Home is Where the Art Is


I See Them Bloom, 2017

 “Employing the air-brush technique in watercolor, he paints in a highly realistic, almost photographic style but situates it within a geometric scheme using multiple points of view.”
Art critic Alice Guillermo describing Rhythm of Cloth Production, Jaime Gubaton’s winning piece in ArtPetron National Student Art Competition in 2002.

If his first grand prize win in a national student art competition were to be his milestone, 36 year-old Jaime Gubaton has had a remarkable artistic journey for almost half of his life now.
It is quite appropriate for his third solo exhibition to be aptly titled Home as Gubaton waxes sentimental and dabbles into nostalgia by revisiting his past imaginative drives and employing these previous visual styles by painting them in a grand manner resulting in these recent works.  
Field of Dreams
For Gubaton, every painting undergoes a long and arduous process; every line, hue and a gesture on canvas applies with it time well-spent perfecting that approach. Style-wise, Gubaton considers himself a realist by tradition despite the prevalent expressionist tendencies of his contemporaries. Yet it still is his being a bygone romantic that they cannot imbibe. With his subdued colors reminiscent of earth tones in art nouveau strokes, Gubaton is an old soul dwelling in a city. As a quaint artist, he fondly surveys his surroundings and directly responds to his observations by his affection and distinct dabs of paint.
A literal going back to one’s sources, Home incorporates his gears, flowers and birds—be it pigeons, lovebirds, or maya-maya--in organic, endemic and substantial circumstances. Separately they seem iconic yet belonging together they morph into a new pictorial vocabulary by recombining them.

Gubaton depicts the images as realistic as possible--working at his bare graphical mode as an illustrator: a radiant face of a loved one be it his lovely wife or children surrounded emanating with beauty such as birds, flowers and butterflies, they are his constant testimonials to a life still worth existing.
Journey, 2017
Indulging in his iconography, ever the positive his gears slowly long for progress, as he counters the urban decay we have been slowly grinding into. His pigeons remind him when they used to live with his father-in-law who breeds them on the building rooftop. Balancing nature and technology, a striking image of these winged beauties perched on electric posts would win for Gubaton a place in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) in the Painting category; that nature maybe in peril but there is inherent goodness in all of us. Manila may still be noble and ever loyal despite its grim uncertainty abounded with shanties.
Gubaton’s color schemes mingle well with his Magrittean compositions. Depending on his theme, it is either predominantly gray or sepia in mood. He subdues his colors with preference to mixing complimentary colors in sync with his shy demeanor. Not straight from the tube, he is too familiar with the behavior of his paints. Sometimes he favors acrylic that is hard to do with oil and vice versa.  
I Say Hello, 2017
When the main subject has been rendered and dried up, he then adds the geometrical patterns, and fine linear renderings, although by definition he engages in them reminiscent of Arturo Luz.  A master in composition, his houses may even be inverted in topsy-turvy delight yet Gubaton is meticulous in locating their firm balance, even placing grids to situate them as he has always been highly conceptual and controlled in his metaphors.

Layers have been Gubaton’s trademark evident in his winning in ArtPetron and the DPC DPC Visual Arts Competition. They have always been there, it has been his one foot in the contemporary art scene, Enhancing his foreground by using shadows in his background he has heavily favored optical illusions like repeated refrains in a song.  
Charming titles reflect the timeless elegies Gubaton has crafted: For Your Eyes Only, Hello Sunshine and You Say Goodbye. He is ever pious not brash or harsh as viewed in his pieces. They evoke a domesticated feeling or a visual flow having a unified aesthetic presence integrated from its simple coherence of his oeuvre understood by the interplay of his experienced painting principles. Often mistaken as print because of its smoothness, he counters his brush technique textured (impasto) in acrylic yet he finishes in oil.
You Say Goodbye, 2017
Home is beyond stoic structures and spick and span surroundings, it is an amalgam resonating a semblance of family, security, and intimacy. It is induces comfort, belonging and harmony looking long and hard. It is Gubaton at his prowess as a painter; it is soft and sheer painting to the hilt. In Home, Gubaton has come full circle it is as if he never left.



