Katauhan, Katotohanan (Self-Portrait)
BY JAY BAUTISTA Next to Michael, Gil and possibly Junjun, the names Raffy and Ronald are the most common pinoy names on top of your head. Such personalities could pass up as your next door neighbors whom you grew up with; and even sons of your father’s drinking buddy, introduced to you many times over; faceless friends or classmates whom you didn’t bother to talk to during your entire high school stay.
Hard and ordinary as it may seem, you know from their features that Raffy Napay and Ronald Jeresano are dead serious artists, or chose to be one – that lanky, withdrawn look; their long, hard stares, the look that says “when is the next art contest? Hala the AAP is coming up!” from their often sleep-deprived, dreary eyes, evoking more cynicism than confidence to me. One who, as he talks to you, would probably have already memorized the lines in your face and the manner by which the five minutes you have spoken to either one of them. Ah those paint-stained hands that are never cleaned even how many times they may have compulsively washed them.
What makes them even more special is that these two friends are not your usual“Oh-Daddy-can-you-call-Tito-Dean-to-please-enroll-me-to-his-College-of-FineArts-I-want-to-be-an-artist?” types. They have to endure life and learn art in the most common way possible – though the sari-sari store comics, through corporate wall calendars that have featured paintings, or through art subjects from school that require them to make posters for the Eat Your Vegetables campaign. Now as they are all grown up, the only opportunity presenting itself, in their desperate attempt to escape their saddled lives, is through winning art competitions around them.
Having been from public schools and state universities all their lives, they have already beaten the odds at this point. The Polytechnic University of the Philippines Sta. Mesa and the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology maybe noble institutions but what are the chances that these are schools that would churn out for any contemporary artists to emerge?
Persistence, however may be their middle names, with luck seems to be tilting in their favor and in this year’s listing of Philippine art competitions, including the recent Metrobank Art & Design Excellence (MADE), their names have prominently figured many times over.
Made for MADE
Open to all Filipinos not more than 35 years old with no solo exhibition to your name, the MADE is an open painting competition for both fine arts students and professional artists who have not had a solo exhibition to their name. Formerly called the Metrobank Young Painters Annual (MYPA), three years ago it was renamed MADE to accommodate other categories like Architecture, Interior Design, and Achievement in Sculpture.
More than the cash prize it provides as incentive and a selling show during the awards night, the YPA then has helped launched the careers of Roberto Feleo, Gabriel Barredo, Dennis Gonzales, Elmer Roslin, Maria Taniguchi, Leslie de Chavez, Norman Dreo, Alwin Reamillo and most of the members of the Salingpusa – Mark Justiniani, Elmer Borlongan, Ferdinand Montemayor, Anthony Palomo, Tony Leaño, and Karen Flores.
Now add to their exclusive and elusive roster are both Ronald for Oil/Acrylic category and Raffy for water-based media.
One cannot escape the fact that being immediate winners of a few significant art competitions such as MADE carries with him a certain pedigree of instant marketability and adulation. In fact, some galleries and art spaces only offer an exhibition slot depending on how many art awards he or she has won.
To prove their worth, the irony of these art contests is that Ronald and Raffy had to unlearn whatever formal art practice they imbibed in their respective fine arts schools in every new entry they submitted. In doing this they found their own.
To win MADE in the oil category maybe hard but the water-based category would even be a harder-earned triumph considering they only award one winner and a special award. The probability is higher and more risky.
In describing Raffy’s winning piece Mahiwagang Pagbubukas, Galaw na Walang Wakas, MADE painting judge Cid Reyes, in writing on the catalogue, had this to say:
“A sense of exhilaration suffuses the viewer, despite the artworks darkly gleaming nuances of shapes and shadows. Napay orchestrates these teeming forms into suggestions of movement; ceaseless flowing, a natural world dreaming, evolving, mutating, and dancing to the music of water and wind, fertilized by the artist’s wildly lyrical imagination.”
Something ethereal grabs you in most of Raffy’s works. Usually rendered in monochromatic earth colors such as moss green or decaying brown, he works most of his canvases flat on the floor, Pollock-style. With only a vague image in mind, he starts to splat on the blank canvas, as if investigating the plots, carefully inching his way in filling up the space. This is the most exciting aspect for him and the most significant part of his art, the initial conception. Admittedly, his is not of the formal/western/academic standard style of sketching or thumb nails drawing, more like a trying out staggered-like approach. Organically fulfilling what would eventually comprise and compromise the theme of his work. Even he does not know what will happen next. Possessed by his own mystic, he charters deeper on the undesired image, stopping only as the subject reveals itself. In the end, you see life in a new way after his finished artwork.
Consider the piece Samu’t Saring Kaanyuhan, Samu’t Saring Katotohanan. Even more astounding in visual rendition, it was adjudged as one of Juror’s Choice for Excellence in the recent Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards 2007-2008.
“Unveiling the genesis of a wondrous world, a curiosity without color. As light threatens darkness, tones appear and oil becomes a source of origin, flooding the terrain of a work and yet open to chances beyond itself.” mentions Dr. Patrick Flores on the exhibition catalogue.
Art has been something more of a need than an appreciation for Raffy. With no trace of artist in the family as influence, what has probably endeared this son of a tricycle driver to most judges of these art competitions, and eventually earned the nod of his fellow artists is his observance with curiosity and details. Indeed the smallest aspects are what interest him. His art is as scientific as he paints what he dutifully sees and feels around him.
Open to artists not over 28 years of age, the 2008 Maningning Miclat Art Competition would be another venue for Raffy’s curiosity in nature. Exhibited at the ArtPlaza, Level 4 of the Shangri-La Plaza Edsa Mall, this time Raffy puts himself on a blank wall since it portrayed the inevitable – a portrait of himself in Katauhan, Katotohanan. Armed with the same intensity and keen explanation of a continuing dialogue of why he continuously views himself as mere part of nature and not the dominant of it.
One who has limited resources does not mean he can’t be creative or less expressive. Raffy believes those less in life may have also more other mundane things including art, or in his case, even have more discoveries in creating. Diskarte lang daw. One cannot help but be intrigued to where his perspective is coming from. Is it going back to the basic, returning what art is and should be? A reflection that as artists we not only grasp all that we have, we must also leave all that we are. His message is as important as how ingeniously he depicts it. Without outlines and forms, thus, his innate and curious way of chronicling our ecology may mean only of how commercial and artificial we have already become. He has brought back the long narrative story in contemporary visual arts. His paintings grow on you. You can even get lonely after looking at them.
Speaking to someone who abhors or has objections to praises, self admiration has never been his style. You even come to the point you seem to accuse him as the most insecure one out there. However meeting him in the flesh and seeing his works, one can conclude that he is for real -- experimenting in all possibilities. He is all faith, pure passion inside him.
And don’t forget, he is just all of 22 years old.