The International Writers Magazine:Philippines and Art
Philipine Art - Alive with Color
Fred C. Wilson III
A nation’s art is a mirror into its soul; it reflects the cultural milieu a country is part of; Filipino art isn’t any different. Filipino canvases are awash with vibrant colors.
Image: Cesar F Bagalot Fine Art
Filipino subjects are generally positive and upbeat an example being Perfecto Caingat’s Pineapple Vendors. The art of the Philippine archipelago is a breath of fresh air an expression of optimism despite the dire poverty that grips that hapless country. Most of the art this writer observed whether in mainstream galleries or in the upper levels of that country’s huge SM Megamall shopping centers display artistic styles that range from the classical, the art of the cartoon easily recognized in popular comic books, political with the ever popular religious works. An art loving nation large portions of art works are displayed in corporate museums, churches and line the walls of private offices. Art in the Philippines is akin to religion; a very private matter.
Philippine art isn’t all cherries, churches, Madonnas, pretty girls and roses. Owning to that country’s extreme poverty, endless natural disasters and on going political turmoil Filipino art reflects the dormant revolutionary spirit within Filipinos. 1960’s American real/pseudo-revolutionaries would easily identify with the more revolutionary styles. I call this wild art with two examples being Overseas Call by Alfred Esquillo and Red Tape by Jesus Genotiva; other examples with its tortured souls, crucified women, beggar children, grim urban scenes reflecting the back-breaking, soul-slaying, grinding poverty of the Philippines. For this and other examples of Pinoy (native Filipino) art I urge you to purchase
ART Philippines: A History 1521-Present.
For information on this National Book Award winner contact:
Mrs. Ruth Rosa-VP Production & Publication
The Crucible Workshop
3B, Strata 200
Emerald Av., Ortigas Complex, Pasig
Metro Manila, Philippines
Unfortunately Filipino art/artists are largely ignored by the larger world. International art lovers/experts shy away from visiting this oft times very dangerous country. Native artists lack funds to promote their art beyond their national borders. Much of Pinoy art utilize a gambit of gimmicks Western artist usually avoid. Their art provide a visual spectacle for viewers. Early Philippine art, at least a large part of it, could be characterized as a combination of Western art with an Asian flavor as many of the country’s national and not so national artists honed their talents/techniques abroad at some of the better European and North American art schools.
Unlike the West Philippine art is less participatory (very few touching or walk-in exhibits) but its visually tactile none the less. Interactive exhibits are rare but getting less so; painting is the main visual artistic medium of the Philippines with wood carving a close second. Many of the award winning artists are sculptors and installation artists; Arturo Luz’s Pasang-Masid and Lamination XXV exhibition pieces come to mind.
Image: Piximus 3-D Art gallery
|Art that would send American viewers, civic, and religious authorities fuming for being too controversial barely make a ripple in the Archipelago. Philippine artists can and often times are just as audacious and controversial as their European and North American counterparts. Pinoy artists rarely challenge the established powers head on and for good reason; political opinions have lead many a journalist to untimely deaths or long imprisonment; the land of the free the Philippines is not.
When I visited Angono-Rizal, a city and art colony outside Manila, National Artist candidate Mr. Nemi Miranda, Jr. at his studio; not only did he show me around his studio-art school which comprised nearly a city block, he granted me a very rare interview in which he informed me in great length the history of his famous artist family, his personal style, and the philosophy behind his art:
“Imaginative Figurism is an art philosophy whereby the strong use of imagination to create the human form as a center of art. In a biblical statement God has created man as his own masterpiece, made into his image. God created man out of nothing and come up of a perfect human being coupled with intellect and free will. Therefore, man too has the power to create using his imagination and freewill. As an artist I have focus on the human form as the center of art using pure imagination to create art. This means that the artist has to master the human form through pure memory without aid of picture or a model and wherein he has control of it, to twist, to bend, recline in an expression he desired to be.”
