Ricky Ambagan: Bookmarks

(for Gabriel Garcia Marquez 1927-2014)

Very few Filipino artists figure prominently in as many national art competitions and still produce a distinct body of work as they eventually mature in their foregoing artistic careers. In Here Comes the Sun Ricky Ambagan revisits his past visual triumphs while traversing in new realms of visual dialogues. Thematically tempered by books, these bundled pages in between covers, some pieces personally essay like art journals in coded languages while others become more social in their current pronouncements. Transforming these near-obsolete tomes into stages of conflicts, each layer in the bookshelves serves as a arena of issues, possibilities and realizations.

While growing up Ambagan reminisces being impressed by the presence of encyclopedia volumes as semantics of affluence upon inhabiting the private spaces of his friends’ homes. Books would become his acclaimed prerequisite as one acquires a certain taste in lifestyle reflecting one’s stature in society.
In his famous essay Unpacking My Library critic and intellectual Walter Benjamin sought the dialectical in the function of books. Aside from the pleasure of actively squinting of one’s eyes in between lines, books aid to alleviate in the rudiments of writing creatively or exhibiting the obvious upon viewers its collective decorative interface.

Shadow of Wisdom, 2014
Acquiring of books has become status events as recent auctions prove more collectors purchase books in lots for the sheer aesthetics they project. Shadow of Wisdom is a solitary testimony of the long and short argument of the demise and eventual futility of books being read. As our digital age challenges its impending existence, devoid of emotion this lone advocate remains steadfast as it puts up a last defiant stand against the fading of this old world reminder. An unread book on a shelf is a marker of a better time spent than reading it, of the time your mind wonder that there are greater minds than yours and a book is a tribute to that achievement.
Let It Go, 2014

Although stark in depiction, Let It Go looks forward to the blue horizon of how books will matter to the next generation. Shelf life is the difference between actual books and electronic kind, and this cannot replace the romance of turning its original pulp and be engrossed by it. A reprisal of Ambagan’s winning piece in the GSIS National Painting Competition in 2011, books remind us of what we know and more of what we don’t know, that a people is as progressive as the gathering illumination of knowledge will liberate them. Ambagan’s depiction of light emanating from many sources represented with the flight of lanterns inspires as it enthrals our responsibility to initiate our own spark for the literacy of others.

We Will Rise uplifts the prevalent gloom wrought from last year’s fortuitous disasters, setback in sports and political and spiritual dilemmas. We see an amalgam of contemporary personalities who were in the news from an embattled boxer Manny Pacquiao to an auspicious Pope Benedict to dignified yet still hopeful Yolanda victims. With a pieta scene looming in the centerpiece imbibing compassion, each section of the shelves are like cubicles of status updates of what is happening in our midst. Ambagan’s pieces can be read as alamanac for the year that was. Emphatically composed, his play of images are whimsical as the graphic device involving shelves can be viewed as small worlds in themselves. 
We Will Rise, 2014

Kilometer Zero, 2014

Kilometer Zero exudes sentimentality as Amabagan recalls another favored recognition in a national art competition five years, this time for a government metro train system. He wanted to duplicate this work for himself as it has brought him commercial and critical success. Using distortion as a visual style, Ambagan has captured in astrayed brushtrokes the actuated motion of an MRT train. Ambagan himself is witnessed with his son in the forefront of this frame which is on top of a shelf contextualizing that this is an afterthought, a remake of his devotion to familial love and ode to his initial struggle as an artist. 

Reflective of Ambagan being well-versed in visual communications, Boom! captures the drama of what goes in the divergent minds of advertising people in a normal brainstorming session.  Second to nature they debate regularly on their concepts and progression of ideas. Seems surreal as a plethora of conniving yet contrarian in characters like vintage airplanes, Van Gogh biography, the ever-present Albert Einstein, a gallant Napoleon Bonaparte even the Beatles subliminally float like a multiple of presents. Allegorically driven by performance as seen in the platform diver, it is not necessary a pretty image as this diptych seems to be. Comical bombs contrasts as they immediately tones down all half-baked solutions adding texture to the overall picture.

