Orley Ypon: When Realism Still Matters


Flesh was the reason why oil paint was invented.
                                               Willem de Kooning

Bidlisiw (sun rays in Visayan) may yet be an appropriate title for a first solo exhibition of a painter whose artistic sunlight has highly basked us for more than 15 years now. Realists like Cebu-based Ypon have often been taken down for being too literal in expressing their paints on canvases that they are often been relegated to the just confines of a commodified art. In Bidlisiw, Ypon escapes from this strangle laying claim as probably the last heir to this great tradition in Philippine figurative painting.     

It was from a water buffalo plowing in the mud in the ricefields of Toledo that Ypon first conceptualized Ahon. In fact his first Ahon painting won for him 2nd place at GSIS National Painting Competition. Another Ahon-inspired piece The Searchers would eventually win for Ypon the Art Renewal Residency in New York a few years after.

Compared to the first ones this current Ahon series has matured further and aesthetically expanded creating more movement and depth. Maybe in a less formal manner (some are even laughing at the satire they are into) but more forceful in his rendition, Ypon’s images show more vulnerability in prowess representing our collective struggle for that so-called genuine emancipation. Although they outwit, outdo and outscore one another as the fittest survive, certain individuals corrupt the community spirit for personal greed and selfish interests.

Ypon laments: Tayo yung nasa putikan, gusto natin makaahon. Dapat malampasan ang krisis. Tumitibay tayo sa bawat  trahedyang napagdadaanan. As a painter di ka pwedeng hindi masaktan. Di ka dapat matakot. Dapat harapin mo dahil yun din magpapatibay sa’yo. Yung wisdom mo dito papasok.

The nature of Ypon’s brushstrokes almost reaches fever pitch that the people throw mud at each other including the viewer looking in. Enclosed in a gallery enclave the viewer may even take a step back as splashes of mud come off the canvas and might just stain him. They are ethereal in actuality, ephemeral in posterity. The way an Ypon piece makes you feel in being part of the Philippine quagmire that as you squint in his toiling figures one witnesses a realism that is seldom replete these days. This comes at a time when much of art being produced is emotion-ridden feng shui-enthused or arguably auction bound. As the in-your-face-bodies have often been celebrated in nudes, portraits, and anatomical fixtures the validity of Ypon’s figures does not hark on the usual celebration of the physical skin and bountiful muscles but how the prowess of collective bodies can portray a people wallowing too long and too deep in a marsh, a political entanglement of their own making. A lieu of how brute and superficial we can almost be. How Ypon combined them in sequential and consequential movement with an enduring and endearing light that warmly embraces them are indices of that long arduous practice of his true craftsmanship.

Tall Toledo Tales

If one were are to paint the life of Orley Ypon it will be an impressionist painting he is now known for. He was always trying to capture the movement, the drama of the moment that came his way.

The second in a brood of eight, Ypon has always dreamed of being an artist. He would envy illustrations from the sari sari store komiks or characters on wall calendars of his hometown Toledo in Cebu.

He says: I have to credit also my parents who unlike other parents did have faith and courage in their children to have a career in the arts. Some parents will not have their sons to be artists. Ako, walo kami but they trusted me.

Toledo, however, will be too small for Ypon’s eagerness to learn art. At 17, he took his chance to go to Manila responding to a newspaper ad for production artists in a crafts shop for export.

The experience will prove to have a double purpose. As he was coloring baskets, he was learning the process of mixing colors and drawing in detail. With much fire in his belly, he rose from being an apprentice to be the head of production staff. Perfectionist as he is, he relied on his doing sample works that would be sent to investors abroad interested in his company’s products.

After a few years of working however the call to be an artist heeded more intensely. What little amount he saved in working he invested in his dream of becoming a painter. He quit work and went back to Cebu. Taking up Architecture at the Cebu Institute of Technology, he heeded upon the advice of some artist-friends as having a fall back for an artist if he was an architect. Ypon, however, found the subjects too technical for his fancy. He was just too eager to paint he took up fine arts at UP Cebu to have the proper academic training in art. Here he mastered the rudiments that would guide him where is today.

