23.11.16

Fernando Ramos: As Ethereal as Painting

BY JAY BAUTISTA

Tall Tarlac Tales: Recent Works of Herrera, Ramos and Yokte

(Second of Three Parts)
 

Mind Disaster
Fernando Ramos has dealt with his everyday musings in the most ethereal manner. Through his visual style as evident in these recent works, he skims through various stories applying appropriate metaphors in them.   
Done in vertical monolith they are equally divided into two parts. The upper portion the materiality dictates whatever mood Ramos is in depending on what he perceives. Ramos believes artists were blessed with talents as they have a responsibility to perform in society. Facilitating 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; combining figurative with his abstraction.

His paintings are also sensuous variations of collective narratives, memories and dreams. Veering to the contemplative, each color contemplates on hindrances and trials. 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.
Her Music Lives On


Her Music Lives On Series are tributes to a departed mother, musician, artist and  friend. Though her life ended, she still remains to be an inspiration among people who shared her life with. Her existence is a symbolical representation of freedom, happiness and beauty. The combination of flower petals, piano keys, umbrella, sunrise and her silhouette narrates who she is. Her music lives on as her spirit continued to guiding Ramos of becoming a great person and artist.

Similar to Herrera, Ramos favors using that circular motion going on and depending on it could mean often equated with the ongoing struggle as an artist. Ramos often uses that circular motion going on which could represent the and depending on it could mean often equated with. Ramos themes run through the autobiographical and the social repercussions marked by constant interaction with people he interacts.

A Ramos canvas usually starts with dots, endless point by point rendition displaying persistence and insistence of something must be done. The swirling circular lines with modeling paste with course. Then color form figure. Ramos strength is his being a colorist often associating them with the emotions of his subjects. Staples are red, oranges, metallic gold and silver.

Cyber Magdalene Series is a black and white depiction of a new trending way of life among prostitutes. It’s the women's anatomy that spoils man's eye as they sell their naked bodies online a picture of immorality and moral degradation among women making this easy money making job.   

An old favorite theme of Ramos is clowns as in The Entertainer Series. These are portraits of a woman who chose to be an entertainer like a clown that is capable of playing one's emotion. Imparting short moment of happiness to people and sometimes selling their own flesh in exchange of money, behind those smiles concealed the loneliness they felt inside their heart. Some people consider them scented rags as plague of society--sharing their addictive beauty among men who are teased by their smell like a wild flower.

Always the hopeful as seen in the silver aluminum strings, Ramos believes in second chances and that we should make do of what we have before everything is gone. The Last String Series are about man's loneliest days spent with his strings. His chords longs for serendipity. A narrative of love and despair, music is played though there is coldness of his voice whispered in the inevitable. Though his last strings he is saving his high hopes that one day will find another reason to love and stay.

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. The hardest part is the layering and coursing with texture.

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.   
Burn Out Series
Burn out Series is a combination of rusty and golden color. Our naïve minds become filthy because of constant exposure to struggles in life. No matter how brilliant we are we have our limitations. These series are the most evocative, a picture of psychological stress, haunted by man’s emotional and mental exhaustion.it reflects the feeling of failure to gain balance resulting to a total wreck and havoc on human health. A burning fire of consistent depression and destruction that disturbs human brain, it is a portrait of a human condition suffering from getting emotionally tired and numb.

Not all are serious and political for Ramos. As one becomes hardened through time as seen in the stone finish, one still clings to that someone as seen in Hopeless Romantic Series. It narrates man's voiceless inner self, unable to express what and how he feels. He often imagines that he plays a saxophone and serenading. his music pampers visual imagery of his ideal woman—a life live in world of fantasy and a sound of romance indulge within his imagination. Rose petals add mush to the already decorated setting.
Hopeless Romantic Series
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.

11.11.16

Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry


Tall Tarlac Tales: Recent Works of Herrera, Ramos and Yokte
Jay Bautista

(First of three parts) 
Ginintuang Pangarap Series

Among the proud eight rays of the Philippine sun in our flag Tarlac has always been at the forefront of our socio-political and economic history. With its strategic geographic location it is now has a unique place given the expressways and nearness to Clark, which is projected to be a bustling green city of the future.