Boom! 2014
Ambagan’s recent works stare back as they remind you why we are attracted to art in the first place. Here Comes the Sun may also mean temporary respite, as Ambagan continues to experiment from his tried and tested, raw and rough brushstrokes to thinner but more definite layers grounded in earth color palette.  From featuring throngs of people in the metropolis and Baguio City, whether they are in pedicabs or part of the desperate multitude earning their keep, he shifts to more upscale ambience, more ethereal in iconography.  

Here Comes the Sun has always been a song of redemption as it is relevant now for Ambagan. There’s an anecdote that as the Beatles were finishing Abbey Road, its last album before eventually breaking up, its composer George Harrison was avoiding the other members of his band. And the phrase "here comes the sun" was how he really felt every day when the day's recording session was over. At his prime, Ambagan churned out these pieces were as comforting as Harrison’s but as essential as his subject matter—books. It is also scorching welcome to that intense season of the year and to the many passionate things we associate it with -- summer.

Here Comes the Sun is Ricky V. Ambagan’s 5th Solo Exhibition. Ongoing until May 6 at the Galerie Anna, 4/F Art Walk, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.


Roberto Feleo on Appropriation

At the Philippine High School for the Arts where he used to teach and the College of Fine Arts of the University of the Philippines Diliman where he has taught for almost twenty years Roberto Feleo is both a legend and an individualist. Feleo techniques as his students would call it. Amidst the prevalent western orientation in our approach to art practice, he painstakingly continues to merge the mundane and the sacred in folk history, mythology, politics and spirituality. His artworks use non-traditional materials from cut out figurines, furniture parts, egg shells, and saw dust.

As one of our pioneer judges during the early years of ArtPetron National Student Art Competition we requested his opinion on appropriation in Philippine art, which was featured in the ArtPetron Folio magazine in 2008. Here is what he wrote:

Appropriation cannot simply be dismissed as reproducing or copying a work or its parts without considering content and context. Content refers to the intention, idea, and interpretation of a piece. Context refers to meaning derived from a work, within its historical, cultural and personal parameters. Context lends credibility to interpretation of a work.

Alfredo Esquillo Jr., MaMackinley, 2001, Oil on Canvas.
(image from afterall.org)
Appropriated works or pastiches as they were popularly called in Modernism and earlier periods, were used in the academe to study the works of great artists, particularly their contour and the modeling of color, technical concerns which reflected the progression of art. These appropriated works were signed as copies. Appropriation would later evolve into an objective process in questioning originality.

Another form of appropriation exists – that which is taken from a culture that was induced to a peripheral position and is considered another form of appropriation exists – that which is taken from a cultural extortion. Informed sources refer to this as colonization or colonialization. This issue is related to multiculturalism, which involves the indigenous, minority culture that have been displaced by the dominance of Euro-American hegemony and which encourages diversity and heterogeneity.
Lee Aguinaldo, Homage to Vermeer, 1983,
Photo collage with acrylic mounted on plywood
(image from manilaartblogger)

Consequential to the Philippine experience is more than four hundred years is more than four hundred years of Spanish American domination effecting a thinking that belittles everything native.            The indigenous traditions of weaving, pottery, metalsmithing, and woodwork were relegated to craft. It was only towards the end of the 19th century that the Malay word “sining” was used exclusively for the arts such as painting, sculpture, design, and engraving.

Curiously, the tradition of painting in the Philippines started with copying Christian icons (stampitas) and their attributions as prescribed by the church. (Colorings rendered by Maranao women on their men’s carvings is, of course, an exception.) The propagation of faith necessitated the reproduction of the images. As such, appropriated works had built monuments to the nation’s christianization.