Ypon had always been a realist in life as well as in art. He emphasizes: Gusto ko kasi realism para madaling maintindihan ng lahat. Parang may sense ka sa tao. Hindi biro ang realism kasi you have to consider many things like technique, depth, color, and most importantly composition. You have to be an observer, kaya mahalaga lahat ng experience ko dahil I have to feel my work when I’m painting.

The cost of being a fine arts student was too much to carry. Upon the invitation from a relative he went to Davao and immerses himself with the rich and diverse culture the province had to offer. It was here that he tasted his first win, in a mural contest. A social realist by nature, Ypon painted what was around him like the many refugees that were prevalent there.

He later joined an on-the-spot painting in Carcar when he came back to Cebu. Earning him confidence from this, he learned there was a new contest for students in ArtPetron, he enrolled in Casa Gorordo Museum and in a week’s time painted what would be his masterpiece, Ober-Ober.

Ober-Ober, 2001
The story of Ober-ober is a tale worth re-telling. The popular slipper game, the topic of his painting, was played everyday by young boys just outside his tiny studio in Toledo where he painted daily.

What makes this painting so special is how Ypon instead of rolling up his canvas, he chose to hand carry it and endure a 21-hour boat ride from Toledo to Manila.

In the book Brushstrokes from the Heart: The First Five Years of ArtPetron, author and art critic Alice Guillermo commented that Ober-Ober for its “strong sense of humanity and fellow-feeling for the masa or children of common people. Ypon seems to intimately know them well. Even the light that underlines their contours is not harsh but is kind and insightful.”

It is this same bright rays of the sun that National Artist Napoleon Abueva, chair of the board of judges, to “he has Fernando Amorsolo’s light.”

Light on Water, Later on Mud

Ypon mentions that his happiest moments is when he is with water. He has lots of fond childhood memories at sea. He remembers he would tag along with his grandfather who was a fisherman in the morning and be enthralled by the colors of the sky and the sea. It was in this that he wanted his paintings to have movement. It is no surprise that most of Ypon’s works have water as background or revolves around it.

Ypon dreams that “someday to paint masterpieces like Juan Luna and Felix Resurrecion Hidalgo those large works like Spoliarium with themes dealing with history. I want to make a statement about the Philippines.”

Truly the light in Ypon’s paintings continues to shine in the high noon of his life. 

Bidlisiw by Orley Ypon is ongoing at Altro Mondo in Greenbelt 5.


Jared Yokte: The Artist as Contrarian


The recent third solo exhibition At the Rear There is Something Contrary by Jared Yokte is one long loud sermon. His distinct unskinned images haunt us in our thoughts even after the pieces have been taken down from the walls of blanc Gallery. Mind you it is not exactly a solitary preach by a priest, pastor or what have you. More inclined to that night the adolescent you went home beyond curfew time and your parents were stubbornly waiting as you opened the house lights. Yes this exhibit is that bad that it is so good. Worse, it alters your mindset in looking at contemporary paintings these days.

At the Rear There is Something Contrary

Having been born and bred in Davao City, educated in Vigan and now based in Tarlac Yokte sizzles as the quintessential artist to finely execute these epiphanies. Having been exposed to different variants of local culture from southern to northern Philippines Yokte has somehow imbibed and could comment on that customary sense of we got used to yet not supposedly believing in.

His interiors as backdrops are from his humble abode reflect the kind of exuberant yet bland society we have ever since existed. Not invited guests rather we are like peeping neighbors to one's private tableau as everything happens indoors. It is at home where much of what we know happens even the greater war is waged here—the family.

Theory of Nonsense 1
Our elders inculcate in us that success emanates in being affluent more so if one is working abroad. One gets educated to prepare for the day he boards a ship or a plane to cross to the greener pastures. As clannish as we can be, we look after siblings after us, forced to fend for their schooling, whereas we tend to neglect even our own personal happiness. These stereo-type myths have bothered and even disturbed the peace in Yokte's sensibilities. Even superstitious beliefs, superfluous as they are, are discussed within this realm. Concepts like sukob, pagpag, pasma or sleeping while your hair is wet could make you go blind or crazy. Yokte proposes not in anger but even better he gracefully throws back at you his actuation in his linear and painterly strokes combined. The title piece, At the Rear There is Something Contrary, sees us involved in every movement as his images compose themselves and somewhat paused on canvas. They circle in round formation as the cycle called life rotates.