Most of the time Tarlac is simply relegated as a mere stopover to eat or take a leak on your way up to the North; for most people it is that long stretch of McArthur Hi-way or mostly Hacienda Luisita. Despite the concrete structures, dams and floodway dikes, the city is bland as the lahar desert remnant of the Mt. Pinatubo fury of 1991. Compared to nearby provinces Tarlac has more artists and practitioners than all the artists in the north combined. Having the only fine arts institution, it is also home to award winning artists and art practitioners. Yet it is void of art spaces as venues of the art reflecting the soul of its community.


With the bareness of the physical and cultural landscape the disparity in life can be from within. This is where Bukal intervenes as it deems to create that critical dialogue of what is Tarlac for those who wish to be part of the conversation. Bukal meaning “boiling or in the verge of something,” in the local parlance, three artists step up the plate and offer some of the purest and relevance expressions emanating here.

Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry

Anatomy has always been the true test for an artist; how well versed he draws parts of the human body to every viewer’s appreciation or fellow artists’ respect. How he uses this skill to his advantage marks his brilliance. Judeo Herrera could have easily given to the lure of enticing erotica or commercial portraiture to his advantage however he chose to paint only the essentials—face, arms and limb--contextualizing them in a quagmire of fiery pegs against the repeating cycle of poverty of the spirit. With these images he captures the purest emotions in a visual style simulating the figurative with the textured abstract.

No Way Out
One could easily get unease or even slighted in Herrera pieces. In his Bukal Series, he focused on the face as the foreground of deep sadness, anger and anguish. For Herrera knows his timing and rhythm well like a director on cue he captures the moment, the turning point his subjects who at the brink of emotion, at the brim of madness and frustration in a fitting release. Without beginning or end we are led to a hypnotic whirlpool of desperation in Lulong, anxiety in Aaahh and even eminent death 
such as  


Hand Gesture Series
Huling Hantungan. No Way Out is a brutal climax that initiated from isolation and rootlessness. How the eyes shut by instinct with the hand shaped liked a gun pointed at one’s crown of consciousness. Even without sound one could hear the wailing of this hapless mother in Tama na, Sobra Na.  

Herrera starts by creating his textured base. The endless swirl of the background it is the abstraction that dictates the emotion. The intensity of his swirl, against banality of stainless gray of one’s soul, there is no beginning and ending, one could get tangled in deeply rooted helplessness.  

His brilliance lies in his astounding compositions and color combination he aptly calls the colorless soul. The colorless soul is Herrera’s take on how inner being responds to challenges. What emanates is a bluish flesh-and-bone belief of no local color. Despite the prevalence of hyperrealism Herrera abhors soft peach-like skin choosing to do it on his own steel-like colors connoting toughness and fearless numbed by what life throws at us. 

Tama Na, Sobra Na
Evoking bluish in hue a sense of solitude and serenity suggesting inner emotions, Herrera expresses his ideas and narratives in his use of figures and matching textures and gestural strokes. The warm fiery colors in the background suggest intense burning sensations, waiting and wanting to burst out.   

Honed by continuous craft and versed with experience among his art students, Herrera commands respect. If Bukal Series is pure angst then Ginintuang Panaginip Series sooth the tired battered spirit. It is Herrera’s song of redemption the calming effect exudes of better things to come. For simple folks living in the province sleep could represent many things, it is a fitting reward after a hard day’s work. It could be the act of dreaming something big. When one is golden it could mean of value.




Ginintuang Pangarap Series
For Herrera sleep is a temporary refuge and a way to momentarily escape life’s reality. One’s sleep is a blessing for we have equanimity when we are able to reset our body for the next day’s offering. We envy an infant's slumber which is a golden moment where there are no complications of the world around him. Our aspirations are often our dreams and in this refuge we somehow experience our heart's desire, yearning for that volatile false euphoria.

The intensity of his swirl is again reflected against banality in Hand Gesture Series.
Without uttering a word, even in its minutest detail, gestures convey the message in its fullest form. Certain movements suggest specific emotions. The sense of touch has a very strong psychological power that it directly impact our feelings; it can suggest a variety of sensation like a simple tap on the shoulder that tells you “well done” ; a warm hug that tells you “ I care”; an open palm that suggests “I need help” and many other. In fact the clenched fist showing solidarity has helped our current president simplify his cause for the needs of the Filipino people.   

Bukal is ongoing at the Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac.

