Gallery: Vision x Interpolation exhibition @ArtAnton

The first half of the 20th century Philippine art scene is predominantly romanticism with Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino on the helm as University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts deans and professors respectively. For Tolentino, distortion in painting is a ‘cardinal sin’ and therefore it’s ugly. This inclination however changed when Victorio Edades, upon return to the country, was inspired by the Armory show in the United States that debuted his work “The Builders”. It was controversial but became moderately successful; however, it had enticed young artists who preferred to deviate from Amorsolo’s art style which then had become the benchmark of fine art painting. 

Different from the two titans with his artistic vision, Edades helped in instituting Architecture courses in the University of Santo Tomas which later had developed the Painting program that he became its first director in 1935. Prior in 1934, Edades, who was earlier shunned by his vigorous to almost expressionistic application of paints and distorted figures, enlisted Carlos “Botong” V. Francisco who was distinguished for his linear and lyrical paper-like-stylism and Galo B. Ocampo with his Filipino-Christian indigeneity compositions. They worked on several mural projects including “Rising Philippines”, which was housed at the lobby of Capitol Theater in Escolta Manila and became pioneering professors of UST-Fine Arts. These three distinguished modernists became the Triumvirate of Modern Art in the country.

UST Fine Arts is the bastion of Modernism in the Philippine Art Scene. When World War II arrived, schools of fine arts were also put to a halt. Nonetheless, the lasting effects of modernism, instituted by the triumvirate, paved the way for younger artists to study abroad especially in the U.S where modernism is the grand style compared with classicism in Europe. Among these are Manuel Rodriguez Sr. known as the father of Philippine Modern Printmaking who also introduced the craft in UST’s College of Fine Arts and Architecture; Rodolfo Paras-Perez who did not only favored wood-cut printing but wrote extensively about Vicente Manansala; Fernando Zobel, Galo Ocampo, and the like, who in the process had brought more leaning towards the new style. 

University of the Philippines on the other hand, inevitably influenced by the on-going tendencies, gave birth to National Artist Napoleon Abueva, a student of Tolentino. He then would go dramatically against the standards by using a variety of materials and techniques integrating sculptural and functional qualities in his works, whereupon he is hailed as the Father of Philippine Modern Sculpture. On the other hand, Modernism in the 30’s-80’s era in UST Fine Arts, had it existence cemented by professors including Alejandro Celis, Bonifacio Cristobal, Severino Fabie, Wenceslao Garcia, Antonio Garcia Llamas, Diosdado Lorenzo, Vicente Manansala, Riccardo Francesco Monti, Galo Ocampo, Ricarte Puruganan, Virginia Ty Navarro, Elvira Lagdameo Royeca, Rafael Enriquez Jr., Anastacia Mamuyac, Cenon Rivera, Leonardo, Hidalgo, Mario Parial, Antonio Austria and Rolando Alib.  

The 90’s was arguably the golden years of UST Fine Arts winning students and competing art professionals. This was highlighted by batchmates Rolando Ventura, Alfredo Esquillio, Wilfredo Offemaria Jr and Melvin Culaba. They caused the rebirth to classicism and mannerism by revitalizing it with fresh-look, focusing on themes revolving around spirituality, symbolism, surrealism, and social-realism. The onset of the 21st Century gave rise to a dynamic and multi-awarded artist group called “Young Thomasian Artist Circle”, a brainchild of Rev. Fr. Isidro Abaño O.P, former dean and regent of College of Fine Arts and Design. Among its significant members are Buen Calubayan, Wesley Valenzuela and Jaime Jesus Pacena II who all became professors in the newly named College of Fine Arts and Design. Other members of the YTAC are Andres Barrioquinto, Ivan Roxas, CJ Tañedo, Linds Lee, Lawrence Borsoto and Mark Magistrado. In 2005 and onwards, following batches, inspired by the successes of their predecessors, made their way not as a group but collectively and individually.  Many are still active in the scene. Some were recognized in the 13 Artists Awards and Ateneo Art awards, teaching in the academe and doing curatorial work. Among them are Mark Salvatus, Paolo Icasas, Cos Zicarelli, Emman Acasio, Abe Orobia, Juert Asejo, Janos Delacruz, Marius Funtillar, Mars Bugaoan, Dino Gabito, Ku Romillo, Geloy Concepcion and JP Pining.

