Dexter Sy: Research and Creative Arts

At the busiest time of the year, the Christmas season, Alumni Relations and Placement Services (ARPS) had a chance to have a quick interview with Mr. Dexter Sy, the 2015-2016 Philippine Arts Award Grand Prize winner. He bagged this title with his winning piece entitled “Paradise Lost”.  Sy approaches the cultural particularities of being Filipino-Chinese through his art.  Recently, Sy’s creative works were exhibited at the Nicanor Reyes Hall.

Back in college, Sy did not start out in the Fine Arts track. He finished a degree in Computer Programming from another school before getting into Feati University’s art department in 1999. Eventually, he transferred to FEU where he pursued a Fine Arts major in advertising and immersed himself in graphic design. His professors were his mentors and supporters. “I remember it was the former Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Miguel Carpio, who first bought my artwork,” says Sy.  He argued to become an arts director – a dream that was fulfilled after graduating from FEU. After college, he landed a job at the Manila Bulletin as a graphic designer and was mainly responsible for the layout of the Panorama Magazine. Initially, painting was a hobby but constantly winning the Philippine Arts Awards since 2005 gave him the motivation to continue.  Currently, Sy divides his time between teaching at FEU and producing artworks. He says teaching has given him a different perspective and has motivated him to do research and to be current with times. Before participating the exhibition for 1335 Mabini, a multidisciplinary space for contemporary art, focusing on the dual ethnicity of Filipino-Chinese, he went to Chinatown and interviewed families in the community. Eventually, Sy was able to create 15 pieces for the exhibit.

According to Sy, an artist must learn different facets of an art form, especially for contemporary artists.  One must be multi-dimensional to ensure sustainability as an artist. Having participated in several art projects both locally and internationally, Sy was inspired to explore other media. Nowadays, Sy veers into installation as well as performance or video art which he uses as a tool in his classroom discussion with students. He believes that being an artist is a fulltime profession. While still a student, Sy advises not to waste money invested in education and encourages doing one’s best in school. “During my college days, I may have not excelled in the classroom but I made sure that I won competitions”, added Sy.

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Mr. Sy’s winning piece at the Philippine Arts Award 2015-2016, Paradise Lost, inspired by and named after John Milton’s poem.

Paradise Lost, depicted in mixed media, reflects the current societal and global challenges people face nowadays. The painting was exhibited for three weeks at the Yuchengco Museum with the other twenty winning works for Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and Metro Manila.


Dexter Sy at his art exhibit at the Nicanor Reyes Hall last October 2016.