Maximino Balatbat II also known as Maxbal was born in 1978 in Caloocan City. Being a son to an architect explains his natural affinity to the world of art which adamantly has not been hidden at all. His early creative formation and works took inspiration from the “International Cabaret”, a brothel in Caloocan’s red light district where he spent an unusual younger years in the company of prostitutes and rug rats like him.
His younger years of brutishness, subtle contradictions and to some extent, bitter ironies became the foundations of his seething commitment to find truth and essential goodness in the derelict, tumult, chaos. These themes remain the focalization his oeuvres.
Earlier, he studied Architecture at the Far Eastern University in Manila 1995 but in 1997, after circumspecting the creative path, he decided to take Fine Arts instead at the University of the East Caloocan. In 2002, he completed his degree in Fine Arts with a major in Advertising and was awarded as one of UE’s Exemplary Performance in Visual Arts. Balatbat is also from his own unique generation of artists with piercing grit and passion. He is one of the moving force and creative motor behind the ragtag and spirited art collective, Sininggang. Before becoming a fulltime painter, he landed a string of jobs in graphic designs where his creative skills were put into good use.
In the process of locating his own authentic vein and genuine self as an artist, he combined his educational background and art then came out with architectural abstraction, a style he is now familiarized with. In this formal invention, he shows beguiling elements of different structures, unassuming subjects like shanties, abandoned buildings, and other uninviting locations and edifices into interesting labyrinthine of densely elaborate and imposing and decorous of web and grids of rugged blocks, incongruous lines and images in variegated palette.
Having an appeal to personal memory and other latent sentimentalities and emotional moorings, these works reflect his own life and growth as man and an artist. He wistfully relates these compositions to ephemeral and enduring encounters of emotions, consciousness, of collectivity , identity and the incarnations of goodness in what are commonly perceived bleak and lowly. Rich in metaphor and emotive content, his compositions are layered depictions of visceral and narratives of the personal and communal. Both real and conjured, these places are storied locations which consistently provide the muse for creative engagement.
In ensuing years, he turned out to become a successful gallerist and the earnestness of his esthetic intentions and particular style came to full flower.
Maxbal gave pride to the country in 2009 when he won the Il Lorenzo Magnifico Award - Silver Medal in the Florence Biennale in Italy. The same honor shared by other renowned artists such as Christo, Jeanne Claude, Marina Abromavich among others. His winning work Avenida Manila, is a poignant and imaginative terrain of Manila’s red light district with all its derelict charm, gritty realism and gentle humanity. For this feat, he also received the National Commission for Culture and the Art’s Ani ng Sining Award and the International Achiever and Outstanding Alumni of the University of the East in 2010.
Among the other feathers in his cap are 2009 ECCA Grand Prize in the Abstract Category and also the 2009 GSIS Art Competition’s grand prize in the Non-Representational Category.
In 2010, his work was among the Jurors' Choice Award of Merit in Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards, the same winning piece is now part of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ collection. Also in the later part of 2010, he participated in the World Expo in Shanghai and the Philippine Arttrek in Singapore.
In 2010, he successfully had his first solo show, also entitled Avenida. His slogan" totoo lang" (just being real) remains a manifesto which he commits to and the abiding philosophy behind his opuses. In his modernist ways, he aspires to portray more brothels, shanties in their internal geographies and real essence.
A man of simple yet profound artistic integrity, he continues to induce aesthetic awe and public responses with much less didactic burden. With unrelenting fervent and thoroughgoing commitment, until today he continues to do his story telling with his vigorous and assured abstractions of the unusual and interesting lives and places into affable abstract art.