After the hour plus tour-interview the artist and his wife posed for photographs. He gave us an invitation to his next show at the time of this writing. Mr. Miranda’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We returned to our van and drove toward the home-studio of Carlos ‘Totong’ Francisco III to ask his views on the Philippine art scene. When I arrived at his home studio it was like returning to the home of a dear friend or beloved family member. It was like old times since we had met previously. One of the questions that I asked him was did the government support native artists? He replied:
“The national government is always in support of local artists,” and that “sectors of the government such as the NCAA (National Commission for Culture and the Arts), the National Museum, CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) as well other privately owned galleries were the ones responsible for the up bringing of the local art community especially in the Manila area and nearby provinces as well…but of course we have vast numbers of artists nationwide. Career opportunities such as grants and other international programs only come to few well respected ones (artists). Competition for survival and art exposure is very still and will always be at the hands of every artist.”
When I later asked him what sources did he draw is inspiration from? He replied from his family and everyday life. He said that he’s a positive person and enjoy “doing positive images and colors and that he was more into the creative process and technique of doing work.”
After we talked about art and sexy women around icy cold glasses of Coke, he let me snap pictures of his work. As a gift he gave me one of his original works! It was a pastel and acrylic portrait of Christ. Mr. Carlos Francisco III is the grandson of National Artist Carlos V. ‘Botong’ Francisco. Mr. Francisco can be reached at: email@example.com. I gave the canvas to my medical doctor brother-in-law as a gift to go along with the two ceramic vases I made for him during a previous visit.
||Photo: The artist Moreen Austria at work
January and February are ideal months to travel to the Philippines. The weather is temperate; being the off season airfares are low. If you have any desire to visit the art centers of the Philippines here’s how to get there. I would recommend Asiana Air Lines as the quickest and the cheapest way to go at the time of this writing. For little over $800.00 round trip from the USA during non-peak seasons you’re in Manila in one day. Asiana leaves O’ Hare after midnight when terminal and runway traffic is at a minimum. Once in the air most people sleep waking in Inchon City, South Korea when the longest portion of the flight is over. Unlike Japan with its long lines and seemingly endless immigration hassles Korean authority’s breeze transit passengers through Immigration and Security checks; from there it’s a short walk to the gate of your connecting flight. Within two hours you’re off to Manila. For other Asian conveyances search: ‘Philippine travel deals’ where there’s hundreds to choose from.
Aforementioned in previous articles, the Philippines is stunningly beautiful but a rough place; either travel with a group or have someone pick you up at the airport when you get there. If you go to bars never leave your drinks unguarded. As with all countries most people are very friendly but there are always a few crooks that prey on tourists- BE CAREFUL! As an extra measure of protection PLEASE WATCH:
· ‘Scam City-Philippines’
· ‘Who Do You Trust?-Scams in the Philippines’
· ‘tanim-laglag-bala’ NAIA bullet scam
‘Scam City’ is a series of videos produced by National Geographic Magazine that highlight major world tourist cities and what wary travelers should be on guard for; they are scary! With apologizes to Flannery O’ Connor ‘The ass you save may be your own.’
So you wanna’ see some art here’s where to go:
· Artasia Fine Art Inc.
· Gallery Genesis
· Art Circle Gallery
· Passion Arts Gallery
All of the above galleries are at: Level 4 Art Walk, A-SM Megamall-Julia Vargas Av.-Mandaluyong City (adjoining Manila) again at the time of this writing; the malls are where the people congregate.
The mainstream art museums are the Metropolitan Museum of Art housed in the Bangko Sentral (Central Bank) Building. This art house was established in 1976. Though originally a museum for foreign art to make Filipinos more aware of non-native art styles, this prestigious gallery now host shows by top foreign and local talent. It’s a must see if you’re in Manila. Their website is: http://metmuseum.ph.
Ayala Art Center located at Makati Av. at the corner of De La Rosa Street has sixty handcrafted dioramas form the core of the museum's historical collections and chronicle the rich tapestry of Philippine history. Enhancing these are scale models of maritime vessels that plied the Philippine shores. The historical collection is complemented by archaeological, ethnographic, and fine arts collections spanning prehistory to the present. The fine arts collection features important works by Juan Luna (1857-1899), Fernando Amorsolo (1882-1972), and Fernando Zobel (1924-1984) but if you’re not a resident of Manila they charge you a little more for admission. I found this out the hard way. You can preview the Ayala at: www.ayalamuseum.org. Unless you’re rich avoid their trendy over priced gift shop-restaurant.
