Filipina artist Belle Roth makes exuberant abstract paintings that uplift the spirit and mend the soul.
by Gabriella Mazza
Belinda Roth, or Belle to her friends, has charm to spare, and her paintings are no exception. An indefatigable traveler, a mother, and a businesswoman, she pours her lust for life into her creations, resulting in works of exceptional verve and punch. Roth grew up in Manila, Philippines, where she was exposed to travel and art from a very young age, developing a keen interest in cultures and people different from her own. As a child, she was struck by the broad economic divide between social strata and confused by the unwritten rules that marginalized the less fortunate.
After graduating in Economics and International Business, Roth set sail for the United States, finding her home in Memphis, Tennessee. “Moving to America, I was amazed that everyone was treated equally and given the same opportunities, no matter where one originated from,” she remarks. It was there that Roth began to paint, her generosity and profound love for humanity guiding her every brushstroke. “My curiosity and desire for self-discovery led me to painting. My purpose and passion is to use art as a platform to help improve the well-being of others in a more meaningful way.”
Roth’s canvases are a feast to the senses. Covered in thick layers of acrylic and gloss medium, they glisten winsomely in the light, enticing visual, olfactory, and tactile discovery. Like luscious and yummy wedding cakes, her work titillates our pleasure buds, making it almost impossible not to want to dig our hands into the plush, yummy coats of paint.
To craft her pieces, Roth vigorously applies textured acrylics, spray paints, and gold leaf with the aid of various tools. Exploring possibilities of depth, color, and form, she translates her unique perception of the world. “What truly invigorates me about crafting abstract art is how a mere line, circle, or perhaps a rectangle, with the precise stroke of a brush, sponge, or palette knife, holds the promise of boundless possibilities and meaning in an inexplicable manner,” she says. “Inspired by architecture, my work embraces simple lines that defy conventional shapes and forms. Deliberately deconstructed, they acquire a multifaceted quality.”
A natural-born optimist, Roth transmits her enthusiasm and love for the planet and the people she encountered on her travels, naming her series after countries and cities she explored–Manhattan, Sydney, Bangkok, Singapore, Copenhagen, or Maui. “Each of my paintings embarks on a journey through joyous memories from my childhood, my voyages, and the enriching encounters with the splendid cultures of our world,” she explains. “My art encourages the audience to see the world from a different perspective, full of vibrance. For me, the process of art-making reflects my life in general. It is pulling from positive thoughts, working from instinct, revisiting precious experiences.”
Although buoyant and uplifting, Roth’s work is complex and reflective of the true, multi-faceted human experience. Drawing inspiration from her Southeast Asian roots, her paintings celebrate unexplored opportunities and weave powerful narratives around family, community, equality, overcoming adversity, and collective capabilities, while remaining deeply personal. Each of her paintings displays a distinctive mark: three transversal lines of paint, taking up approximately one-third of the canvas, are smeared across the neatly patterned background. The inspiration came from an incident that occurred during Roth’s childhood in the Philippines at a girls’ private school, a time she describes as blissfully carefree.
“One day at lunch, I spilled a bright Fanta orange drink on my perfectly ironed white shirt,” she recalls. “So I ran and hid myself in the bathroom, trying to wash off the stain as hard as I could. I was crying so hard as I was afraid to face the judging eyes that would haunt me for the entire school year. I was there for 20 minutes or so until a nun found me and said, ‘There is beauty in imperfection, and if you can make the imperfect meaningful, then you will always be perfect.” Roth’s “splishy-splash,” as she jokingly calls it, is a reminder that life’s beauty lies not in flawlessness but rather in the unpredictable spontaneity and irregularity of everyday existence.
The contrasts in color and texture reflect the emotions Roth experienced at different stages of her life. They also represent the inherent dichotomies of our existence. “After chaos, there is always calmness; after sadness, there is always joy; after hatred, there will always be love,” Roth says. “My art will let the audience believe in their inner power to achieve their dreams.” By displaying the intricacies of the human experience, Roth offers a new perspective, one that encourages others to seek hope and vibrance below the muddy surface. “In life, we all have a daily cross to carry,” she ponders. “Yet even though we occasionally fall down, we have to stand up and face the world with our heads up high.”
Gabriella Mazza is an Italian-born visual artist, writer, and linguist based in New York. She has worn many hats in her career working for artists, art fairs, such as Frieze, Scope, and SPRING/BREAK Art Show, and local arts organizations, for which she curated and planned exhibitions, open studios, and gallery crawls. She is an active member of New York City’s art scene and finds ever new ways of expanding as an artist and contributing to the community at large. Selected exhibitions include SVA’s ContinuED Project Space, Local Project Art Space, and The Factory in New York and the Satellite Art Show in Miami. You can find her on Instagram @gabriellamazza_arte