Gallery: Kenneth Montegrande “A Decade of Kenneth Montegrande” @ArtLoungeManila

Kenneth John Montegrande did not always envision to become an artist, yet despite excelling in his other callings; as a member of the press, as a public relations professional, and later, as a spokesperson to the Department of Tourism’s National Parks Development Authority, painting beckoned him to become the artist that he is now.  The thought that his works “Abstrak” and “Enigmatic Series II” would be included in the collections of the mega art collector Yusaku Maezawa, who collects Basquiat, Bruce Nauman, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons, or his “Transfigurings of Freshest Blue” and “Perla del Mar de Oriente” would be in the company of works by Sorolla, Luna, and Amorsolo, in the collection of the Malacañang Museum in 2019, certainly surprised him. Painting and art was far from his reality, when as a child, he had to sell snacks in Ermita to supplement their family income. As a professional, he would only start painting when got to talk to the artists of an art event he organized for Intramuros Administration just ten years before. 

He certainly has gone a long way from his early exhibitions, which were done with the help of friends and staged in informal venues like the Olive Bistro, or in The City State Hotel, and at one time, even as part of an event for a real estate group’s prime clients.  He has risen rapidly through the art scene and achieved what many others take a longer time for.  And his art has reflected his transformation.  Where he used to work with small 18 x 24 inches format in subdued colors, he now expresses himself comfortably in bright colors and in grand scale of 8 x 12 feet.

In 2021, he would have a two-man exhibition with the multi-awarded Juvenal Sanso; and plans are in the works for another two-man exhibition with a national artist in 2022.  Gone are the years of self-doubt, when he would paint, despite objections from family and friends, and sometimes sharp criticism from art professionals, about his talent and intent in painting.   The stellar rise of a persistent self-taught artist, whose faith held him steadfast in his course, within the span of a decade, is what is being celebrated in this, his 11th solo exhibition at Art Lounge Manila. 

Fifteen paintings, mostly squarish in proportion, and a mix of abstract expressionist works and cloudscapes in style, comprise “A Decade of Kenneth Montegrande.”  All fifteen works exude an intensity that is typical of Montegrande’s works, an intensity triggered by stark contrasts and bold impastos.

Chiaroscuro is seen in his atmospheric cloudscapes; which he skillfully employs to express his faith, and the hope which it brings specially in difficult moments.  For Kenneth, faith allows us to see the light when we are covered in the darkness.  With titles mostly derived from or obliquely connected to the story of Jesus calming the storm, in the gospel of Mark, Montegrande shares how his faith enables him to calm life’s storms in his works.  And although they are deeply personal, his paintings resonate the hope we hold on to, in these troubled times.  His spirituality, which allows him to extoll that God is in control, is visibly expressed this through his works: “Be Still”, “After the Storm”, “A Quiet Time with God”, “Light of Wisdom”, “Promise of a New Dawn”.  And although the works “Whisper from the Moon”, “Symphony of Life”, and “Clouds of Hope” do not relate directly with the Biblical passage he selected for the exhibition, the drama they create through the interplay of dark and light against the vastness of the sky, creates similar feelings of awe as when one is in deep prayer, as they insinuate a greater presence than one’s self; such as when we are in the raw and splendid beauty of a sunset or alone in the beach or the mountains by ourselves.  Majesty and solitude are present in all of his cloudscapes.

Though more cheerful because of the bright palette Montegrande employs for his abstract expressionistic works, the intensity is from the skillful use of combining analogous and complementary colors, as well as in the texture created by heavy impasto.  Creating visual energy in these two forms, result in the intensity that marks a Montegrande work.  Though mostly contained within the center of the canvas, most visibly seen in “Waiting for Another Sunrise”, “Marvelous Sunset”, and “Midnight Blue – Abstract Version”, the free form and energetic use of line, and surrounding it with calm space, create an exciting center that engages the viewer and excites both the senses and the imagination.

In a decade, Kenneth John Montegrande has transcended various obstacles in order to achieve the success that he is reaping now.  And for this, Montegrande is not only grateful, but also encouraging others who are called by art, to pursue their passion, as he is proof that persistence pays off.

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