Modern Philippine masters tend to shy away from the Spanish colonial style/subjects with its reflection of the Spanish Catholic artistic experience, though the San Agustin Museum in Intramuros the old Spanish fort has a superb collection of colonial Spanish liturgical art, a considerable portion of modern Pinoy art is religious though I’ve viewed some anti-religious exhibits at other galleries. A tour of Manila’s ancient churches are a must see for art connoisseurs. San Agustin Museum is connected to the centuries-old church through a passageway from the balcony, the San Agustin Museum preserves the church’s ecclesiastical relics and artworks such as wooden and ivory statues, Dominican paintings and sculptures, renditions of the galleon ships, the church’s 3400-kilogram bell and other architectural emblems of Spanish Catholicism. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Despite inroads into the country by Color Me Mine a ceramic franchise clay art is largely absent in Philippine art. Colorful ceramic pieces popularized and perfected by ceramic powerhouses Chicago’s Lill Street Art Center and Evanston’s Midwest Clay Guild the former of which I was a long time communal studio member is nowhere to be found except at major art museums. Pieces which display only pre or early historic plain mud clay functional clay vessels are housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum has an excellent gold exhibit as part of their permanent art collection. This gallery is a must see for aficionados of serious Asian art. A few years ago this museum played host to an exhibit that illustrated the architectural connection between Chicago and Manila. There were many old photographs and artifacts on view. There were exhibits that showed how Daniel Burnham along with other Chicago architectural giants designed then built Manila’s and Chicago’s lakefronts shortly after the Philippine-American War. In 1897 during the Spanish-American War Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States over the objection of local revolutionists who subsequently declared their independence from colonialist Spain. War soon broke out between the infant Philippine revolutionary government and the United States. After a long hard fight in 1902 the United States formally annexed the islands after thrashing native insurrectionists. The American occupation easily accounts for the mixed of culture (Asian-African-Spanish-United States) on the islands.
Aforementioned in previous articles on the Philippines there is a United States Government travel advisory. The Philippine Archipelago can be very dangerous. A single misstep could spell your doom. I can’t stress this often enough; go with a recognized tourist group or have people waiting at the airport to pick you up. Don’t interfere in local/national politics. That country is a tinderbox of political intrigue waiting to explode. Disrespecting the women will get you killed or jailed. Unfortunately the Philippines are a popular destination for sex tourism. To men reading this article warning; if you ‘get the urge’ and succumb to your baser male instincts you damn better make sure she’s of age and bug free; again watch your drinks! The two dominant religious groups Catholic and Muslim both armed camps with the sizable non-Catholic minorities occasionally making their voices heard through less demonstrative means.
There are no required inoculations for Philippine travel that I’m aware of. You’ll find this time of the year delightful in the Philippines. To be safe I urge you to familiarize yourself with the U.S. State Department’s Travel Advisory to the Philippines.
Here are some well wishes a young lady shared with me recently in a doctor’s office that is worth remembering to start your new year; to all the wonderful people who read HACKWRITER’S MAGAZINE:
· No one can ruin your day without YOUR permission.
· Most people will be about as happy as they decide to be.
· Others can stop you temporarily but only you can do it permanently.
· Whatever you are willing to put up with it exactly what you will have.
· Success stops when you do.
· When your ship comes in make sure you are willing to unload it.
· You will never ‘have it all together.’
· Only God is perfect.
· Life is a journey not a destination so enjoy the trip!
· The biggest lie on the planet is: ‘when I get what I want I will be happy.’
· The best way to escape your problem is to solve it.
· I’ve learned that ultimately takers lose and givers win.
· Life’s precious moments don’t have value unless they are shared.
· If you don’t start you won’t arrive.
· We often fear the thing we want the most.
· Those who laugh—lasts.
· Yesterday was the deadline for all complaints.
· Look for opportunities not guarantees.
· Life is what’s coming not what was.
· Success is getting up one more time.
· Now is the most interesting time of all.
· When things go wrong don’t go with them.
God bless, Happy New Year’s and add art to your list of 2016 resolutions.
© Fred C Wilson 111 Jan 2016
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