In the 1920s, Victorio Edades came home from the Unites States bringing with him modernism a new art movement that would spark the great debate between the conservatives and the moderns in the local art community. The influence of Euro-American painters in Philippine painting would further be entrenched during World War II. Branded as degenerates, an entire generation of European artists migrated to the United States. After the war, America mustered its publishing prowess to promote New York City as the art capital of the world. American influence in painting spread worldwide through books filled with photographic reproduction of Euro-American painters.

The issues mentioned earlier should provide greater clarity in tackling appropriation within the national experience. Philippine events provide a continuum to the present.

Santiago Bose, Native Song, 1999, Oil on canvas with mixed media
and color process prints on paper (Gift of Malou Babilonia in 2007,
image from education asianart.org) 

Beholden to the development of painting in the West, Filipino painters, with a few exceptions, fail to appreciate their very own visual traditions. It is about time they recognize their society as defined by geography as multicultural and therefore a rich source of images and ideas just waiting to be tapped. Otherwise they will always be regarded as colonialized.


Jared Yokte: Paint Thy Neighbor


Somewhere in a quiet nook in Tarlac, a thriving communal existence is being depicted on canvas after canvas by a very observant neighbor named Jared Yokte. Barely a year there, having decided to raise his family away from the hustle and bustle of city life, the remarkable result came in the form of some 20 paintings that comprise his first solo show mythically entitled Mabulaklaking Angkan.

He may have chosen the easiest of subjects yet Jared has rendered them in his distinct in fact very tedious visual style. His ethereal characters may have been disguised as myths only to hide their peculiar personalities and yes, identities. Collectively called Agda like an ongoing play set on stage, they all somewhat perform profusely, dimly-lighted on each featured panel. Even in the starkness of their moods, what should have been concealed has become brightly translucent. 

Mabulaklaking Angkan, 2013. Oil on Canvas

Obviously the main piece and from which the title of the show emanates is this 8 feet by 6 feet Mabulaklaking Angkan which like a welcoming door greeting the viewer as one enters Olive Creek Gallery. Its imposing magnificence shouts the futility of what we do and why we do things that matter. Trapped in their own quagmire, his subjects, pointlessly, restlessly ride the bicycle for the mere hang of it, unknowing of their destinations. Worse, some would even fall off this senseless carousel. Some would even hang on for desperate survival on its peripheries, only to be taken away without purpose. Jared wonders how have we come to this? What instances have led people to inhabit the city, to work our selves to death not even knowing what drives the soul out of us. And this cycle unrelentingly repeats through generations after generations. Replicated by education breeding the same children, only to be part of this same exercise of drudgery.  

Sumpaan, 2013. Oil on Canvas

 Upon seeing his works done in this peculiar brushstroke, intermittently one’s phobia of meeting these sort of hairy domestic creatures was eventually set aside, paving the way for their invitation to watch, neighbors or not, collector or not, promdis and affluent art enthusiasts in the metropolis. Like every promising contemporary artist of his generation, Jared explains his works are mostly autobiographical in narrative and interrelated with one another. Like comic strips these could form one simultaneous reality. They speak generally about the Filipino family. He adds: Ang pamilyang Pilipino hindi lamang nasusukat sa pagsasabi ng po at opo, pagmamano, pagbati at iba pa. Ang kanyang karakter ay kadalasan nasasaksihan sa pakikisalamuha natin sa araw araw. Mga karakter na totoong nangyayari na binibigyan ko ng komplikadong pananaw. Ang kwento ng bawat obra ay magkakaugnay.

His paintings are manifestations of his constant experiments: I love to experiment different media. My painting session always starts with experiment while serving as my appetite before my real artwork. I find my style very intriguing and mysterious although I would like to think less emotional.

At 27 and very much in love to Elle, his fellow artist-partner, Sumpaan is also proof of his being down-to-earth romantic. With common interest in the arts, they both found love in the city but he fulfilled his promise to leave Manila and raise their family in her hometown of Tarlac. Not to be downright serious, humor is typical of Jared. As shown in a sideshow in Sumpaan street dogs are more than physically engaged than the lovers in the foreground who have become willing voyeurs in the half drawn curtain.