21.10.16

Brothers Alarcon: Four Play

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

The need to understand the contemporary practice in Philippine art has always been the burden of the young. Emphatic assortment of paints mixed on top of one another made are more evident by their predominant metaphors as reflected in their experimental yet distinct, confident yet sensitive brushstrokes.
The Alarcon Brothers 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 brothers as visual artists have already shown potential by exhibiting in the local galleries and have also been recognized in national art competitions for their promising visual language and in finding novel approaches in painting.

Terminus by Luke Alarcon
Luke Alarcon
A melancholic Luke has the soul of an old master--well versed with the ways of the Renaissance. Depicting subjects that are of the 16th to18th century Western iconology, barely in his teens he has the makings of a fine painter on canvas. Luke favors the silent yet haunting pieces marked by loudest gobs of paint, like a smear target on the wall. His colors evoke European charm yet these are silent, sensitive rants of a budding contemporary artist desperate to his persistence in adhering to this visual style.


Mind you his paintings do not ridicule the masters long gone rather they pay tribute to painting as a social commentary. Against the advent of superfluous technology, Luke further hones his artistry by dwelling on long forgotten patterns of a beautiful forgotten epoch. 


Ejem Alarcon 

Ejem vividly remembers sketching at the back of cigarette cartons trucks passing through their makeshift food stall at the pier where his father manages a canteen. A choleric by nature, he is not fond of copying images. He recreates by recreating his own, so his trucks would have different shapes of the wheel or color of their bodies. 

The Return of Napoleon by Ejem Alarcon
He continues his defiance to this norm by deforming what has been persisting in his memory. Having worked as a graphic artist for seven years, his iconography have always been rooted in the comic in popular culture. Now a full-time painter he applies this perspective to his chosen themes such as period images which he appropriates with his own visual style.


Starting off by having a period image as base then once complete as if overturning the process, he splatters colors or work around the image he favors. After the expressionist nature of this under painting he then deciphers what revision will emerged eventually dictating the current themes of his thoughts. 







Disoriented by Aldrine Alarcon





Aldrine Alarcon 


Inspired by their eldest brother Ejem, Aldrine followed his footsteps by leading a full time painter. He found his own path by weaving paint in its purest form leaving most of the canvas untended for the viewer to figure. Such respect to perspective as he illustrates people in an almost abstract form dominates much of Aldrine’s works. As he freshly dabbles into non-representational rendition, glimpses of figures still forebode further inducing more layers to thicken the plot typifying confidence within overall meaning of his images.  


Phlegmatic as his choice of colors coalesce his ever-changing moods sometimes too heavy eliciting texture in capturing its weariness. The reserved blank space becomes part of the canvas exuding more ethereal experience than usual. Whatever whiteness becomes the full picture that whimsically deals directly with his emotions. 


Didier Alarcon

A nocturnal yet sanguine Didier engages deep into nostalgia by waxing realism on abandoned or deserted localities marked by alienation reminiscent of Edward Hopper strokes. Often devoid of people, he simplifies pavements sometimes recalling childhood memories with only the stark glow of lights as characters. It could lonely yet these places persistently exist.


With a plethora of artists painting people, their absence in his works seems as a visual critique thrives in an abundance of newly found expressions on how these emerging artists look at themselves and their communities.
Nowadays by Didier Alarcon

LEAD is as literal as literary resistance of 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, their 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 of their art intensifies. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of these brothers, their personal to randomly induced varied perceptions are commendable.

LEAD encourages critical dialogue between the discriminating tastes of the patronizing public with the creative ambition of these four brother-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 four hopeful bright directions, they devote 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, as in their case oil (paint) is thicker than blood.

14.9.16

Bagahe: Art as Remittance

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

Agam-Agam by Chris Inton, Oil on Canvas, 2016.
In 1906, fifteen Filipinos from Ilocos Sur were recruited to work as pineapple pickers in Hawaii starting what would be known as the Philippine diaspora purposely migrating around the world today. Either alone or with family in tow--for family, money, pride, or some as simple as fulfilling a dream of being on an airplane--more than 3,000 of our countrymen depart our airports every day, year after year, for more than hundred years now.
Forming part of the amalgam of 10 million Filipinos sprawling worldwide, sparsely positioned Filipinos work in some of the most difficult, obscure and time consuming industries that test their skills and commitment for other people’s progress and welfare. As doctors, physical therapists, nurses, IT professionals, engineers, architects, technicians, teachers and seafarers whatever complicated, dirty, nitty gritty job for the taking, a kababayan is there. 