Theory of Nonsense 2
Theory of Nonsense Series symbolically implodes deeper this thesis in Yokte’s pieces. Composition is Yokte’s stronger elements as he is a master in harmonizing his hues. Personages lie afloat living in the quagmire we deserve. We, the viewer should not be enticed in these time-drawn myths. Inverted umbrellas reveal the reverse reasoning as we are attuned to. Resulting into the kind of broken dreams we are forced by circumstance to accept these false fatuity. As in these paintings, it is as grim as the night that has befallen and an even darker interior void of light. Yokte maybe an animal lover as it seems but these domestic creatures are no different from the kind of beings we have become, or been relegated to.

There is poetry in rendering his cast of characters. A headless man may seem a wounded negation of people eaten by the kind of heartlessness that emanates from our concurrence to what we thought all along as truth. Have we become the kind of children our parents have warned us to be? Only artists like Yokte can create such dormant scenes that feed on life’s imperfections done beautifully. As he investigates into our human condition what he unravels like secrets to a code yields our               uniqueness as it is ironically present in all of us.

When the Cat Fell Out

When the Cat Fell Out debunks that what we chose to blindly submit. Black cats represent impending bad luck whereas a cat can just be born black. Maybe Yokte’s works are even the bigger contrary to what is evidently contemporary art—white canvases featuring personalities as smiling farmers, mother and child, even coy fish on the pond. The presence of black mud-like paint is not to blot the picture but a pun right smack as intended. Being in Tarlac provides his with a vantage point--a way of seeing. He is far yet inside the art scene. Even he can be his own sordid critic.


One can however never get over viewing a Yokte piece. One is unmindful of the time as he was doing them. The gestalt effect that his canvases are bigger than what and how his symbolism applies. At a glance, macabre as it is, each is like rich thick moist chocolate cake with sprinkles for everyone to partake. Such as Counterpole which is a continuing reminder of the ups and downs of life reminiscent of the circus act as in his last show, Mabulaklaking Angkan. Compared to this present crop, whatever these pieces lack in humor accessibility and accessories Yokte made up with much bravura and immensely finer craft--more mature brushstrokes and a serious take on our contemporary culture. I would not be surprised if these solitary creatures will be ready to come closer and bite back at us in his next show. 


Looking Through His Lens Clearly: The Photography of Wig Tysmans


Despite of the emergence of digital camera, photography in the Philippines still develops into a very blurred picture and has yet to evolve from its commercial roots into an art form it was meant to be more than a hundred years ago. The lack of exhibitions dedicated to it and even the absence of a National Artist given to photography is proof enough despite the many who have blazed the trail by reinventing the art form, some even brought honor to the country by exhibiting abroad. Photography is still relegated as just “one of those subjects” under visual arts.

Herwig “Wig” Tysmans has been at the forefront in this struggle in turning the lens and clearing Philippine photography’s focus having been one of the country’s top portraitists and commercial photographers in the last 40 years or so.

Unlike other master lensmen, Wig had artistry in his Belgian and Ilocano roots. His grandfather is a known painter in Belgium. He had a writer for a father and a mother who was engaged in a shell handicraft business in Zamboanga City which exported its products to some parts of the world. The Tysmans eventually moved to Manila in 1961 when they closed the business.

The young Tysmans would discover his love affair with the camera at 15 years of age in 1971 during his final year in high school in Dumaguete while being involved with the school yearbook project. With a borrowed Olympus PenF camera, he was among those who took photos of his batch mates to be featured in the said annual publication.

On that same year, a field trip to Baguio will eventually make him comeback and stay longer. The cool climate, rich culture and warm hospitality of its people made him fell in love with this city of pines. He convinced his parents to allow him to enroll there after his high school graduation. With the influx of foreign tourists Baguio was a visual feast and fertile ground for his creativity, thus, plant his artistic roots of this city planned by the Americans. Unable to find a fine arts degree in any of the educational institutions there, Wig enrolled in the closest course possible, architecture at St. Louis University.

