BY JAY BAUTISTA |
Oftentimes to espouse the contemporary, artists painstakingly create alternate realities of their own making. From organic cast of subjects, to ethereal settings, even backing them up with personal myths and mythologies as main narratives. Tunok by Michael Delmo pursues this direction and attests to his belief in an enchanted inner vision wrought by fantastical creatures in eerie landscapes.
Growing up in Iloilo, Delmo was already exploring these anthropomorphic characters in high school. He remembers filling up his notebooks with these spontaneous drawings with sheer delight. One time, an obviously disappointed teacher, in fact, threw the notebook in disgust when she saw Delmo’s renderings instead seeing of academic notes.
The first thing one would normally wonder in a Delmo piece is how well he does it. He is by nature an initiator—wanting to be a trailblazer on his own, away from their conventional modes of mixing paints. With no drawing reference, he usually draws from his subconscious straight to an inviting blank white canvas. He does not yet know the image but he knows what it is all about. Delmo uses Hiligaynon words as titles in expounding his world-view. In explaining further, Delmo supposedly feels relief for every concept finished off on canvas—a figurative pierced thorn is taken out of his worries—like an unloaded burden off his back.
Delmo has even invented his own paint brushes, sourcing them from discarded chicken feathers. Depending on their application they satisfy his precise brushstrokes and translate his bespoke iconographies. Although his visual style is homegrown he remains to be authentic despite the current art practice today that has evolved into a coy and crass creative exercise.
Delmo’s realism counters the traditional genres for it to redefine itself into new actualities in its own right. It adheres to that old school of eye to hand skill in service of the imagination. Often eschewing the banal and sacred, it defies fixation with the tested norms. Looking up to his fellow Ilonggo artists as influences, practicing art in the peripheries has taught Delmo new and fresh perspectives he has conceptualized with his own distinct and evocative expressions. As if enlightening the viewer, Tunok is striking for its diversity and spontaneity—a performance on canvas. It has no shared style or desired intentions yet a common thread persists that individually he is capable of imagination and commitment to the craft. His paintings are organically breathing, ethereally impermanent and continues to grow on you--long after seeing the exhibition.
Tunok by Michael Delmo was the culminating exhibit of his three-month stay at the Artletics' 22 Narra Residency Program. It was held at the Tagaytay Contemporary.