ACC mourns the passing of two alumni: Riel Jaramillo Hilario (ACC 2012) and Srey Bandaul (ACC 2011). Both were renowned for their artistic achievements, as well as their leadership, mentorship, and deep commitment to local and international arts communities. So prolific were each of their practices, neither can be categorized by a single identity. Riel Jaramillo Hilario was a conceptual artist, designer, painter, sculptor, curator, and writer from the Philippines. Meanwhile, Srey Bandaul was a visual artist, arts educator, community organizer, human rights activist, and co-founder of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang, Cambodia. In the remembrances below, we hope to celebrate and share their contributions to the arts and their experiences in international cultural exchange.

Riel Jaramillo Hilario was born in 1976 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. In his hometown, Hilario began his training as a woodcarver with traditional santo-makers (statues of religious iconography). He went on to graduate from the Philippines High School for the Arts, and later studied painting and art history at the University of the Philippines. Melding the traditional and contemporary, the material and ethereal, Hilario carved wooden sculptures inspired by his research on peculiar phenomena associated with churches, old houses, museums, archaeological sites, and forests.

In 2012, Hilario received an ACC Fellowship to explore more deeply the duality of his artmaking, immersing himself in both traditional technique and contemporary practice. He first traveled to Malaysia to research traditional woodcarving with a master carver, followed by a five-month residency at Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) in New York. “The highlight of my program,” he said, “was the paradigm shift that occurred in my work and my aesthetics as a result of several interactions and engagements with other artists at the LMCC program and with fellow ACC grantees. The shift can be described as a realization of a more project-based conceptual mode of work that characterizes contemporary art still in its incipience of practice in Manila and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.”

His artistic vision was exemplified through his work as curator of the Pinto Art Museum (2012-2015), and his achievements recognized both in the Philippines and internationally. Hilario was the recipient of the 13 Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, winner of the Ateneo Art Awards, and Juror's Choice in the Philip Morris Philippines Art Awards. He held solo exhibitions with The Drawing Room (Philippines and Singapore), and in New York City for Miracle Machines, Bliss on Bliss Project and in Paris, Eglise and Saint Merry. He attended art residencies locally and in Seoul, Gyeongju, Paris, and Penang. His works are in the collections of the Gyeongju Arts Center, Seoul Museum of Art, Pinto Art Museum, Balay Segundo Art Museum, and the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art.

ACC Philippines remembers Hilario: “A warrior of life and passionate disciple of his craft, Riel's artistic journey is a true testament of his dedication, curious nature, and quest for creative excellence. We bid farewell to a dear friend and exceptional artist of his generation.”

Pictured above: Riel Jaramillo Hilario and Hilario's studio at LMCC on Governor's Island (2012)

Srey Bandaul was born in 1973 in the midst of civil war in Battambang, Cambodia. He fled with his family to the Thai-Cambodian border in 1979 and grew up in the Site 2 Refugee Camp, where he began to study art in a program for children. Following the repatriation of Cambodian refugees in 1993, Srey and fellow art students founded Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS), an arts school in Battambang focused on human rights. Beginning as a school of visual arts, PPS grew to encompass circus, theater, and music programs, as well as an animation studio and primary and middle school programs. PPS also organized a social action program providing daycare for community members and a living facility for women and children survivors of trafficking. The all-encompassing nature of Phare Ponleu Selpak positioned it as a program that aimed not only “to restore the country’s art culture, but also create a Cambodian identity through its art” [1] with a focus on reducing trauma faced by Cambodians.

In 2011, Srey Bandaul received an ACC Fellowship to participate in the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s artist residency program on Governors Island—just one year after Hilario completed his time there. During his fellowship, he focused on developing creative work, and engaging with community-based organizations and activist communities in the United States to further enhance programs and curricula of PPS.

In New York, he found a second home. Following his fellowship, he wrote: “When I was in NYC, and even now when I am in Cambodia, I still feel I am a New Yorker." As an individual who created spaces that welcomed, restored, and celebrated those around him, it’s not surprising he found a sense of family or home wherever he was in the world. Phare Ponleu Selpak means “The Brightness of the Arts," a phrase embodied by the warmth with which Srey Bandaul encouraged artistic communities around him to grow. PPS co-founder Khuon Deth recalled, “Bandaul always said that ‘Phare means the light—to give hope to other people’s lives.’” [1]

Cecily Cook, ACC’s Director of Grantee and Alumni Relations, writes, “Bandaul embodied what ACC hopes for most in its Fellows: indefatigable curiosity, an inexhaustible spirit of generosity, and a passionate belief in the power of art to communicate across the barriers that divide us. He was a teacher and mentor to countless of Cambodia’s rising contemporary artists, and his impact is immeasurable.  It was my great privilege to know and work with Bandaul. He will be missed.” While we mourn the passing of Srey Bandaul, his legacy of light and hope remains inextinguishable.

Picture above: Srey Bandaul in front of artwork & detail of drawing at LMCC (2011). Photo credit: Terese Loeb Kreuzer.

[1] Khan, Sokummono & Hean, Socheata, “Arts Community Grieves Loss of Influential Art Educator Srey Bandaul” Voice of Cambodia. August 13, 2021.