It was in this period that his love for photography brought back and fully bloomed. Together with four other Engineering and Commerce friends who became his friends, they formed a sort of photography cooperative in the campus. For a cost P25, they would photograph people and blow it up 20 x 24 inches size.

“We were into business because we wanted to buy our own equipments,” Wig reminisces, “we made more than a hundred blow-ups, we made good money.” A Nikon F with a 50 mm lens was his first gift to himself from his initial earnings. In time his friends became more interested in their courses while Wig took frequent and longer trips to the darkroom. Word of their good work spread fast and St. Louis became too small for their immense passion. In fact local newspapers relied on whatever he and his photographer friends would give them to end up in their pages. Converting his extra bathroom into a bigger dark room, Wig went full time after college.

Wig had a well-rounded background in laying the groundwork of his artistry. Among his early jobs also included documentary work doing publications in the countryside, some magazine assignments, and a stringer for Associated Press for three months World Chess Championships between Korchnoi and Karpov in Baguio.

Out on his own in 1976, Wig started doing portraits of old people who migrated to Baguio before World War II. Since he had access to them, he was able to convince them for a photograph them among them were Robert Fox, Mr. and Mrs. Chan of the Old Pagoda, and the Ifugao Lam-ang who wore G-string to Congress. From 1977 to the early 1980s, he was building up a series of portraits for his future one man show.

Santi Bose
Writer Eric Caruncho in an article, “Wig 
became part of an emerging art scene that included fellow photographers Tommy Hafalla and Mannix Santos, filmmakers Boy Yñiguez and Kidlat Tahimik, and painters BenCab, Santi Bose and Roberto Villanueva. His early influences were painters: modernists such as Roberto Chabet and Lee Aguinaldo whose works exhibited a zen-like simplicity and straightforwardness that Tysmans sought to emulate in his photographs.”

Wig reflects: “Malaki ang influence ng Baguio. Iba ang culture sa Baguio kasi yung mga artists magkakalapit studios or nasa cafes. Unique in a sense is that we were all respected artists in group but we were opinionated. You could hang out and discuss ideas which hindi mo magagawa sa Manila. The environment itself was conducive to the arts as it was rich in indigenous culture, the Cordilleras. Plus there was a constant influx of tourists, thus, we would get a taste of Europe and America and have access to their photography. We could also go to Camp John Hay Library and see photos.”

In 1981, in a chance meeting with Gilda Cordero-Fernando he was able to be introduced to Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala. Through Don Jaime’s help, Wig was finally able to organize a group show for the Baguio Photographers Group at the Ayala Museum. He eventually showed his portraits for his first one-man show also at the Ayala Museum later in 1984. This same show would later tour in other consulates and the Philippine embassy in the US such as San Francisco, Chicago and Washington showing the same images, his manager and curator was now National Artists Arturo Luz.

By this time, there was no stopping the boundless energy of Wig. His next show was bigger and better with 90 portraits of writers and artists, some even in the nude at Goethe Institute in Quezon City. With the overwhelming acceptance, commercial work easily came in.

“Fashion photography was the closest thing to portraiture which I really like. It was the only direction for me – merging of my angst as an artist and limelight of the fashion scene. Press photographers lang gumagawa ng fashion photography nun. Sila lang yung may access sa newspapers, Sunday magazine and Lifestyle sections. Through my fashion work I ended up doing major portraiture. Subsequently since show biz is related to fashion, that followed too. Book photography came in as well.” Wig adds.
                                                                      One Light Source

“The hallmarks of a Tysmans photograph are his minute attention to detail and a flawless technical sheen. Through his mastery of the subtleties of lighting, the photographer manipulates light and shadow to throw one or more particular features in bold relief while keeping others intriguingly swathed in various shades of light and dark. Through his mastery of darkroom technique, these qualities are brought out and enhanced in the final, museum-quality print,” wrote Caruncho.

Early on Wig admits his influences were all foreigners such as the portraits of Richard Avedon and Eugene Smith who was a war correspondent. He clarifies though that he does finer versions in his attempt to be different.

