Tale of Three ‘Rs’ and the Romance of Two (Second of Two Parts)

BY JAY BAUTISTA What’s with the letter ‘R’ that even the secret codes (no more!) of America’s First Family start with this 18th letter of our alphabet? Such as President Barack Obama is codenamed ‘Renegade,’ First Lady Michelle is ‘Renaissance,’ Malia is ‘Radiance,’ and Saisha is ‘Rosebud’. There must be something easily communicable and accessible with ‘R’ that its adoption is now being carried over, literally, to the letter.

Finding favor with ‘R,’ not to mention Obama’s overwhelming victory, started even earlier with last year’s dominance of young talented artists with their names beginning with this sound of “madness” or “point of freezing coldness.”

The Rustling of Raffy, Roaring of Ronald

If Raffy Napay is the perennial juvenile delinquent in our allusion to classmates, then Ronald Jeresano will be the one who sits at the back of the class and watches the whole day pass by, while the class discussed enthusiastically from his privileged vantage point. Ronald seems to be the one whom you never had a conversation with in all your grade school and high school days combined. Although not a class bully, he is not verbose but gets along with everyone and not a kill joy. Still water runs deep as they say.

Like his namesake mascot of a burger joint, Ronald is a lover of kids as evident to their presence in all recent works. These hapless souls serve as his lucky charm for every time he paints them and joins contests more often than not, he wins.

I'm Still Hoping

This year aside from the winning work, I’m Still Hoping from MADE, this 24-year old architecture student from PUP Manila has won ArtPetron National Student Art Competition, back to back and in two different categories. Two years ago, in the water-based media category, with historical landmark as theme, he painted Revealed History Behind the Mystery which is his ode to Fort Santiago. Last year, with festivals as theme, Panatang Obra bested more than a thousand entries. This winning work got the judges nod as he made a sudden twist to the Filipino devotion to the Nazareno with his panata to his being an artist as well.

What makes winning in these art competitions more triumphant year after year is the positive mix of judges that vary on each occasion. It goes without saying it remains to be a major factor in the outcome of the contests. It is they who will decide, debate and dignify the winning art work. How do they say one work is better than the other? Each judge will definitely have with him his own preconceived biases and cultural notions.

The Path
Next stop Kulay sa Tubig Invitational Art Competition, where his work The Path will be the best among those invited to join here. Established in 1984 by Gallery Genesis owner Araceli Salas, Kulay sa Tubig is one of the more prestigious contests, as far as water-based media is concerned. Salas sought Ronald to join the annual contest. And on this second attempt, was chosen for the coveted top prize.

True to his socio-realist influences, Antipas Delotavo and Alfredo Esquillo Jr, Ronald has no qualms of being the urban boy who draws its robust vitality from the strength of his convictions. His architecture background is inevitable in the lines that mark the canvas, as he depicts the ongoing struggles of the post EDSA II workers as intense and desperate as they are. Tireless, everyday-survivor like him, he paints grim but reassuring images with the unfinished construction sites as his setting. With intense, soul searching images, there is hope in this not so compromising picture of the state of our sad republic. Never the complacent, Ronald’s concerns are yours as well. It is a realism of broken dreams, failed hopes and falling ones. The “unfinishness” may be sore to ones eyes but the completion of which is left for the viewer to accomplish.

“I prefer not to be a painter of historical matter. I would rather depict personal tragedies and follies. Everyday you are beset with a blank canvas to fill up. However it will not work if you thought you cannot fill up the space and not do it anymore. Maraming kailangan ipinta, at dapat kong ipinta, he once mentioned to me.

Sentro ng Kalakalan
The Realization of Arnica, Revenge of Rommel

The current cover of the PLDT directory captures the everyday consumerist scene of downtown Manila. What sets this display of hustle and bustle of our buying culture is the presence of a barcode placed smugly in the middle of the canvas, caging the people in between its gold lines. Somewhat telling us that we are trapped by our own wants and deadlocked by the increasing needs created upon us.

Sentro ng Kalakalan by 23-year old Arnica Acantilado of PUP has shortcut the process and delivered her message over and out. With the barcode as her graphic handle, she has captured the Filipino obsession with its materialist world. One of the better inventions of the late 21st century today, the barcode safeguards accuracy in overtly materialist tendencies such as ours. Arnica’s strength lies in the merging of surmounting “created” wants and the dehumanizing effect of altered needs wrought havoc by false advertising. Arnica will also win second place in the Oil category with Kahalagahan ng Kamusmusan in this year’s Shell National Student Art Competition (NSAC).

Of all three, Rommel Remota should be touted as the class nerd. He has won the top prize both in ArtPetron National Student Art Competion (“Ang Pundasyon ng Kaligayahan”) and NSAC (“Alternative”). As one who spouses his philosophy in adopting children’s writing on the wall to express his sentiments and making his message known for the world to see, Rommel does not hide the fact he is a big Toti Cerda fan, the prolific watercolorist who has been consistent in churning out images of children caught in between violence and political issues. In fact Toti is also a product of art contests himself.


In the long tradition of art contests, Ronald, Arnica, and Rommel know that there exists a certain kind of aesthetics or strategy when joining a particular visual art competition. It could be a common fetish for the new and original in approach, as far as the artistic process, must be done for a work to be noticed among the many others. Together with that is the creative use in materials and add to that the work must reflect Philippine contemporary life and issues as these are what are to be expected. As keenly observed, there seems to be a gray area as far as representational style is concerned. Lately there are no delineating lines whether your work is abstract or representational, of biographical or political.

Each annual art competition rethinks conventions of the paint medium renewing faith and hope in its prospect of coming out with what is fresh and captive representation of our present urban life. Do the contest rules of different art contests force them to question, if not rebel against conventions of painting? Recent winners vary greatly not just in terms of style or materials but also in terms of concerns, themes, and agenda. New spaces of promise in terms of iconography and iconology emerge.

Art competitions may still have their purpose as they are held in bigger exhibition halls with longer duration. There is a history of art that is well documented in the yearly catalogues, and winning artists are guided at least until in their first formative shows. In a way they consequently promote the culture of excellence and artistic promise for the young painters. The question remains is what has the previous winners done as a plowback to his community or to society to be worthy of the prize?

It would be unwise to say that all winning works merely reflect the general state of Philippine visual arts. Had there not been Philippine art books written could the history of Philippine art be told in patched-like quilts of all winning works of art contests through the years?

Art contests are just one way to continue the mixture of two coats of paint on a blank canvas for an artist, established or starting out. And should anyone fail to win any award this year, well, there’s always next year, and next, and next.


amateur ear said...

I'm very happy I stumbled upon this blog.

I have some art aconcerns I need to ask an expert about. =)

amateur ear said...

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