De-defining of Danilo Dalena


During the opening night of his first retrospective at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) exhibition in 1990 artist Danilo Dalena (b.1942) was apprehended by security guards at the side entrance and was not allowed inside its premises. It was his wearing of his signature wooden clogs that caused his apprehension. In his usual quiet disposition, he kindly requested to contact Ms. Teresa Roxas for him. On the phone the then CCP President immediately apologized and personally welcomed him at the Main Gallery.

The irony of the incident defines/defies who Dalena and what his art means. Garbed as a native Filipino everyman he represents how society looks down at artists and how we materially relegate art in the words of Harold Rosenberg “mere wall-bound interior decoration.”

Like a rock star returning for an encore he replicates a more formidable second retrospective 26 years after in Last Full Show by filling up more halls of the CCP consisting his drawings, paintings, sculpture and installation. Even more appreciated today his art only got better with the lapse of time. 

With a bustling art scene where an artist name precedes his art, Last Full Show de-defined and exuded all the fine hallmarks of Dalena’s body of work; that he exists only because he is only a result of his oeuvre. His being an artist dissolves and he is only Dalena when he participates in the process of creating art.  

As a true rogue nothing lies sacred or nostalgic to Dalena who enrolled at the UST College of Fine Arts when his father wanted him to take up law. Even at an early age, his artistic affiliations were variant and loose. 

Together with Roberto Chabet, he exhibited with the conceptual group Shop 6 in Sining Kamalig in Cubao. He reprises his pambalot series, a creative pun where he trashes away official communication and accolades to him by wrapping dried fish with them. He also reconstructs dismembered hinds and limbs by assembling them in Playpen. Dalena showed his initial virtuosity according him as one of the CCP 13 Artists Awardees in 1972. 

Even the CCP as a venue for this retrospective is one over the Marcoses whom he once protested to. During Martial law, Dalena was master of the ink, meticulously illustrating detailed editorial cartoon, rich in allegory embedding strong political undertones for Philippine Free Press and Asia-Philippines Leader and later the National Midweek. He devoted a series on public toilets with scum and filth as aesthetics reflecting microcosm of Philippine society.

Dalena painted his own milieu with his own artistic approach. 
Speaking of his privilege as an artist and the forced circumstance of his actions to his sociological context. He was prudent yet did not suffer for not being among those artists who painted what was trendy genre or commercial dictates of art galleries or collectors. In fact no one even noticed his first show at the Pinaglabanan gallery. 

Becoming unemployed when the Martial Law clamped down on newspaper outfits, Dalena would frequent frontons and produce his Jai alai Series (1974-79). Eschewed of gaudy strokes of the desperate, echoing ghoulish shadows of uncertainty of chance, he looked at Jai Alai frontons as cathedrals of faith and fate. He dwelt into the Filipino psyche by inducing game metaphors of possibilities such as llamado and dejado. He could have valiantly depicted triumphs however he condoled more with defeat and despair of the human spirit. Complimenting them with earth tones of brown, green and oranges, he composed throng of bettors, swarming in tightly pressed bodies pleading desperation and greed. He would be accorded the First Mobil Art Awards for these paintings in 1980. 

In more pulsating and quicker splats, voluptuous dancers gyrate in seedy places of beerhouses in Alibangbang series. Dalena seduces us with the rhythm and rhymes of bodies not lustful but fresh and fleshy ones on canvas. He implicates the viewer as if one were a guest on the next table. Less concerned with the ideal and formal rendition Dalena abhorred being labeled for his own kind of expressionism. 

Dalena never spoke in absolutes, more so in staging folk religiosity. Quiapo and Pakil series were more autobiographical in nature and a definite painterly peeve. They carried the same wit, humor even subdued irreverence of this Narareno and Our Lady of Turmuba devotee. Favoring the everyday he saw in the ordinary how art could inquire and even investigate matters that were considered taboo and illicit. 

Dalena’s portraits of his writer and artist friends are deep in character studies based on his inclination to each of them. Begetting their friendship, we experience his deepest and most heartfelt pieces-all in sharpness of insight and richness in imagination and naughtiness the way he specifically know them. 