Wig stresses: “For example Irving Penn, when I shot Sinaunang Habi book he was my influence, I even brought my back drop with me while shooting ethno-linguistic communities as how Penn did when he was shooting the Indian tribes in Peru and in the Andes, pero syempre iba yung approach.”

Equally lauded as his portraits are his nudes. “I like it because it is the most basic, wala kang dadamitan. Walang mag-didictate but I will have to catch the character of the person. I have a way of making him relax with me and capture his soul. That’s why I favor artists as subjects because they are willing as they trust me,” emphasizes Wig who is known for his signature borders which came from his Hasselblad bracketing and his having a one light source.

Of late he has done collaborative work for people in other disciplines. For example with Antonio Garcia, florist, “Ako nagpapalabas ng form, Ilalagay niya yung elements like flowers and chili. Sometimes the drive is not for an exhibition but more of an exercise. Depending on the magnitude, the body of works could in the long run be for a show.” Nearing the landmark age of 60, he is planning to do another show of portraits but this time with more of people of our time and many of them new personalities.

Sili King
Wide Opening

Susan Sontag writes in her famous essay On Photography: “Photographs are perhaps the most mysterious of all objects that make up and thicken the environment we recognize as “modern. Photographs really are captured and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood. To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge—therefore, like power.”  

For Wig a good photograph should tickle your imagination when one views it. One gives you wonder, doubt and amazement at how the image was done not that we want to analyze it, for sometimes the photo speaks for itself. He adds “the really nice photographs are the ones that you retain after a week, a month, a year you still remember them. These are the types of photographs that become iconic.”

Wig’s aesthetic sense leans towards the stark and macabre. “If the image is dark, I sometimes wonder why he did it because it is that was the situation or is it because he wanted to portray something to establish a mood? As a photographer you will have to know the intention.”

“When digital photography came out ten years ago hindi ko feel,” Wig further explains, “Some of my friends, kahit 3 mega pix bumili sila. It cost a lot of money. At a time kaya naman ng film then drumscan in Hong Kong. Purist ako just for a little more, this will I get. Bangko Sentral’s Ginto book was my first venture into digital. Somehow I was convinced I could shoot something reflective like the BSP gold collection.”

Recently a clothing line featured Wig’s infrared photographs he did of popular spots Baguio Cathedral, Camp John Hay and Session Road in Baguio in the late 70s to early 80s. It was only Wig who had access to infrared film then which makes these photos more significant. Since infrared gives one an ethereal somewhat fleeting feel, quite apt since much of these scenes have changed or even gone forever. Baguio will always be beautiful for Wig: This is where I was energized and discovered my talent for photography, a medium for me to express myself.”


Ilonggos Bravos: The Triumvirate of Zambarrano, Cerbas, and Dela Cruz


Having visited Iloilo City recently, the province is up and about with preparations for the APEC summit this coming November. Rich in natural and cultural heritage this sunny city of western visayas was chosen as one of the venues for some of APEC’s more important activities. Bustling or better yet, the main roads were smoking with the air filled in by the bevy mix of sand and cement from non-stop construction work. With infrastructure being built here and there, one would get an idea that progress has indeed arrived for the Ilonggos and there to stay.

With much pun intended comes Ang.gulo: Three-man Exhibition of Arel Zambarrano, Leoniel Cerbas, and Richard Dela Cruz at Artes Orientes whose perfect timing speak both of the state of disarray these artists are thriving and a sordid reminder that what we see in Iloilo is not exactly what’s there. In hindsight it could be more of Iloilo’s sampler of its contemporary visual arts than a blatant critique of its socio-political milieu. When its artists concern themselves with the impending reality than doing say portraits of celebrities with the Pope, or fantasy mother-and-childs or school of coy fish for demanding clients; when artists poke at what ills our already badly beaten country mired black-and-blue by corruption, and greed. Instead of rendering them in the usual in-your-face-realism these artists seeks to poignantly interpret them in an artistic genre of their making, culling from their own personal 
Tricky Trail 2

Few artists can lay claim to be among the subjects they depict. Being a farmer's son, Dela Cruz knows how it is to till the land they have yet to own, toiling in dignity and by perseverance; how hard it is to labor and still not get enough from what you work for. The irony of it all those who plant rice are those without it. Tricky Trail 2 clearly portrays this sad plight not only of farmers but all those who carry the heavier burden of making the most in what so little. In an almost three dimensional manner, painstakingly rendered in a serene yet overwhelmingly detailed strokes in Dela Cruz’s working multitude. There is loudness in silence as one could hear the groan of the mass assembled in unison. The collective echoes of their empty stomach unwillingly trading half told truths over meager earning in their average daily grind.  