Teleserye, 2013. Oil on Canvas

Another favored piece is Teleserye. This most uneventful activity of watching TV could be the most attractive rendering for us. Teleserye speaks of the kind of life-within-a-life Jared has led these past months, being domesticated while being a faithful chronicler in his neighborhood. Here he documents those long hours his and every household neighbor dedicates in front of the screen, like clockwork simultaneously tuning in front of the boob tube. As Jared has his canvases to fill up to earn their daily bread, he is also slowly being taken away by whatever predictable plot with its manipulative technicolors. He could not escape himself as he is also framed his own tempting sordid existence. 

 Nothing is sacred to Jared not even his irreverent grandmother in her bright colored dress such as in Materyalistik Kong Lola. Unable to stand her unusual tactics and, as the title suggest, materialist ways, she is now immortalized and is now probably owned by a collector who thought money may not be necessary the root of all evil. Interesting how flowers figure in Jared’s background, no matter how overpowering it is to over all layout of his image. 

Having known the artist since his student days in University of Northern Philippines, Jared is a deeply spiritual and even philosophical person who interpreted Biblical scenes in his early works. His sense of perfection is disquieting, a rigorous process similar to a trained athlete. He paints every single day, no ifs and buts, like a biological need to express. 

Most of the interiors in the paintings were culled from memory. Ever the observer, he paints his floors and walls as they became familiar him: here’s the old house in Davao, or the dormitory in Vigan and lately from their own abode in Tarlac. Evoking both meaning and sentimentality, the private spaces form another layer to his rich narrative. One can only imagine the complex interplay of emotions in each of his pieces typifying the migrant contemporary artist who grew up, educated in, and is now based on many non-permanent locations. Making the paintings even more valuable, with more distance covered to which they have point-by-point reminisced and emanated.    

Although he did admire some old masters during his college years, he claims he doesn’t have influences of late. He adds: I just try to open my mind about the art of today but I don’t like going any art exhibitions. Nakakaapekto sa mabuting epekto yung malayo ako sa art scene. Una, mas marami akong nagagawang pyesa dahil sa environment. Pangalawa, malapit ako sa pamilya ko na pinaghuhugutan ko ng inspirasyon. Pangatlo, life in province is very simple and stress less. I want to work on large scale works this time. 

Mabulaklaking Angkan was Jared Yokte’s first solo exhibition held at the Olive Creek Gallery last December 2103.


Ramel Villas is Homegrown


The long yet evocative history of Philippine art is replete with self-taught artists who have been struggling hard to be identified. They feel they can be creative enough and endowed with the same working hands to fill up a canvas or two. Not since becoming the first apprentices who assisted the masters in depicting murals in churches and public buildings have they emerged from a more practical need as they could not afford or were excluded from the formal fine art schools since the early 19th century. This probably explains why most of our earliest surviving religious and genre paintings and portraits from this period were standardly unsigned. They remain admired yet unrecognized to this day. Aesthetically, there seems to be a folk-like style in terms of how they freely compose their images from imagination, something unobtrusive with how they compose their subjects.

One such painter is Angono-based painter Ramel Villas. Although very much of what he knows is similar to visual oiuido, the art of Villas displays unrefined yet lush imagination. He proudly confesses he does not suffer from any lack of self-esteem or does not longs for the company for other artists brought about by his lack of a fine arts diploma. Even in Angono where he is based, in this highly artistic small town of Botong Francisco with a living school of more self-taught artists inspired by his apprentices, Villas still remains an outsider. Never mind it was just a mere coincidence that the Villas had decided to find a studio there for his art practice.  

