Reen Barrera: Unmasking The Man Behind Ohlala

5/23/2023 12:28:00 PM


Driven by his passion for story-telling and social commentaries, renowned Filipino contemporary artist Reen Barrera made his first foray into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in partnership with GCash and homegrown NFT marketplace Likha. Barrera unveiled his first-ever NFT art collection titled “House of Ohlala,” showcasing one of his prominent characters “Ohlala” through the GCrypto NFT Hub.

“NFTs in my opinion is like another medium, like a tool to make art. It’s like being able to give your art another life in another dimension, like the digital space where it can reach more audience,” Barrera says.

Reen Barrera with Ohlala Scuplture

Reen Barrera is known for his neo-expressionist art style which draws inspiration from Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the genre’s greatest. His art consists of handmade sculptures and paintings influenced by the vibrant colors of the streets. When it comes to his paintings, he often starts with loose abstract figures and often lets accidents like drips, splatters, and smudges help him decipher what to do. While using acrylic, oil, and aerosol paint as his medium of choice.

The highlights of Barrera’s art are his signature characters Ohlala and Duge, Duge being a tribute to how his family pronounces the Visayan word for dog and Ohlala being a tribute to his father, who uses the term for expressing disappointment over something. Both characters are Barrera’s gentle commentary on socio-economic classes, with the characters’ heads covered in canvas cloth to symbolize that regardless of economic background, people have the power to shape their destinies.

 Reen Barrera, Child of Divorce (2022)

Barrera’s Start

Even as a child, Reen Barrera has already displayed his interest and knack for the arts. Born in Paris to OFW parents, Barrera was brought to the Philippines as an infant and raised by his grandparents. During his childhood, he barely had a lot of toys growing up, so he spent his time making his toys using found objects and repairing church statues in his hometown.

From this, his interest in art furthered as he got older when he took art classes in high school and took up Fine Arts majoring in Advertising at Far Eastern University. After graduating, his professional work mostly consisted of sculpting bubble head portraits, graphic design, and illustrations before becoming a full-time artist in 2014.

In the course of his artistic career, he has done 9 solo exhibitions and 21 group exhibitions in the Philippines alone. He also had exhibitions in Australia, Los Angeles, New York, France, Miami, Taipei, Tokyo, UAE, and London.

House of Ohlala

Between his two signature characters, Ohlala is the center of Barrera’s artistic universe. A head-wrapped and pointy-eared humanoid, Ohlala represents Barrera’s vivid interpretations of his personal experiences. The symbols and patterns drawn on Ohlala’s face capture the essence of people that despite being devoid of words, they can still convey feelings and emotions through facial expressions.

Reen Barrera,  Hold my Hand and Take my Hand

Ohlala has been the star of many of Barrera’s art, each conveying a different kind of message, from the admiration of single parenthood (Blessing in Disgust), the idea of family in today’s world (It’s Lonely Up Here), to even something as personal as his experiences leading up to where he is now as an artist (Another View).

Reen Barrera, Ohana Ohlala (2019)

Now with Barrera’s partnership with GCash, not only do fans and NFT holders get to have a sneak peek at Barrera’s exclusive NFT collection through the GCrypto NFT Hub, but they can also enjoy exclusive perks along with this exciting new collection: a chance to own a rare House of Ohlala NFT, early access to Reen Barrera’s works, a chance to win Ohlala statues to be raffled every quarter, and become a part of the first GCash NFT community.

"The detail and the heart that I've put into my traditional art is the same with the digital format I'm making," Barrera says.

Barrera launched his first NFT collection on April 23, 2023, at The Astbury.

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