The overpowering double whammy in Babuwaya lords it over a plethora of the exploited while being pitted on an unequal set up—those who put a lot of effort are less rewarded. In this situation everyone feeds the glutton in the politician who gets more out of his bloated budget. There is grandness in the manner of how Dela Cruz composes yet he keeps their dignity by freely arranging his elements like a overpopulated tableau on stilts.  

Artist's Shoes

In Artist’s Shoes Arel Zambarrano continues the lesser travelled artistic road immortalized in his P25 shoe bought in a nearby thrift shop. It has been a witness to his triumphs, tragedies and the inner conflicts of his existence. His brilliance is evident in the diptych Garden of Self Realization as handle of his symbols morphed into his battered footwear epitomizing how his art has struggled--unkempt, deformed and tattered. Merged with his signature needles, Zambarrano likes his painting muddy and less formal manner. How this visual style will evolve is something to look forward to.
Garden of Self Realization

Moving Forward comes at a time when everything these days is short, easy and bite-size. It is a reaction to the kind of relentless pursuit for things arbitrary yet artificial. Cerbas manages to control his haste by choosing his battles. In his alter ego represented by the fighting fish that guided him like a lodestar in a wide open field called uncertainty and confusion. Done in overlapping with transparent layering, he starts priming with wash similar how one does watercolor before finishing off with monotone acrylic. 

Moving Forward

As in any kind of unfair practice wealth has often been at the expense of the unmindful many that have been abused enough to blind injustice done by the false brightness of polish deceiving and disguising everything under an increasing profit. Sa Ilalim ng Kinang Cerbas reminisces many drawings depicting an authoritarian regime trampling on its people. Done in resin, behind the shiny shoes is a revolting throng fighting its collective right to emancipation. 

Sa Ilalim ng Kinag
Far from the art center that is Manila, Ang.gulo shows how distance provides a clearer and tighter perspective to Zambarrano, Cerbas and dela Cruz who have earlier in their student days have already honored Iloilo in the Philippine art map by winning major art competitions. They are the young new realists who put their art to good use and not just decorations to hang on the walls. Immersed in deep thought they make us realize how Filipinos have been victims of their own slavery. They enable us to imagine further too how art can make us aware what is needed in our society, of how it can make us overcome our plight.
When life hands more than half of the population in dire poverty, when everything around you is politically orchestrated, for these three artists the last thing you do is wallow in your quagmire. In disturbing the peace by fighting for change in one’s consciousness one artwork at a time. Or in their case, make that three.


Fernando Ramos Jr: Flaunting Life’s Imperfections


Faith often comes in the most abstract of expressions and artists like Fernando Ramos have turnaround something out of the ordinary even bordering on the transcendental they only know how—paint them. In his first solo exhibition, Contemplating Ethereal Existence Ramos honors God foremost in his composed yet grand solitary manner.

His materiality dictates whatever mood Ramos is in depending on what he perceives as that transcending value of God’s immeasurable love for humanity should be. Ramos believes artists were blessed with talents as they have a responsibility to perform in society. Eschewing texture he uses palette knife and rodela enabling every stroke as different like the different days where Ramos worked on his pieces. These pieces appear to be more durable, almost rendered in a dream that only Ramos can comprehend their symbolical meanings.

Representing valor in whatever dignified existence life has to offer, Standing Still series beckons to inspire and even encourages persistence in the hope for better things. In a heavy mix of earth-tone hues, Ramos proposes that man who chooses God will always be standing still even if failures and apathy seeps in.