The Novelist, Oil on Canvas 48 x 36 inches, 2012
Fond of that sentimental old world charm, it was that endangered yet functional typewriter, smacked right on an intense man’s head in The Novelist that got me interested to write about Villas. How this haggard-looking mustached man with his bloodshot eyes contemplates the viewer, compelling him to stare some more in the process. One immediately notices the rough texture of Villas’ brushstrokes, devoid of any of that Photoshop application commonly used these fast paced days. The viewer is further drawn deeper to his playground of metaphors: how Villas hands you the perspective, leaving you how to come up with your own version of such hopscotch narrative. A unicorn evoking attention while a castle of a bygone era looms. Given their desperate stance are the lovers who are about to part ways? And with time against their side, the option to escape as imposed by the hot air balloon remains to be the only spurious option. Their only moment is now.

More than decorative in intent, Villas uses symbols so well, functioning like some guide you that hint as how to conjure up with your perspective of the story. 

Mr. Brightside, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 36 inches, 2012
Art writer Philip Paraan who wrote on Villas one-man exhibition at the Galerie Anna (where most of these pieces were hanged) commented that these artworks “as vessels of thought, his paintings evoke hope and the intention to find beauty and harmony in chaos. This artist has been known to paint lush and detailed compositions, at times remarked to be even too detailed if not lacking focus or what others would say, an image overload. But such is the visual gambit that Villas embraces, to achieve a dynamic spread and dispersion in unity where all elements can be focal at any given time.”   

Mr. Brightside seems to be the perfect painting for this season of joy and hope. In fact Villas volunteers to infect you with his luminous message of positivity. Villas adds: Clear sight, happy inside, I am Mr. Bright side. Part of my process is to just keep painting as my thoughts flash with images from dreams. With the smiling face with a butterfly for an eye in front of you one explores various icons that is close to the subject matter i wanted. It is like connecting to the audience, like surprising 
someone by showing your face.

Feria, Oil on Canvas.48 x 36 inches, 2013 
Placing third at the Art Association of the Philippines National Art Competition in 2009 made Villas decide to be a full-time painter. He was also finalist in this year’s Tanaw: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas National Painting Competition with his work Feria (Latin for "free day").

Feria, as part of the fiesta, is his tribute to this dying culture of honoring the patron saints of towns. Villas realized: art as a wonderful blessing that is delightful to share. I might say that I'm just telling stories in a visual manner however I'm not a preacher. All I want for people is to see my stories. It will be a delight if people will find something essential in my works.

Oftalmologo is an example of that he has what comprises as “three stars and the sun” sentiment. Having some sense of history induced in this piece while displaying his usual take at various levels of interpretations. A wall-bound Jose Rizal field trip if you may, everything you need to know in a capsule: The feathered plume with his writings, the crocodile reference in his novel El Filibusterismo, the soup heater (not lamp as others claim) where his Huling Paalam was safely kept, the love of his life. As an ophthalmologist, he is also a figurative seer of our nation’s future. On this day of his martyrdom, Villas piece philosophically asks where are we in seeing the vision of what Rizal saw.

Like a reverend soul trapped in a 31 year old body, Villas who is the eldest in a brood of five from Quezon province, considers his depictions to be his longings. The layered images on top his main subjects are “his thoughts out loud.” He volunteers to add: I will always wonder about works of Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo. Magic comes in appearance of daubs and slashes of paints in raw, loaded with emotions. In painting manner I'm respect tradition. Meanwhile, Salvador Dali sparks confidence in me in letting my dreams out.

Oftalmologo, Oil on Canvas. 48 x 24 inches, 2012
Reviewing the works of Villas the science writer Philip Jose Farmer comes to my mind. Farmer had his Riverworld series where he would often interlude real personalities like Mozart, Jack London met with his fictional characters in another world. Remember this was started in the 70s thus it was political, pleasurable and personal (even Farmer was there in his stories). A critic said it was “theology, pornography in an adventure.” Think Sir Richard Burton meeting Mark Twain. Like Farmer, the possibilities are without boundaries and Villas is just warming up.