Even in his graying years Dalena remains a dissident in the grand tradition of painting— conservative in form but radical in approach. Exercise Series exhibits beauty of our impermanence. Consider the folds of glands like terraces, how our mortal bodies naturally sag and wrinkle. Somehow Dalena conquers his fear of death as most of his friends have crossed the great beyond. It is humanness at its core presented despite potential unpleasantness in monotone brown hues in rough strokes. 
The retrospective may not seem chronological but the pieces may be viewed as one big mosaic-like picture show; one simply has to look and be disturbed or solicit a chuckle. There is a circumstance in each of us as we are reminded of our own folly in losing a bet, belting out a song with a willing waitress in tow, seeing that malicious dog scratching in a church, witnessing a bygone Zarsuela, or mindful of our increasing body weight. For the gago, totoo, and bingengot in Dalena, that would have been enough. 

In a last full show, as a sign of respect and honor, one must stand up for the playing of our national anthem. In Dalena’s Last Full Show, we remain standing in pride, as he takes a bow. 


Demosthenes Campos: An Inconvenient Art


Sprout 1
For his ninth solo exhibition Sibol, Demosthenes Campos continues to visually essay the dismal plight of our already dying environment through his quaintly abstract mixed media works. Using various industrial materials mostly intended for domestic construction structures, these assemblage however revolves around positively framed green statements and gentle reminders espousing faith, hope and resiliency for our uncertain future.

Campos softens his stance from the surly and macabre fables of his last offing. Tired of the norm and often considered archaic elements of painting, besides it being too toxic and long to dry, Campos impatiently prefers crafting these simple building supplies with basic thought processes expected similar to a pragmatic carpenter. As the urgency of his volatile message, his experiments transcend more than the ordinariness of the household functions of their concrete and chemical nature.

Priming his canvases with white wall paint for extra texture, he initially counters them with all-weather industrial paints for his preferred thinly applied hues. He then would mix acrylic paints with alcohol to melt the pigments then pour a hint of muriatic acid, which is the hardest to handle as it initially boils and eventually balloons in form. This process dampens the luminescence of colors, as he follows through by combining cement neutralizer with glue and water to slightly conceal the result. 


He then exposes the worked on surface to the natural heat of the sun. Depending on his desired intensity, it is in the cement cracks that organically dictate his pieces. Espousing a sort of rusting or decomposing appearance, he often repeats the process until he gets his achieved crackling. Through these intended cracks his previous colors would hint and provide accents by peering through them. He traces some parts using graphite pencil and highlights his paints by retouching through various brushstrokes.

Deferring on the intent of his materials, on what about the degradation of our surroundings he feels strongly about, the instructions would vary from here. Physicality impacts content--a kind of do-it-yourself memento in saving Mother Earth--will soon emerge. He would add other media like doormats, artificial grass and other suggesting green symbolism; spikes to connote hindrances to progress like dire poverty or greediness of people; or the crisscrossing of ropes as political stance against land grabbing; or plastic price tags resembling as budding grass to impart small victories and new beginnings; or dried leaves as petals portraying lushness and optimism. The strength of Campos is his being a handyman’s familiarity with domesticated materials. 

Sprout 6
Employing persistence to his germinal idea, Campos finishes off with gesso, wood stains, latex, or elastomeric paints leaving up to which color compliments his compositions. Finalizing their three-dimensionality with emulsion to illuminate and protect the renewed painting.

Materiality dictates whatever behavior an artist preoccupies with or whatever representations he expresses his sentiments. Although his method remains complex, Campos seems unbound of the complexity of his artistic production. Paying attention to how it works, it is time or situation-based, as he reflects his familiarity to his preferred media by painstakingly juxtaposing his skills in breathing life through them. He re-frames the meaning of his objects to a higher aesthetic experience. However more than the personal or spectacular that is prevalent to the artworks in the current art scene,

Campos veers towards the sublime though saving the environment could be an easy theme tantamount to his task. As more artists respond to the immediate commercial demands of the art market, even fulfilling them to the hilt, Campos pursues his noble narratives by alerting and concerning us all. Being a father to his son, he has a responsibility and has devoted his body of work to this lofty cause.