His journey not only as an artist but as a believer is most evident in Sojourn. Reaching the highest altitude of his existence, being he is able to meditate in a wonderful world, the flight of a dreamer in him. The future is still unclear, unimaginable and vague to comprehend but the greatest gift for us is the promise of tomorrow. Sojourn comes with a emanating purpose on this thesis.
Starting with a study or a just a sketch Ramos builds up rhythm like a seasoned jazz player, he improvises yet digs in deeper, straining his modeling paste-in-sand combination. He then fixes silver or gold adding glow to the under paint most likely after he stains the metal layer of his composition.

Whether he renders realist strokes or veers into abstraction transparency of forms and solidity of shapes define the quintessential Ramos. Often employing rhythm and harmony in texture his dimensions draws a thin line in between softness and harshness of rendition yet they carefully controlled and it varies in a certain points to another simply not because they are nice to look at but because they are conceived to do so.   

Scent From A Dream 2
Contemplating Vertical Horizons is how the promise giver is the promise keeper. Always offering a good day God forgives and guides us through His unending and infinite creation. With the daily rigors He brings us back to the light into our battered and stained spirit at his own dedicated time.

With Ramos piece there is never a dull rendition. He meticulously solidifies everything by finishing dust-like coarseness adding a silver leaf and gold leaf here and there. The aesthetics is in the swirl, some from various tin cans, some using masking tapes for loss to take over. Swirling lines storms of life, square is God for always being there.

His paintings are also sensuous variations of collective narratives, memories and dreams. The fascination in metal-like ground and surface in his works is evident, rusted and stained in time. It is metaphorical depiction of this world we live in is paralleled to a slowly decaying, human body that is deteriorating and will turn back into nature’s dust--our ashes.

Ramos moves freely inside the painting as he probes his inner self and explore contours and variations of colors, paraphrasing the world and beyond in less fanciful embellishment or distortion. His thoughts and feelings as an artist are astounded in each of more than a dozen canvases.

On can almost smell his coloration in Scent Recalled From a Dream series which are actually landscapes dwelling intuitively into his subconscious mind. His composition of colors range from cool to earthy hues, these are vivid projections of his dreams and aspirations.

Not everything is raw and melancholic The Day After the Storm conveys positive vibrations as trials and challenges that make him more human. Like gold that gone through fire to be able see its real shine.

A wise painter that he is, Ramos knows how to rest and recuperate. Resting Ground is a favorite place quiet and serene place a mountain peak repent, pray and meditate his intoxicated body. A habit he often does, he escapes from the humdrum of his material world, he solitary dwells at a mountain’s peak, communing with his God who is more than enough.
The Day After the Storm

Unselfish as the artist he is Ramos is fond of creative accolades here and there. In Under Red Umbrella pays tribute to a dear friend, musician and great mother. An influence in his decision to be a full-time artist, her demise may have left a void but Ramos imbibed her spirit to go forward and reach his potential. Of course umbrella means love, memories and teachings that cannot be erased.

Vista is tribute to Tatang, his mom’s husband. A lawyer writer and man of faith He treated him like a son too. His regular conversations with him were with a purpose, most specially those pertaining to Mount Zion which is biblical definition of heaven, respite for good souls and spirit.

Blue serenade series are Ramos’ most personal paintings in this exhibition. Starting in 2013 being in love with music, remembering the good old days and time gone by. Destiny fate, remembering what God has promised transcending upon him.

Resting Ground
Abstraction in the Philippines has of late taken a back seat given the current art scene’s current infatuation with hyperrealism, auction-bound, emo-ridden parlance. Ramos reclaims whatever is lacking in aesthetics and maybem whatever is left in our poor battered souls.

Fearful of his faith and fate, Ramos ponders in each of these pieces as God has healed and honed him further. He has able him to paint some more in whatever life has to offer. With his hands outstretched in surrender, in these paintings he has emerged healed and unscathed.

About the Artist
Fernando Ramos Jr is an award-wining visual artist. A graduate of Tarlac State University, he has won in ArtPetron National Student Art Competion, Maningning Miclat Art Awards, and the GSIS National Painting Competition. Ongoing at the Art Galileia Contemplating Ethereal Existence is his first solo exhibition.


