Master visual artist Toti Cerda and watercolorist Erwin Mallari were both born, bred and continue to dwell in their respective hometowns near the proximity to the metropolitan center. As significant contemporary artists they have bear witnessed to the radical change of progress in these dwellings evolving from once being idyllic and pristine locations to the ever bustling these localities are today.
Cerda, who was born in Talim Island near Binangonan, saw how in the last 30 years the lakeshore towns of Rizal have evolved the fishing enclaves and farming villages being partitioned into the commercial districts and residential subdivisions at present.
|Na-Amorsolo II by Toti Cerda|
Mallari grew up in Malabon when it was still a fishing hub in Rizal until the 70s and observed when it separated and became part of Metro Manila. Fishing still remains a major source of livelihood in the area because of the interconnected of its river system. This development attracted people to reside in its low lying flat terrains making Malabon densely populated through that it floods and have worsened in recent years. It constantly becoming submerged in water most of the time, as it became known.
|Foot Bridge (c4 Malabon) by Erwin Mallari|
In Paghilom, Cerda and Mallari have meticulously documented the visual changes in their beloved abodes and the surrounding setting around them that are fast changing. More than just putting their thoughts on their canvases and papers, they have however kept the faith in their beloved places of origin and remain hopeful that there is still a light at the end of this ongoing pandemic situation--as seen through the affirmative outlook of these recent works.
Cerda, of late pays homage to Philippine masters, and continuous to do so in rigid manner. He has honored the great 19th century realist Juan Luna and the poet of the palette in Carlos “Botong” Francisco in his previous outputs. In Paghilom, he highlights the master of folk genre in our first National Artist, Fernando Amorosolo, appropriating his hardworking farmers in the rice fields and women fetching water in clay pots. He churns out the gray and burgeoning factories as backdrops to Amorsolo’s colorful rural scenes as Cerda saw how rapid industrialization has slowly sprouted in vast expanse of his adopted region.
Paghilom is Cerda’s direct in-your-face clamor in support to agriculture for our own food sustenance and basic survival mode to the future. He expresses the quaint predominant metaphors of Amorsolo such as sturdy farmers toiling the soil and the beautiful provincial lasses cooking their meals against the solid concrete of gravel and the hustle of building economies as featured setting. Cerda has effected an experimental illustrative handle by using the soft yet distinct subjects of Amorsolos’s period evocations against a social realist and urban tableau. Cerda’s remains confident yet sensitive in these brushstrokes in adhering to Amorsolo’s masterpieces by inducing Cerda’s promising visual language and in finding new approaches to realism in painting. The result is a dramatic theater in paints.
|Banga ni Amorsolo by Toti Cerda|
In his previous life, Mallari was once part of the commuter life having to endure two hour bus rides from Malabon to Pasig where he used to work as a graphic designer. In Paghilom, he mends his old and tiring ways and heals from the painful remembrances caused by impatience to get a ride, inhaling smog caused by a polluted volume of transportation vehicles resulting into a perennial traffic. As a fine watercolorist, there is a certain charm when the colors and the tones of a scene is captured in watercolor. Even how Mallari renders the red lights from the bumper-to-to-bumper of cars has a certain romance when evocatively painted and hanged on the wall.
Meaningful to Mallari are the LRT 1 stations like Roosevelt, Balintawak and 5th Avenue which he is most familiar with and accustomed to its related commuter ordeal. He also favors bridges while doing his rounds documenting them for posterity. The Bitbit and Centennial Bridges and the Foot Bridge (Malabon) are prominently featured in this exhibiton. Mallari even finds beauty in the chaos in construction with faulty wires of electric posts included. There is relief for him in getting from where you came from to your point of destination. For Mallari that is progress of life and the joy is in the journey. Sometimes he who dabbled into photography, takes a photos and in framing his images translates them on larger watercolor paper when he gets home.
|Bonifacio (Caloocan) by Erwin Mallari|
These days Mallari advocates a return to riding bicycles as a means of transportation to ease traffic as he once had to endure it on a daily basis. His regimen now he become a city chronicler who goes around, with art materials in tow, documenting these memorable moments and secrets corners that he fancies along his bicycle routes around the metropolis.
Mallari is a constant fixture in the streets as he documents spaces by opting to paint outdoors (plein air as the French impressionists popularized it in the 19th century). While making his rounds he stops at a beautiful site that captures his eye and puts out his paper on boards and attempts to catch the fleeting moment. He hurriedly sketches them as he wets his paints and renders them in his desired compositions. He has special fond experiences with every piece he creates from bystanders as he prefers painting daily scenes of ordinary life on the spot.
Sometimes Mallari escapes from the city, immersing himself in rural landscapes such as Dingalan (in Aurora) and Alcala in Cagayan. Here he basks in its pristine sunlight and unfiltered air to recharge his artistic soul. Providing rest for the eyes, he know a lot of desperate people long for these framed painterly accents for as city folks many are trapped in the current quagmire of our urban jungles.
Paghilom is both a celebration to the city life as it stresses the value of spontaneity, appropriation and relevance in their artistic pieces, as most paintings even establish inherent tension and issues. They may not be commercially-eye candy pieces but in their subtlety or even harshness that convey the sense of wonder in the painters’ free reign of imagery and meaning. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of these two artists, they are both positive in their creative output--that is all that matters.
|Bukid ni Amorsolo by Toti Cerda|
Unfazed by the possibilities of media, mixing three or more coats of paint is still the proposed materiality, whether it be acrylic or watercolor, be it done in reverse or even traversing the creative process. Cerda’s brand of realism has always constricted and countered the traditional visual styles of his forebears for it to redefine itself into new actualities of his own right. Often rejecting the banal and sacred, it defies fixation with the tested norm. Mallari, on the other hand, wants to hone his watercolor skills through strict discipline and mood. Despite it being the most difficult medium to handle among artists, he prefers the fresh perspectives and evocative expressions it imparts. Even as Cerda and Mallari are open to more raw approaches to art, both still value that paintings should be created for its social function and not lost for its own sake.
|Bitbit Bridge (Narzagaray) by Erwin Mallari|