Paraan unravels some more for Villas: His emblematic game purposely rearranges, in a playful and curious way, images and themes with known and immediate references showing his penchant for jolting images with such flexibility. His canvases produce such mingling of elements and understated juxtapositions that usually transcend time and boundaries and even cultural affinities as if they refuse to stay in their domain and normal associations. With his consistent mutation of usage and context in symbols, he seems to acts against the mechanistic way of seeing and representation but in the end results in with terrific cumulative energies and awe. Like a steady flowing stream, his art he could sound the mind’s dark depths more subtly than would the overtly grotesque and disturbing juxtapositions.

Villas explains more on his process: Creating a piece is a form of meditation for me. Every work is like a journal but not all of them are my own stories, but extract of my observation. Images around are symbols. I don't consider them as support, but they are the essence and the heart of the piece. It is a challenge for me to put together symbols that most of the time people may find irrelevant and image overload. One goal in my composition is to find harmony over chaos.

In the midst of burgeoning art fairs and biennales where art concepts literally occupy spaces in a room, there seems to be a lack discourse and discussing much about two-dimensional paintings. The belief that a canvas can still sum up one’s thoughts is still startling and quite comforting. This untrained yet skillful should we say “craftsman” like Villas, whatever he lacked in acquired rudiments in the classroom, he very well make up with the forcefulness of his brushstrokes with organic originality.


Native Son: Santiago Bose

Santi Bose, 1981. Photo by Wig Tysmans

“In the Philippines, we cannot have the luxury of frivolity but as artists we have to make art that expresses our concerns, needs, and aspirations. Otherwise, part of our deepest self will be irretrievably lost and art itself will become empty of meaning.”

                                                                   Santiago Bose 
                                                                   (July 25, 1949 -- December 3, 2002)

(click on the photo to read the obituary by Alison Carroll in Artlink)


Selfies by Jeff Salon

| Jay Bautista
A theme very close to his heart since he started holding up his brushes, Jeff Salon takes up the cause of children not more than fifteen years old, comprising more than forty percent of our population, those who have been either neglected at home, sexually abused, victims of armed conflict, deeply involved in gangs in schools. Focusing on their welfare, done in his unique realist hues, these sordid portraits comprise Salon’s first solo exhibition whimsically entitled Nice and Naughty.

Hazard Ground, 2013. Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 48 inches.

Evoking obvious intensity, everyone knows the story behind Hazard Ground however we seem too hard to admit. Unable to flee the countryside marred by war, the young boy is forced by circumstance to mature and be actively involved in the propagation of its futility of violence. Depending on its root causes, be it political, racial or religious, hatred has already gone deep through generations – his grandfather died for it, his father invited him to it, then the boy, out of his familial obligation takes up the cudgels – all in the name of payback revenge. Grim as grime, Salon whose fondness for texture, purposely riddled the canvas by bullets unable to control the anguish and despair that has befallen the once innocent boy. Signifying his own life’s loss, as the prime of his youth is being stolen from him, a glaring infra-red is aimed at him with his generation -- as the targeted victims like the previous generation before them. Close to 50,000 children are displaced in armed conflict every year, one reason why Salon has also advocated the total banning of firearms as toys. No one can tell the difference. However Salon insists that hope still looms as a subliminal peace sign hovers emphatically on the picture.

Chasing Boundaries, 2103. Oil on Canvas, 79 x 72 inches.
Fourth among a brood of seven, Salon had public school teachers for his parents. Thus stressing in them the value for hard work and education, however Salon’s hometown is too small for the competitive spirit in him. Growing up in Calabanga, Camarines Sur, a daily ritual for Salon happens every late afternoon. Like clockwork, he would go up their rusty roof and stare at the big sky and patiently wait for the sun to set. Considering more like God affirming His signature at the end of the day He has created, Salon is so amazed as that there was never the same sunset ever since. Even astronomers have scientifically studied this phenomenon time and again. Not until the stars are in full bloom and out for their nightly performance will Salon come down for supper.