Tarlac Artists: Serious Play

Judeo Herrera

The need to understand the contemporary practice in Philippine art has always been the burden of the young. Emphatic assortment of paints on top of one another made more evident by their predominant metaphors reflected in their experimental yet distinct, confident yet sensitive brushstrokes. Playground weaves all these assumptions not merely as a conscious interlude of colors, illustrations and other media but something that originally perceived in their fragile/fertile imagination. Newly initiated in the art scene however these artists have already been recognized in national art competitions for their promising visual language and in finding novel approaches in painting.

Fernando Ramos
Defiance to the norm and piercing its persistence in memory have always been rooted in this unobtrusive Central Luzon province. The continuous wandering of the aetas that dwell along its streets is a blatant reminder of negligence yet one’s constant exposure is reminiscent of their pure and simple precolonial ways. The long McArthur highway is witness to rebellion to another colonial rule that tested our inner core in the infamous Death March. Some even lived to experience life more painful than death to this day. 
It is not only the geography that veers Tarlac from Manila. Less than 3 hours and 107 kilometers away by road travel, Tarlac directly manifests the disparity in directions concerning the Philippine art scene. With only an aging museum to speak of, there are neither art galleries nor art spaces abound. Ironic as it is paintings on canvases have found their way of conducing what is already lacking in the society. A visual critique thrives in an abundance of newly found expressions on how these emerging artists look at themselves and their communities.

Alfredo Baluyot
In Alfredo Baluyot’s silent yet haunting pieces shout the loudest meanings. Desperation marked by insensitivity of the powers-that-be Baluyot succumbs to his rants to ease his numbness to anger and deceit. Decay seeps in fluid-like strokes capable to overreaching the viewer to sympathize in this decreasingly bleak plight.
Chrisanto Aquino

On scratched canvas Chrisanto Aquino pays tribute to that dying breed of indigenous people dislocated by political reality. Against the advent of superfluous technology, their precolonial culture threatened into extinction. Aquino further hones his artistry by dwelling on long forgotten patterns inked on their tribal skin.  
Abstraction in its purest form occupies Fernando Ramos whose works are more autobiographical in nature. His choice of colors coalesce his ever-changing moods sometimes too heavy eliciting texture in capturing its weariness. Staining real gold makes the canvases more ethereal than usual. Ironically he does not find it romantic at all whatever it is that whimsically deals directly with his emotions. 

Elle Simon-Yokte

Elle Simon-Yokte is another artist that freshly dabbles in non-representational rendition. Although glimpses of figures still forebode she further induces more layers to thicken the plot typifying happiness and confidence within her.   

Judeo Herrera engages in deep nostalgia by waxing realism with abstraction in a prolific visual style his own. Herrera starts off by splattering colors as the background he favors. After the expressionist nature of this under painting he then deciphers what images will emerged eventually dictating the current themes of his thoughts. Here we find a bygone child’s play and bevy of horses in tipsy amusement or locked in symbol of their strength in character. 


Wiljun Magsino

Wiljun Magsino simplifies as he reminisces his childhood in black and white. Uniquely done by using stapler instead of paintbrushes he primes his canvases either black or white canvas and reversely tucks the wires depending on his chosen subjects. This tedious process challenges him in achieving a pen and ink effect. What he can still do with such steely art form is a promise that awaits us. 

As it is Playground is as literal as literary resistance of provincial artists hobnobbing in the city. These manifestations confront validation as their own inherent contents and permutations stressing the value of spontaneity, appropriation and positive energy. Establishing tension, solitude and equilibrium, these spatial yet lyrical pieces may be subtle or harsh yet both convey the sense of delight in the painters’ free reign of imagery and visual style. One looks long and hard as each art intensifies. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of Playground, their personal to randomly induce varied perceptions are commendable.
Playground encourages critical dialogue between the discriminating tastes of the patronizing public with the creative ambition of this current crop of Tarlac artists. As they are open to experimentation and more raw approach in art, they still value that paintings should be embodied and its social function is not lost in the art market discourse or painting for painting sake. Assuring a hopeful bright direction, Playground devotes a different attitude, a refreshing way of looking at visual arts. It is an undertaking that may enrich your lives as it has indeed on them. Sometimes seriousness is fun.