Ricky V. Ambagan: On the Shoulder of Giants


Like the man playing the violin while riding the unicycle on a tightrope he oftentimes depicts in his canvases, Ricky V. Ambagan is at the crossroads of his ongoing career of 18 years as a visual artist and he is aware of it. Too old to waste with paint yet too young to repeat his previous images he has painted in previous exhibitions. In Omaggio, he reminisces fantasy adventures as he honors the discipline of painting from unrecognized Italian painters resulting in new art historical perspectives and directions. As significant as the task of rediscovering memories for Ambagan, he flexes the depths and breadths of his artistic prowess in this creative provocation. Omaggio provides you the playfulness that he longs for and the passion that is still there all along. It leaves you with the feeling of nostalgia, contemplation and elation.

As a child it was his grandfather who was fond of storytelling in the family. Ambagan imbibed his sense of wonder in recalling world war exploits and how they survive living in poverty as they were rebuilding their lives. The tales ingrained much of how Ambagan would visualize scenes as he decided to become an artist since his grade school days. While researching for subject matters in art through the years, as a fine arts student Ambagan was enthralled by how these Italian masters have already advanced mixing three or more paints since the 15th century onwards; how highly artists commanded each court or community in every rural town of flourishing city. Much of what we learned as iconographies and iconologies emanated from their hands and minds. They classically composed a religious scene to the happenings of the apocalypse to Victorian romantic affair from their own canvases. Until this day much of what they churned out are still being copied by other painters unmindful of them as originator of ideas.

 Respecting these bygone masters Ambagan appropriates by building upon on what we have seen they have created. The brilliance of Ambagan is that he slices a chosen masterpiece by employing an element of awe by adding the present as nostalgia on his own. He adopts his grandfather’s narrative trait in delivering these tales that he cannot help but imagine not involving himself for the viewers. More often they could be his younger self with his friends or even his children. Some are cloaked with blanket as a theatrical device he used to do then or they take the form as one of the characters themselves or morphed in detail as the door or carving on the picture. Light is omnipresent, whether from a gas lamp, flying lantern, or a round hint of luminosity peering through from afar as a constant for Ambagan. How he positions them as part of the overall tableau revitalizing a masterpiece within a masterpiece all together is signature for him.

By nature, we are taken on a visual trance as time travelers in Omaggio. From Roman Coliseum to Neverland, Ambagan imbibes the thought that he knows where and how to take us. He even allows us to marvel at architectural details of doors and how artists before took us notice of the places and situations of a well-appointed time. We are not merely in an art gallery but in a palatial museum being transported to the setting of the scenes themselves. Impacting his viewers a kind-of-deja vu that unravels like the paintings have happened to one’s life yet they are only looking at it for the first time. In summation, as he steps on the shoulder of giants, it is Ambagan who is honored himself.

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