea came to me during a time of self-discovery and introspection, which is reflected in the title itself. I wanted to convey the feeling of being lost at sea yet still searching for guidance. The truth is, we should be listening to the voice within us that we must not ignore since there is no one better to guide us. 

The decision to create the painting from a bird’ s-eye perspective came from my desire to give viewers a sense of detachment from the scene, almost as if they were observing it from a higher power. This allowed me to showcase the vastness and beauty of the ocean, with the tiny boat in the center representing the individual’s journey through life. 

The boat creating sea waves was meant to represent our impact and influence on our surroundings, even if we feel small and insignificant. By showing the ship in the center of the ocean, I wanted to remind viewers that we are all capable of making waves and leaving a mark on the world, no matter how daunting the journey may seem. Overall, “Find Me” stands out because of its symbolism, perspective, and emotional depth. It captures a moment of vulnerability and courage, inviting viewers to reflect on their journey and search for meaning in life.

A painting made with acrylic and gesso by Annabelle Papas titled, "In The Fortress".
“In The Fortress”. Acrylic and Gesso, by Annabelle Papas.

Nowadays, socio-cultural issues have called into question the importance of art and culture. But from your perspective, as an artist, how important is art to society?       

As an intuitive artist, I believe art is essential to society because it has the power to transcend boundaries and connect people on a deeper level. Art reflects our humanity, our values, and our experiences. It can evoke emotions, provoke thoughts, and inspire change. 

Art can bring about healing, understanding, and unity in a world filled with socio-cultural issues. It allows us to see the world from different perspectives, to challenge the status quo, and to imagine a better future. Without art, society would be devoid of creativity, expression, and beauty. 

Art provides solace, inspiration, and hope in times of uncertainty and upheaval. So, let us continue to champion the importance of art and culture in society, for they are the heart and soul of humanity. 

How do you manage a work-life balance as an artist and deal with creative burnout?    

Finding a work-life balance can often be challenging since our passion for creating can sometimes consume us entirely. However, it is important to prioritize self-care and take the time to step back and engage in activities that nourish our souls outside of our art. 

One way I manage a work-life balance is by setting boundaries and creating a schedule that allows for both work and personal time. I make sure to carve out time for relaxation, exercise, and spending time with loved ones to recharge and rejuvenate. This helps me approach my art with a fresh perspective and renewed energy. 

When dealing with creative burnout, we must give ourselves permission to take a break and step away from our work when needed. Sometimes, creative inspiration can feel elusive when pushing ourselves too hard, leading to frustration. Engaging in activities that inspire me, such as exploring nature, visiting galleries, or experimenting with a new medium is helpful. 

What are your thoughts on using AI in traditional creative mediums? Would you apply this in your process?   

I find utilizing AI in traditional creative mediums fascinating and intimidating as an artist. On the one hand, AI has the potential to significantly enhance and push the boundaries of what is possible in art. It can generate unique ideas, assist with the technical aspects of creating art, and even serve as a tool for collaboration. However, there is also concern that AI could potentially replace human creativity and diminish art’s authenticity and emotional depth. 

Personally, I am open to experimenting with AI in my artistic process. It could lead to exciting and innovative outcomes that provide me with new perspectives and inspire me in unexpected ways by challenging me to think outside the box. 

I see AI as a valuable tool that can coexist with human creativity rather than overshadow or replace it. Furthermore, the art created by human hands will always be authentically built to express and evoke the emotional depth of art and human connection. Therefore, the art created by humans is ultimately the real work of art. 

A painting of Annabelle Papas' with acrylic and gesso that looks like a wave from the ocean.
An acrylic and gesso painting by Annabelle Papas.

As a Filipino artist, what do you think about the direction of the local art scene?  

As a Filipino artist, I believe the local art scene is heading in a promising direction, with more opportunities for artists to showcase their work and gain regional and international recognition.  

Do you have any other projects down the line that you want everyone to know about? Will we be seeing an international exhibit from you soon?

Yes, I have plans and projects for the future, but I can’t discuss them now. However, I am definitely looking forward to showcasing my art internationally. This will be a great way to share my work with a broader audience.     

Lastly, what is your wisdom for upcoming artists hoping to crack this industry’s glass ceiling?  

Stay true to yourself and your art, surround yourself with supportive people, and never stop learning and growing. Above all, believe in your worth as an artist. Success will come to those dedicated to their craft. 

Annabelle Papas’ journey as an artist is a credit to her talent and creativity and a beacon of inspiration for future generations. Through her art, she desires to spark conversations, provoke thoughts, and inspire change, leaving a permanent mark on art and culture.


Written by Cyan Dacasin | @xmissperegrinex

Photography and images courtesy of Annabelle Papas.