Fragile by Oliver Menor, Mixed Media on Canvas
Bagahe is our ongoing collective story in an adapted/adopted land. 


Gathering some of the more promising visual artists in Singapore Bagahe is both call and a reply. At a time when newly induced Philippine pride is spreading around the world emanating from sports, beauty pageants, art biennales and that recent premier episode Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Bagahe foretells our unkempt and honed tales from this cosmopolitan city—ironies, maladies, and drudgeries. Singapore as a context affects their artistry can both be conflicting and liberating. To imbibe a sense of artistic urge within the confines of strict and contained art practice.

Sayed Alwi by Dario Bunyi Tibay, Oil on Canvas, 2016

The dilemma of the personal and the social ensues and further entangles intertwining at the top of the heads of Filipinos as it dangles like a sword of Damocles awaiting its fateful fall. Agam agam by Chris Inton affirms this predicament: if I leave there would be trouble, and if I stay it would be double. So come on, let me know. As it was then, it is instinct that one leaves the comfortable habitats for greener pastures. Sacrificing one’s self, the promise of a better future for one’s family cannot be resisted. To buy that home for our parents who restlessly rented all their lives; to purchase that land your family have been tilling in the hopes of not paying its lease for our forebears. To send our children to the best education in the fervent wish that they will have their own business for you to return back home. The rope in the canvas exemplifies our strength and resilience, our bondage and our continuing struggle for survival is highlighted in Fragile by Oliver Menora. He adds: separated from our families and our roots, we are fragile in a foreign country. We are like blank canvases hoping for brighter images for our lives.

Outsider by Jasmin Orosa, Mixed Media on Canvas

Residing temporarily in a foreign abode remains the toughest challenge for an OFW as he feels more than an expatriate. Acculturation must draw first blood. Such is the message of Sayed Alwi by Dario Bunyi Tibay. Comparing the OFWs as earth-bound astronauts, they acclimatize themselves and bring their “environment” to where they are.
 

Bagahe is what one acquires from one’s current stay. Loaded with real experience, all preconceived notions are met with blank wall or canvas in this instance. Outsider by Jasmin Orosa is such. Meticulously done wherein one's forehead is marked by emotions and sentiments. Her right hand ached by labors. Left hand throbs from deflecting blows. Shoulders ready to carry more loads. Although not all are lucky, some comeback shortly after sudden eclipse of homesickness, others will never use the luggage they brought when they departed their hometown.
Mindscapes by Wilfredo Calderon, Watercolor on Paper




Bagahe could well be that one inimitable luxurious artistic baggage. It is what you bring to your point of destination from your point of origin—culture, perspective and memory. Mindscapes (Memories of My Childhood) by Wilfredo Calderon is about memories from his youth. It depicts his childhood and all the things that he loved and how he used to play with nature as my playground. Most of these artworks took as much time as when he first got in Singapore.



Strawberry Road in My Mind by Noel Rosales best captures everyone’s sentiment. Orchard Road is both a representation of the tension for both affluence and conflict. People don’t realize the void of incomes passing just through them—from employers to their loved ones in Manila. It is a struggle to keep sanity and dignity intact. Before you know it, it’s time to go home.

 
Strawberry Road in My Mind by Noel Rosales, Acrylic on Canvas

Unlike their obliged regular remittances to their mother country, just once this Bagahe is going back to them. 












Bagahe is ongoing at the De Suantio Gallery at Singapore Management University. School of Economics, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore. Exhibit runs until September 16.


Initiated in 2007 SininGapor Art Collective is composed of writers, graphic designers, and artists from the Lion City. Bagahe is their fifth group exhibition.

3.9.16

Becoming BenCab

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

I.
Epiphany for an artist not only comes when he has finally found his distinct visual style, it could also be the creative fruition of that long and arduous process of studying his purpose and experimentation; of being exposed and imbibing his contemporaries and the contemporariness in interpreting the sheer realities he evolves himself in.

For Benedicto Cabrera there were dual epiphanies. First when he was 22 years old. Seeing from his window a hungry scavenger woman named Sabel coming into their house in Bambang begging for food. The downtrodden would be his muse that would haunt his canvases in the next succeeding years. Second will be five years after when Cabrera was 27 years old living in London. Appropriated Souls seeks to investigate how both artistic approaches evolved for Philippine painter who would one day be a National Artist.