It was during his college days at the Technological University of the Philippines that the young Campos honed his resourcefulness in art--the make-do attitude were taught and inculcated in them by professors who were also struggling artists themselves. Knowing how to contextualize time, a sense of rhythm permeates his canvases. Campos eschews a moment of reflection or a call to action defying the grim and determined manner of forceful protest in reforming climate change or global warming that he advocates. He instead contributes to the imagining of reality with a discerning visual language on a higher realm; conducting fresh logic of thinking in approaching artistic production beyond political dialectics and artistic research.

Sprout 3

He is constantly been challenged by the insistence of dialogues and the persistence of change by injecting multiple layers of identity and meaning. Enveloping an artistic encounter marked by these experiments and explorations, more innovated pieces concur and through each piece churned out, a more pedigreed practice by Campos transpires.

Doing art may not be the most decisive way of protecting and conserving our fragile earth. The indirect approach may even be inconvenient in viewing his art yet it is in this inconvenience that Campos has been revealing the truth in every well-effected story.

Sibol is ongoing at the West Gallery until October 21, 2017.


Tarlac Artists Collaboration: Contemporary Philippine Art via McArthur Hi-way


To remain contemporary when much of one’s environment reflects the rural and idyllic; to become authentic despite everything has become coy, commercial and crass; to be original and rogue while besotted with folklore, myths, and traditional views of art. 

Aptly situated inside a commuter bus the creative predicament of being based in Tarlac confronts these twenty young visual artists today. As the centerpiece of this exhibition Maniam Pukaque is their collective stance on these themes, issues and concerns that entailed their individual responses through oil, acrylic, ink, and water-based media; an imaginative collaboration as a way of introducing each artist featured in this exhibition with the same title; bearing their own biases and perspectives, each anecdote is interactive and flowing while characters abound each revolving around various local produce related to their beloved home province.

With fertile grass on his mouth, a water buffalo is at the helm of this magical mystery tour. Though prime agricultural land continues to diminish every day due to commercialization and in demand real estate, much of Tarlac is still being farmed using this hard working partner of the Filipino farmer. It could also represent the Laughing Carabao symbolizing the locally crafted beer favored by the working class Tarlaquenos.

"MANIAM PUKAQUE" (overflowing)
Tarlac Artists collaborative Painting
243.84 X 365.76 cm
Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac

Other representations veer on products only found in these parts of Tarlac. Such is the Capas smoked fish as an endearing passenger; allegorically placed is the iniruban rice cake made with burned young sticky rice coconut milk and sweetener; the bignay rice wine coming from bignay berries; at the far back is a prepared ambula, formed from rice soaked in viand sauce saving much for the hungry with value for his tight budget; an ethereal vendor with an abaca fan calls out for tupig, grilled sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves over charcoal. The burnt scent in gazing smoke evidently lingers in the midst.

At the front seat, an absent-minded fine arts student stares blankly at the abyss with her multi-tasking tentacles dealing with various odd jobs she has to accomplish in time to finish her studies and eventually move on with her creative life. A stoic girl with eggs for eyes and a crowning nest for hair signify how Tarlac is by forced circumstance a nesting ground for the would-be artists in them. 

Behind her apathy runs deeps to a man reminiscent of an oblation-like gesture looking at the heavens while a mischievous gyrating millennial twirls, tumbles and turns in between seats. A ghostly image is portrayed at the back referring to the scary tales that haunt the tall grasses in Matatalaib. Seated in a row before him, another scary apparition mount as a ghoulish man appears wasted or without consciousness while a baby is in deep slumber, unmindful of the ongoing episode around her. The circus has just started. Others performers will follow suit. One wonders where the band is?

A downtrodden farmer stands in solitude reserving his yantok on the last row, a barangay in Mayantok where it came from. In the middle aisle is an allegorical post which morphs a green sugar cane into a cold steel post. This negates how Tarlac has eventually become industrial from once an agricultural lieu. 

Showcasing Tarlac’s natural treasures is a man bathing from one of the available pristine waterfalls while a rowdy black cat distracts, a Frog jumps and a Geron bird (for Gerona) gleefully cheers in the window seat. A solitary bat swarms, as if on cued performance, from above. Dead aim at the center is a masquerade masked girl in a grotesque garb staring directly as if enlightening the viewer--this is who we are and what to expect from us--at a glance.  