In the mid-2000, upon the initiative of former Dean Jaime delos Santos, CFAD began to focus its research on Thomasian artists. Serving as a curator for the exhibits, Asst. Prof. Mary Ann Venturina Bulanadi, Ph.D., provided direction when she first researched about the late National Artist and UST alumni, Ang Kiukok, titled “Pillars of UST Fine Arts.”  It was also during this period that the research was divided into two main studies—the pioneer art educators of UST and the fine arts program students who would later comprise the next generation modernists. The research became a foundation data bank for Thomasian artists past and present at the time. In 2010 at the anticipation of the 400th year founding of UST, a series of exhibitions were curated on different venues. The exhibit showcased the works of fine arts alumni in “Triptik: Jane Ebarle, Mario Parial, Oliver Rabara;” “Colors of Amor Lamaroza;” and “Tres: Ed Castrillo, Ramon Orlina and Joe Datuin.” This period helped create an avenue for greater possibilities, featuring the diverse talent of Thomasian artists through its artist exhibition program. In 2012 a follow up two major exhibitions were held. The first exhibit entitled “On the Trail Blazed by the Pioneers’ ‘ featured the pioneer faculty members of the UST CAFA and CFAD, at the GSIS Museo ng Sining. The second was a series of quarterly exhibits, “Artistang Tomasino Ako!” at the Beato Angelico Gallery.

The notion that UST Fine Arts is significantly known for its use of superb technical skills whereas UP, concept wise, was dominating the landscape was a misconception at its best. The intermingling of school culture brought by professors and students joining inter-school art competitions which was started by UST Rector Magnificus Fr. Silvestre Sanchez, O.P, in 1941 to date, while at the same time being exposed to the new media and allied arts such as advertising practice, interior design and architecture which are also degrees in UST are few of the factors that relatively influenced Thomasians to become multi-faceted artists. Outstanding examples are Roberto Chabet, Jose Tence “Bogie ” Ruiz, Mark Salvatus and Mideo Cruz, who are known for their conceptual and critical thinking.

Art styles and movements are born through curiosity and distaste of an artist’s ever-wandering creative mind. Interpolation in art is naturally a yearning and a fundamental need in every artist to insert ideas and concepts that are different from a pre-existing or established norm in creation. Whether consciously or not, once a piece is born, it creates new dialogue that first and foremost satisfies its creator but later re-examined and re-evaluated. As its first viewer, the participatory role of its maker is then shifted towards the absorption of the piece’s essence and inject his or her viewpoint and deduce what is essential and relegate what is pointless. Continually it is a progression of choice, to add or to subtract or more specifically to replicate or to alter. It is a never-ending process of interruptions but progressively producing innovative forms manifested through several trials resulting in the precision of the method used. Concept is characterized by telling a narrative, an assimilation and assertion of understanding into visual form. Concept is the treatment of the content and the vehicle that drives its point. Concept is fueled by the reality of its maker and this reality alludes with the interest in depicting the actual social, economic, and political conditions of its time.

Modernism (1930s to the late 1990s) and post-modernism (2000s onwards) in the country did not only birthed successions and rebellions of mannerist stylizations and isms from different generations of artists and designers but also initiated freedom for the individuals who do not have a formal training as a degree but was drawn to the euphoria of creating their own expressions. Some of them are medical practitioners, some are businessmen, some are lawyers and literally from every walk of life who delve into art first as a hobby but eventually became a full-blown career because they aspired and flourished.      

This exhibition titled “VISION x INTERPOLATION” is organized by the personal efforts of Ms. Marissa Pe Yang, President of UST-CFAD Alumni Association to bring the whole Thomasian artistic community together. It aims to showcase generational practices and stylisms embodied by Thomasian seniors, mid-career and upcoming young artists. This exhibition is the first of the series of the line-up presenting them. It highlights different dialogues and expressions not limited to painting but print and sculptural works as well. The exhibitors are as follows: Rosario BitangaJuno GalangEdgar DoctorRaul Isidro, Ramon OrlinaAnita Del RosarioFil DelacruzJess FloresLydia VelascoMarge OrganoElmer DumlaoAnna de LeonLisa VillasenorChris PizarroJaime NepomucenoRichard BuxaniMeneline WongMilmar OnalJuert AsejoJanos DelacruzSummer de GuiaRon Mariñas.

“Interpolation Techniques” opens on September 8, 2021, at Art Anton, G/F, S Maison, Conrad Hotel Manila, Marina Way, Mall of Asia Complex Pasay City, Philippines. Exhibition runs until September 24, 2021. Email inquiry.artanton@gmail.com for more details.

Vision x Interpolation words by: Abe Orobia

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