Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry

Tall Tarlac Tales: Recent Works of Herrera, Ramos and Yokte
Jay Bautista

(First of three parts) 
Ginintuang Pangarap Series

Among the proud eight rays of the Philippine sun in our flag Tarlac has always been at the forefront of our socio-political and economic history. With its strategic geographic location it is now has a unique place given the expressways and nearness to Clark, which is projected to be a bustling green city of the future.

Most of the time Tarlac is simply relegated as a mere stopover to eat or take a leak on your way up to the North; for most people it is that long stretch of McArthur Hi-way or mostly Hacienda Luisita. Despite the concrete structures, dams and floodway dikes, the city is bland as the lahar desert remnant of the Mt. Pinatubo fury of 1991. Compared to nearby provinces Tarlac has more artists and practitioners than all the artists in the north combined. Having the only fine arts institution, it is also home to award winning artists and art practitioners. Yet it is void of art spaces as venues of the art reflecting the soul of its community.

With the bareness of the physical and cultural landscape the disparity in life can be from within. This is where Bukal intervenes as it deems to create that critical dialogue of what is Tarlac for those who wish to be part of the conversation. Bukal meaning “boiling or in the verge of something,” in the local parlance, three artists step up the plate and offer some of the purest and relevance expressions emanating here.

Judeo Herrera: Pain, Pleasure and Punditry

Anatomy has always been the true test for an artist; how well versed he draws parts of the human body to every viewer’s appreciation or fellow artists’ respect. How he uses this skill to his advantage marks his brilliance. Judeo Herrera could have easily given to the lure of enticing erotica or commercial portraiture to his advantage however he chose to paint only the essentials—face, arms and limb--contextualizing them in a quagmire of fiery pegs against the repeating cycle of poverty of the spirit. With these images he captures the purest emotions in a visual style simulating the figurative with the textured abstract.

No Way Out
One could easily get unease or even slighted in Herrera pieces. In his Bukal Series, he focused on the face as the foreground of deep sadness, anger and anguish. For Herrera knows his timing and rhythm well like a director on cue he captures the moment, the turning point his subjects who at the brink of emotion, at the brim of madness and frustration in a fitting release. Without beginning or end we are led to a hypnotic whirlpool of desperation in Lulong, anxiety in Aaahh and even eminent death 
such as  

Hand Gesture Series
Huling Hantungan. No Way Out is a brutal climax that initiated from isolation and rootlessness. How the eyes shut by instinct with the hand shaped liked a gun pointed at one’s crown of consciousness. Even without sound one could hear the wailing of this hapless mother in Tama na, Sobra Na.  

Herrera starts by creating his textured base. The endless swirl of the background it is the abstraction that dictates the emotion. The intensity of his swirl, against banality of stainless gray of one’s soul, there is no beginning and ending, one could get tangled in deeply rooted helplessness.  

His brilliance lies in his astounding compositions and color combination he aptly calls the colorless soul. The colorless soul is Herrera’s take on how inner being responds to challenges. What emanates is a bluish flesh-and-bone belief of no local color. Despite the prevalence of hyperrealism Herrera abhors soft peach-like skin choosing to do it on his own steel-like colors connoting toughness and fearless numbed by what life throws at us. 

Tama Na, Sobra Na
Evoking bluish in hue a sense of solitude and serenity suggesting inner emotions, Herrera expresses his ideas and narratives in his use of figures and matching textures and gestural strokes. The warm fiery colors in the background suggest intense burning sensations, waiting and wanting to burst out.   

Honed by continuous craft and versed with experience among his art students, Herrera commands respect. If Bukal Series is pure angst then Ginintuang Panaginip Series sooth the tired battered spirit. It is Herrera’s song of redemption the calming effect exudes of better things to come. For simple folks living in the province sleep could represent many things, it is a fitting reward after a hard day’s work. It could be the act of dreaming something big. When one is golden it could mean of value.

Ginintuang Pangarap Series
For Herrera sleep is a temporary refuge and a way to momentarily escape life’s reality. One’s sleep is a blessing for we have equanimity when we are able to reset our body for the next day’s offering. We envy an infant's slumber which is a golden moment where there are no complications of the world around him. Our aspirations are often our dreams and in this refuge we somehow experience our heart's desire, yearning for that volatile false euphoria.

The intensity of his swirl is again reflected against banality in Hand Gesture Series.
Without uttering a word, even in its minutest detail, gestures convey the message in its fullest form. Certain movements suggest specific emotions. The sense of touch has a very strong psychological power that it directly impact our feelings; it can suggest a variety of sensation like a simple tap on the shoulder that tells you “well done” ; a warm hug that tells you “ I care”; an open palm that suggests “I need help” and many other. In fact the clenched fist showing solidarity has helped our current president simplify his cause for the needs of the Filipino people.   

Bukal is ongoing at the Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac.

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