A remarkable plethora of divergent styles co-exist side by side in one fell swoop, debunking any associated art historical classifications. Abound in sheer magnitude this is firsthand looking at the ongoing Tarlac art scene while celebrating the rich and evolving culture these artists belong to. A visual playground flexing the every artistic muscle, this one-way trip is at the height of its vision of capturing present-day Tarlac exuding brighter hope for their separate artistic journeys for the long haul.


Jeff Salon: Truth Well Painted


Battle Realms
For an artist the simplest yet hardest role is not to look away--to speak the truth in his evolving context. And for Jeff Salon the only time he deserves the truth is when he paints it. 

For his fourth solo exhibition, Broken Boundaries at the SM Art Center, Salon continues this commitment to reflect his settings and pursuit for the truth in our current social reality. Compared to his previous exhibitions, fiercer and more tormented pieces emerge this time--Salon is fuming, wrathful even.

The slow demise of nature has been a recurring theme that has haunted Salon’s canvases for the longest time. Alarmed at the rate we are tearing Mother Nature apart it obsesses him to no end. His most potent work is seen in Thy Kingdom Come. A swirling chase in existence involving endangered animals lorded it over only to be reminded of their distant mortal cycle. Salon’s valiantly captures the big picture show done in exquisite strokes with gusto and bravado; how a thing of beauty can be led to its wrath and decay in one fell swoop.

It is now considered a privilege to still view these threatened creatures in the wild and not captive in public and private zoos. The Guardian pays homage, as well as a glorious pitch for the Philippine eagle to critically survive. Discovered two centuries ago, this majestic bird, which is the biggest winged animal in the country, are the only 150-500 pairs left out there. Salon’s depiction of his lonesome self, perched on a branch against a graying background of negligence leaves an eerie feeling of guilt.

A complimentary pair to The Guardian is Cultural Survivor, which proves that there is nothing that differentiates animals from us. A lone indigenous Filipino caught in an act of defiance for their survival, he is a bygone reminder of quest for national identity. There is an urgent need to document their traditional and oral traditions in our fight against their perishing and modern day relevance.

Salon brings us to closer to various situations in depicting his take on our daily occurrences. They are often grounded on his personal experience and specific longing in behalf of children. Basked in golden brown with tinge of silver, somewhat like an impending explosion greets the viewers of his pieces. In Battle Realms against the scrutinizing eyes of His benefactor Salon wages war on many fronts—our oppressors, against clichés and what-have-yous in Philippine art. A hint of orange encroaching from behind to hint danger. Even in this very exhibition he has constantly honed while maturing in his artistic boundaries as well.

Thy Kingdom Come
Beautiful Mosaic provides a gentle pause yet turning the tides against colonialism. The colors or tempered of them are his signature hues are observed in the Filipina. Accented by a few reds in highlighting his message, our ongoing emancipation is defined by Spanish galleons, Japanese Tora Tora planes, and the American soldier. It may be evoking nostalgia but Salon’s art is anything but cuteness.

Recent issues have made news how foreign presence in guarding our shores. More than the old maps that documented our territoriality in our 7,106 islands, our sovereignty resides from our people. Our strength in safeguarding must be firmly in place. The allegory of nature evident in women’s bodies abounds in Shaping the World. How our islands are often exploited for their attractions mirrored in the curves of three women representing Luzviminda.

Salon’s realism follows a very abstract process in making art. Starting off by texturing his images with knife palette he then more difficultly illustrates on top of them. Everything is moving in a Salon composition, in a zen-like manner--no beginning or end. Depending on his mood he sometimes finishes of by splatting the already smooth surfaces. His confidence is key of his amount of pressure.

Specificity is another way to describe how each person is different and how we have our own peculiarities, belief, and are part of particular or imagined communities. Some features we can see, some you cannot. In A Piece of Peace may be as basic as a two-fingered universal symbol of peace but notice how rough and coarse his brushstrokes are. One can meditate on these experimentation this painted sign for harmony and equanimity.