Chasing Boundaries is a product of this contemplative daily routine during dusk. Probably the most personal piece in this collection as Salon always had big bold dreams of making it in the city. Always the optimist, life’s aspirations come in the form of this hopeful child whose hands clasp in anticipation. This autobiographical piece captured many of his wishes in the list of life worth depicting: the need for speed in being a motocross rider, adventurer who perennially roams around town either heading by the beach after class or to visit an old artist and listens to his philosophy in life and art. 

Notice his fondness for boats be it the old galleon ship or the simple paper one, Salon longs to see other worlds that someday he knows he will conquer. Related to this longing for travel are the constant birds in flight etched as textures on his paint’s surface. Aesthetically this graphic handle represents his quest for freedom for his art and for his country. Part of his creative tableaus are his shooting or falling stars that gently remind him of his dreams and how far he has gone from that roof while looking up to them.

Children are anything but children these days and Salon has been visual in narrating their dismal tales some kept stubbornly silent to themselves. One of Salon’s pet peeve is someone who oppresses fellows even at their young age. Untamed reports of a disturbed kid who secretly bullies other kids. This bully will eventually will be the next thug to become a menace to the society. In showing his defiance, this bullied kid, with all the hurt being inflicted in him words and in his ripening body, gathers strength to lash out his tongue out claiming this as his own small victory. Translation: you may have hurt me but my spirit is intact. Featured turning his back against the viewer, Salon traces this bully’s values may have been corrupted by the current context of his society – the videos he imbibed in himself, the save-the-earth films his father watches in the only television at home. Salon even believes that unconsciously the parents become the bully’s first bullies as they themselves call him names at home or display the attitude of the very physical violence that hurt them to hurt others. Coating it as a sign of love, unknown to parents tolerating this kind of dysfunctional behavior in them would be more harmful in the future. Sometimes reciprocating their negligence in the guise for just being playful or “because they are kids, let them be.”

Little Swan, 2013. Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 24 x 16 inches.
Little Swan seeks to capture a young girl’s imagination beyond her Barbie dolls and teen celebrity idols. As one’s childhood is such a short season, it is fleeting enough for a girl without ambitions. Like a woman without children, could it be the promise of contemporary of the internet or some future perfection in the digital games suppress it? 
Salon is old school, believing in the power of painting as a loaded two-dimensional piece being bound for the wall. Not only for their practicality, accessibility and maximizing space, its single view focus still works, drawing up attention that remains effective and habitual no matter how fast the modern times can be. A master in composition, a monochrome rendition of the characters that make up his image, he emphatically draws up the main selfie of the child in sharp and not stark in likeness. Rendering it in layered yet playful appearance.  

Similar to the one in Beyond Vision, where the bigger profile covers his face with his hands, signaling the viewer that we should not tolerate wrong doings by adults. Just because children are small and naïve doesn’t mean they are not smarter than us.

Television has become the post modern baby sitter as Nice and Naughty series deals with the influences like media and how there is a dire need for alternative education that would help children adapt to change. It would seem biological that no child is capable of speech until he has heard of other human beings speak, or even formed a language without the help of communication from his family. Thus these three paintings address how children’s perception is being influenced by current practice by music, family dynamics and current surroundings. It was revealed in a study that watching television for children there is no delineation from the main shows and the advertisements in between them. Everything is one long uninterrupted viewing. The regular noontime show could be extended with a laundry soap commercial. Hence a ten-year old may realize that laundry is vital component for say, national development, so are the other fast food chains, loaning in banks, and even Kris Aquino’s shampoo.

Beyond Vision, 2013. Oil and Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 36 inches.

Ironically, seeing the depth of these portrayals, Salon hopes that by viewing his works one is reminded of one’s happy childhood whenever they may be. That these children are not our children as Kahlil Gibran has said, “but of life’s constant longing for itself.” 
Nice and Naughty is Jeff Salon’s ongoing first solo exhibition as part of the tenth anniversary celebration of Nineveh Artspace in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.