II.
With nationalist sentiments seeping through the economy as reflected by the Filipino First policy by the government, the Sixties was a time when much of Philippine art catered to all that is positive, promising and progressive as well. The trend cascaded bright candy-colored palette that appealed to collectors and the dictates of First Lady Imelda Marcos favoring artists such as Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Botong Francisco and Vicente Manansala. It was in this temperament that the struggling Cabrera creatively countered his influences by churning out dark and macabre hues depicting his Sabel. To even highlight the moment he would signing his artworks as BenCab so as not to confuse with the other Cabreras who also painted that time.

The earliest Sabels (‘67) in this retrospective were rendered raw and muddy in earth tones, same as the Sabel in the greasy-stained flesh that inspired them. Abandoned by her husband during the war, Sabel would scorch around the streets of Manila in search of love and affection. She would find warmth lying in the warm asphalt and in the artificial embrace of garbage bags that wrapped around her filthy body. Transfiguring her mental state into another even higher realm, Cabrera captured them in hasty, haphazard strokes, layering them in a certain box manner, typical of Cabrera’s future oeuvres.

Cabrera’s early Sabels were protest in composition and rebellion in themes altogether. She seemed ghoulish in her morena skin and her deranged manor relegated her in a corner of his canvas. Cabrera found her beauty by bringing further her chaos and squalor. The transparencies of plastic in induced motion enabled his virtuosity in paints.

Succeeding Sabels would be rendered adept with the often changing and confusing times. As mad woman to geisha, from mother country to commercial model for an international watch company; rendered in its initial brute style to abstract expressionist; from the social realist to the minimalist tendencies to its most recent done in her most abstract form with only gray and red lines dictating her silhouette.

Sabel epitomized our deeper longing for emancipation, as her poverty was our own negligence. Almost unforgiven she seems like the last muse one can immortalize on canvas yet Cabrera has rescued her from oblivion and continues to recast her from memory.

Cabrera would stretch, appropriate, and even reinvent her in whatever homage thereafter. He was as mad to his methods as her. Cabrera jazzes her up from year 2000 onwards as she would eventually be glamourized and commercialized like Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. The abstraction that she was in the early depiction would be lesser gothic but more of the confident in strokes and finer still in meaning as earth hues became red, pink, and black. She will be asked to be painted over and painted off to accommodate her variation. The line is long and the price is high to pay.

III.

The second epiphany came late 60s, in an antiquarian shop in London. Somewhat an exile, one could imagine the long haired and bespectacled Cabrera passing his time in that long stretch of Beauchamp or Portobello Road, wrought in deep nostalgia for home, rummaging 19th century images of our identity in old prints, maps, Spanish colonial Philippines. Reminiscent of one’s roots these early Filipinos were seen as other photographer’s lenses.


It is also in this wing that one rekindles Cabrera’s first major style called Larawan series in the early 70s. He used these images in his unique mixture of photorealism, linear drawing and broad colorful strokes that has become his trademark visual style.

Larawan series appropriates not just old period photos but a reclaiming of our common struggles as a people; of having been perceived differently like being robbed of our identity by foreign authors in the promulgation of the exotic in their books. Cabrera’s appropriated images are like bringing home at a part of ourselves and its reclaimed iconography on the canvas.

Larawan seeks to reclaim what was lost in contracting colonial translation. Cabrera's does further justice by overturning the power relations against our colonial interlude. Mestizas garbed in turn of the century tipos del pais, rustic men clad in Barong, bare footed period vendors. More than documenting the period they are virtual character studies. His men are dignified such as Master Servant and Illustrado.

Cabrera’s women have often been the more potent force in displaying his artistic gravitas. In Woman in Flight 1976 a mist of yellow is violated with dash of red over an image of a sturdy female. Often we would see them as submissive yet Cabrera’s reference of her image he salvages by confidently violating them in a single bold stroke often of contrasting color. Her women and children may just be sitting yet up not down. Such as in Two Mestizas (2000) or Filipinas (2004) they are to choose his favorite word, defiant. His women are abled with fans, some vending clay pots, winnowing baskets, and fruits yet they their stance is dissenting and dignified. 

Appropriate Souls dwells into how an artist has appropriately responded at unexpected moments in his respective time such the spontaneity of Sabel and formalities of Larawan.