F*ck Up Island
Charged with political acumen Salon abhors greed and hypocrites. There are more to be engaged at in F*Up Island. How semantics has ruled our lives and how power and understanding emanates for one’s anatomy to express. And they are even the hardest to demonstrate--the ok sign, clenched fist, number one, TV commercial sign, even the-holier-than-thou religious hand.
Now You See Everything

There is beauty in composed chaos that Salon depicts his pieces to convey his messages. It has always been about children and how Salon confines his purpose for their future. A child looks back to how adults behave worse than them. Now You See Everything proves we can learn more from the younger generation for our own realization. Depending how you much time the viewer has one can marvel at the Salon’s layered scenes.

Unlimited Being revisits his old style using his fondness for faces as inner canvases. Depending on the emotion on how his piece will be composed it is this foreground that immediately grabs the viewer. Representing freedom in flight, his star on forehead reminiscent of bright hope for tomorrow.

One may be familiar with His image but only an artist can interpret it on his own. In gratitude to His blessings Salon paints an enigmatic Christ in Resurrection. Notice how blood and sweat oozes from His thorn-crusted head. With Him in the middle of the exhibition space, He balances everything.

Amidst the crass commercialism of the venue, there is a certain solitude one attains after viewing the exhibition. An ironic inner peace is depicted in Salon’s artistic quagmire. Unusually the deeper conflict happens inside. Like a well thought of consciousness, Salon’s brilliance lies how issues are politically charged yet he paints a more serene scraping as a result. One may witness the goriness of the episodes yet Salon opts for a more resolute but unrefined way of enlightening his viewers.


Ricky Ambagan: Pulling the String to a Full Stop


I'm Coming Home

The increasing pressure to phase out our beloved jeepneys from the main thoroughfares of Manila (and Baguio) where they once ruled is surmounting by the day. The government says they don’t even physically fit any more—an unpleasant sight--a stumbling block to progress; that their sheer volume has become a liability even as commuters cramp them up every early morning filling up their maximum sitting capacity.

This is where visual artist Ricky Ambagan pulls the string to a full stop. Paying homage to the Patok, a parlance for the last of the rogue jeepneys, Ambagan has kept the faith for these most enduring Pinoy icons. Patok is a sub-species of jeepneys plying from Montalban or Cogeo via Marcos Hi-way. Bigger than the usual 16-seater capacity, they have been built for one sole reason for being--speed; most are candy-colored and heavily decorated using airbrush. 

Basang Basa sa Ulan

With young and restless drivers at the helm, Patok travels you in hasty, topsy-turvy-style, often arriving at your destination in record time. They take you to Montalban—like in a drag race--in the shortest time possible–even that claim is an understatement. They too are notoriously loud for their music.

Patok:Ang Pagbabalik ng Langgam is an ode--a narration of the travesties and intricacies of the last days of the jeepney. A roving telenovela--as Ambagan likes to call it--because we are a reflection of the kind of transportation we get into.

Other jeepneys today are barer for its practicality but the Patok are praised both for their functionality and aesthetics. What was once a war surplus and replacement for jitneys (thus the name) became a rolling showcase of our folk artistry. The jeepney became an extension of a driver’s humble abode: how he extends an altar in his dashboard complete with vigil bulbs; how he adorns its ceiling with copied paintings from masters, alongside names of his loved ones; how he uses curtains to ward of dust and keep ventilation for a smooth and safe trip.

Ambagan does not capture all their dirt and grime but seats in front as a hopeless sentimentalist, tempering that in-your-face rap music with jingly-jangly chords, even acoustics of the heart. In I’m Coming Home he sets the mood how the ever-dependable jeepney will always be there by remaining available 24/7. No matter how late —the graveyard shifters, the overworking employees, clandestine lovers unaware of their stolen moments, the sordid drunk coming from revelry—all depend on the jeepney to get safely home. Composing the picture Ambagan shows how lonely the crusade and uphill battle they now face. Yet the stars are out in full support for their cause.    

Basang basa sa Ulan implies in you an uncomfortable situation and captures another practicality of the Patok--how it is to survive without being drenched in the rain. Ambagan’s brilliance gears up when he juxtaposes his subjects along with the title of the most popular Aegis song. He resembles it how it is being soaked—both in our bodies and feelings—from the July showers evokes discomfort yet nostalgia; how art and music blend well in a painting. Ambagan has been there, done that.

