Primer: Benjie Torrado Cabrera

Benjie Torrado Cabrera is a printmaker specializing in engraving. Benjie trained at the Atelier Contrepoint (formerly Atelier 17) in Paris, France under a study grant. He finished his Bachelor in Fine Arts Degree at the University of Santo Tomas and earned his Master in Fine Arts Degree at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. He has mounted twelve solo exhibitions and has participated in countless group exhibitions in the Philippines and abroad, including the 7th Triennale Mondiale D’estampes Petit Format in France Busan International Print Art Festival, Tokyo International Mini-Print Triennial, Arte Oriental-Grabados Chinos y Filipinos in Spain, the 2nd and 3rd Kochi International Triennial Exhibition of Prints in Japan, short listed Interational Print Exhibition in Guanlan, China among others.

He has received numerous awards in printmaking such as the Grand Prize in the Philippine Association of Printmakers Open Fine Print Competition in 2001, Finalist in the 1st Lithography Competition in 1998, Best Entry Gold (1978) and Finalist (1987) in the Print Category of the Art Association of the Philippines Annual Open Art Competition.

What inspired you to become an artist?

I was inspired to become an artist for a couple of reasons. Probably it was already in my genes or genetic DNA in the first place. I’m saying this with humility because just like every other child I also love doing doodles. Incidentally, I have relatives from my father’s side who are also visual artists.

What was your first exhibit like?

My first solo exhibit was in 1978 at Museo ng Buhay Pilipino at Parañaque. The venue was an old colonial house, surrounded by trees and beside Manila Bay. The show was a collection of monoprints with collages; images of colonial houses, turn of the century figures and working class done in etchings on zinc plates that are depicted and printed onto paper. The Director of the museum at that time was Dr. Dave Baradas.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on drypoints on acrylic plastic. It is a response to the pandemic coronavirus we are experiencing globally. I tried to depict on these drypoints the mixed emotions, anxiety and uncertainties which are all playing and lingering in the midst of our mind. I am fascinated by the spontaneity of drypoint as a medium because of the variety of lines that can be achieved and the immediate creative act just like doing a pencil sketch.

What is your process like?

My art practice is printmaking, it is a combination of different printmaking processes from drypoint to collograph to burin engraving on acrylic plastic. It is an indirect process wherein you need to prepare the matrix to transfer the image onto paper or fabric by pressure using an etching press, in so doing there is an element of surprise every time you pull a print because of its inherent quality.

What was the most valuable thing you learned doing your art?

I have emotional attachment to some of my works, but I consider the whole creative exercises as an ongoing learning process.

Why do you work in the medium that you do?

The most valuable trait I realized while doing art was that my mind was on the ‘present’, it is on the ‘now and here’ timeless moment. One thing more equally important is the concept of ‘patience’. You have to learn how to pause, how to wait, how to detach from the work in order for you to analyze creatively and hopefully achieve a sensible coherent visual perception.

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