Cabrera’s brilliance lies in his war against clichés in art. He fights them in sordid manner, rebelling against any form of formality be it in color or line. At a time when formal genre prevailed you had his images haunting you long after you have seen this show.

25.8.16

Ricky Ambagan: Keeping The Faith

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

Believers
Recent news about this 12-year old Taiwanese school boy accidentally punching a hole on a displayed 17th century Baroque masterpiece by Paulo Porpora went viral. The incident caused uproar both among museum-goers and netizens alike, even the child’s parents initially run aghast.
Visual artist Ricky Ambagan too reacted profusely to the news item. Considering himself with a talent with paints, Ambagan confesses however that painting is the only thing he is good at. The obvious result is what now comprises this exhibition Restored at the Gallery Anna. 
Extending further his disillusionment with whatever is going-on around him Ambagan untangles, entangles and closely draws reactions to what he thought were other bygone privileges of Philippine low life. A realist such as Ambagan, whose broad strokes lean on the downtrodden and suffering many, it is the very task of an artist to evaluate current events and even comment on what seems to be the missing pieces in the good society equation or perishing values in our midst. For Ambagan an occurrence that involves a million dollar masterpiece has never been a mundane activity. It triggered him to create (or recreate) parallel realities as a way of positively reacting that inspires ideal situations.

Secret Garden
Enabling curiosity in the form of a red blanket, each piece has a child peeking behind the scene. Reclaiming his future, he forebodes whatever would be the directions to his visions of the possible. Believer does this and more, it is a performance on canvas. Composed in a theater-like tableau, children are caught up in a stance of claiming what is theirs. Elevated on a labyrinth of confusion and quagmire, truth came in the form of an eagle signifies purity in purpose. In a dark realm with an awaiting ember, a bright lucient approaches them, capturing the favored moment that would and should turn the tide for them.


A recurring theme for Ambagan is his credence in reading for emancipation. His shelves replete with books as settings for learning are obvious with lamps complimenting the uplifting of the spirits. Such as in Secret Garden where flying lanterns abound layering with their connoted meanings. A tiny glimmer of hope could transform and lit up more lives in one’s constant search for the truth. A father of three, Ambagan even uses his children as his models, staking his seriousness to his advocacy to education.
 

Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee
Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee is reminiscent of his earlier works and a continuation of his evolving visual style. There is always a subtle or subdued pun on most of Ambagan’s pieces. His fixation with flight stems from his being often it is in their endless pursuit for survival. Everything is fleeting as everyone floats in an Ambagan piece though occupied in their own portals unmindful how we are all interrelated and affected by the actions of our neighbors.
   
As if possessed in gravity, his images happen in a dark realm, emphatic on concise behavior such as in Unsinkable. Some light may glow but none are of the glitzy or artificial kind. Uncommon to other paintings, there seems to be an uncertain sound to his paintings. An eerie feeling wraps the viewer when confronted with his works. 





Fountain of Youth





Obviously the most haunting piece is Fountain of Youth, which is a memento mori to start with. We are all passers-by and impermanent like the butterfly. Done in hauntingly smooth strokes, at one moment you have a full life ahead of you the next one you are beset with nothing. One must know the value of true existence before acquiring or even grasping the essence of life. Ambagan does fine rendering in clearly define composition.


Restored
Composed poetically like magic realism, commendable was his artistic technique; how he used the acrylic in the behavior oil paint is remarkable. His colors with mostly of the blue and orange palette are like hues of seeing the dawn. Some canvases even have artificially painted ripped canvas, a constant reminder for Ambagan of the 12-year old Taiwanese who triggered him. 
 


With more than a decade and a half in his art practice, Ambagan never tires of honing his brushstrokes like a devoted master of the craft. From the muddy distortion to the smooth ethereal, Ambagan professes his faith in painting.

Restored however may not bring back your belief in humanity. It may not even have that messianic feel or grand narrative we look for in an artwork. It will make your world a little brighter, less hopeful but more contemplative.
Ambagan toils as painter like clockwork office job. He still stretches his own canvases and usually in front of them come daybreak in whatever mood he will be. The truth about Ambagan is how he pulls us back to how painting should be. Even with Thomas doubting the resurrection of his Lord, with Restored every piece has now a resuscitated life on its own. Restored not only means “to fix what was broken” but to could be “as real” as where your imagination takes you.