Come Together
Come Together reprises that inviting Beatles song with the pedestrian as trigger word linking the famous fab four crossing through Abbey Road. Notice Ambagan suits his images with whatever his idea he had in mind. No photos as reference but imagination and how emotions play when that song was first played. Reminds one of the good times, as we flash back reminding the soundtrack of our lives.

The Jeep of Medusa
They may not be as comfortable as it was then but a Patok experience is on the extreme in riding dangerously, so to speak. Ambagan observes how these accents and accessorizes daily living. Each Patok jeepney is a wandering statement, its character emits from the graffiti’s they espouse, as well as the sentimentality of the music it pipes in. Ambagan laments that the day would come they will just end up in glass cases enclosed in a cold museum for viewing purposes only.

The Jeep of Medusa is an astoundingly haunting sepia, pencil, and charcoal on canvas. Against the colorful palette is this centerpiece discussing the plight of the jeepney. Opposed to the desperate survivors of the shipwreck as Louis Andre Theodore Gericault depicted his masterpiece, Ambagan took off with liberation and breaking free from human frailty and futility.

Folk religiosity has been a recurring subject for Amabagan. Lord Patawad remains a subliminal in its message. He has committed to his creative passion but more faithful to his God. Finding Pepe reflects Ambagan’s nationalist fervor. Here he situates Jose Rizal as a lowly passenger among the throng, busily absorbed in reading today’s news. Affected by the goings on with our current state of affairs. Ambagan hints we may be giving up our values for less mundane and superficial things.    

Finding Pepe
The subtitle Ang Pagbabalik ng Langgam reminisces Ambagan’s previous exhibitions which featured multiple of people en mass be it in Manila, downtown Baguio or flooded Malabon. His style of distortion, marked up by raw and coarse brushstrokes, endeared in humor and memory are the hallmark of his visual style. How he angles his canvases, twisting and twirling his subjects convoluting the kind of complex quagmire they are into. Not veering desperation rather he counters perspectives that would find meaning to whatever longing that may come along their way. His colors burst with bravura often engaging even provoking the viewer as a call to action and not passively observe.

Filipino artist worth his salt had a take on the jeepney. Vicente Manansala focused on its aesthetics as a folk art; Cesar Legaspi probed on its definite lines and earth-toned hues; Mauro Malang’s jeepneys appealed like general postcards to the tourists; Manny Garibay focused on their interior jeepneys being a socialist stage, the happenings inside while in transit. Ambagan is anecdotal highlighting the stories behind his paintings that make you stare long and hard, whether you empathize, amused or baffled at the drama behind it. How scenes elicit a smirk is what inspired him to feature this. Ambagan nonchalantly contributes to the contending dynamics of our culture and a deeper encouragement that the Pinoy will survive whatever that comes his way. 
Lord Patawad

With the clock ticking, though jeepneys may still be the preferred informal mode of transportation of the general publics, however like terminally-ill cancer patients, they are now living on borrowed time.

In Patok Ambagan honors the jeepney one last time while it is still breathing, fighting for its life. He parallels the existence of the jeep with the timeline of our country—too crowded, rowdy--with every passenger has a preferred direction to take. Everything that is happening in us—be it political, entertaining or poverty reflected--revolves around the goings-on of the jeepney, as one takes a collective ride. In the end, Ambagan is just an artist who commutes.


John Paul Antido: The Paint is in Our Stars


Memory, mystic and melancholy persist in the recent paintings of John Paul Antido. A certain lightness of being permeates these characteristics such as that they evolve in the realm of his fertile imagination. In so doing Antido’s conducive characters never touch the ground, close to hypnotic one gaze long and hard at them. And the fleeting feeling never goes away haunting us long after viewing the exhibition. 
Sa Kalawakan, Irog ay Humayo creeps in some more. Like a cool breeze dwelling deeper into the night something magical happens proving to be a more suitable ambience. Antido belongs to the old school bringing back storytelling in painting. Like in a trance, everything floats as Antido enchants us back to the ground with humble realities done in his folklore-like narrative as if his collective works is one long tale to be told side by side.

Such as in Bihag ng Gabi, one could almost levitate with the woman quietly ascending to the heavens as darkness prevails. A kind of escape, with alienation marked on her face, she is unconsciously slipping to a faraway reality. Her stoic composure may not reflect her sensibilities but they mirror her longing enlightenment with poetical allusions.

Antido’s calm and balanced spatial harmony is illuminated with insights of the human condition. The blatant irony as the world progress, the more we are connected by technology, the farther the distance we are separated by hatred and greed for one another. Kanya Kanyang Kamunduhan is a masterpiece done in three parts manifesting this concern for one’s ambition

and individuality created by a person’s needs and aspirations. To each his own peddling for his survival, they remain focus on their dreams as the constellations interconnect them together hoping for emancipation and fulfillment of one’s dreams.

The more engaged pieces in this triptych are enlarged in Planet series. Similar to the characters of The Little Prince, the smaller planets demonstrates one’s larger than life personal space. The lines of the axis serves as background intersecting like drawing dots making them part of the bigger and better version of the universe of us. We merely are specks belonging to an encompassing spectrum. We think locally but should act globally.   

Well versed in this painterly style, Antido has finely matured with his brushstrokes. Starting off with pen and ink on paper he does an acrylic sketch for his first coating. Depending on his desired composition, three coats of paints are mixed and applied layer by layer. Emanating from thinness to thickness, they are done in short but firm strokes are on top of one another. Gradually achieving his aspired texture, he oftentimes lets the previous hues left slightly peering through. He then glazes thereafter. In this certain luminosity marked by his impasto technique, Antido has placed everything in his own unique viewpoint easing out discontentment and frustrations we may have in life.

Antido’s brilliance remains how he sublimely tempers by slowing down his lyrical narrative to whatever fast-paced desperation our present day existence forcibly envelopes us. He diffuses harshness and squalor with the quaint and composed posture of his subjects. This trailblazing spirit is evidenced among Antido’s women such as in Seeking Mothership. They are purpose-driven and strong enough to redirect fate by their own feminine hands. With the wide and open skies of Antipolo influencing his hovering perspective, they cruise afloat driven by their own sentiments towards life. Notice how Antido advocates the traditional Filipino folk values by effectively infusing archaic words as tadhana, muni-muni, and hangarin done in transient cutouts similar to meticulously done pastillas wrapper. By simplifying these big concepts he reinterprets the contemporary by revisiting the positive and holistic with his new varying interpretations. Staple to Antido is that subjects are garbed in Filipiniana in their wholesome wellness and refined gestures--juxtaposing our bygone culture with modern approaches revitalizing fresh meanings in the millennial reading of the image.   

The alarming dying of culture is better interpreted by injecting fantasy or the mythical into something seemingly surreal. In Abducted the endangered carabao and threatened farmer is dislodged in his native soil by UFO. The beaming bright light hints that their simple days are critically numbered.

Spacebound is an upbeat you-and-me-against-the world-love tale. Being stricken by arrows, an eloping couple is pursued by forces against them. Nothing can stop them in breaking free with the power of volition and fate fueling their journey to uncertainty to fate.
In his more than a decade of art practice, Antido has dealt with impermanence and displacement extensively. His anonymous solitary travelers are endlessly searching, seeking for something, or going away. Capturing an ephemeral time in an ethereal place on canvas, some resemble prominent national heroes. More than their similarities in features, it is the character of a Rizal or Bonifacio he longs for his viewers to emulate.
Despite the desolation to our problems and dilemmas outside our lieu of comfort, Antido has kept the faith in expressing reality by revealing magical elements to his colorful visual imagery. Favoring heavenly bodies Antido has a romantic soul, who may have been an astronomer in another lifetime. He never fails to make you swoon upon first sight. With much respect to the audience, he leaves much of his framed portrayal on how they resonate to their liking. An open ended dialogue occurs with him initiating that you stop and look for a while.  

Sa Kalawakan, Irog ay Humayo: 8th Solo Exhibition by John Paul Antido is ongoing at the Boston Gallery until July 22, 2017