Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Under the Talisay, 2004

Sa Ilalim ng Talisay (Under the Talisay). Watercolor pencils on paper, 2004

(detail of above piece)

The talisay tree (Terminalia catappa) has become quite a silent national symbol for academic achievement in the Philippines. It is said that declared national hero Jose Rizal taught his students---while in exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island--- . . . under a talisay tree. University of the Philippines campuses have many of these standing alongside the more renowned acacias. I drew this inside a UP at Tacloban lecture room while waiting for/on my students during a summer art workshop.

Self-Portrait (The Sunbather), 2004

Self-Portrait (Ang Sunbather) [Self-Portrait (The Sunbather)].
Photograph print, graphite & watercolor pencils on watercolor paper, 2004

Hemingway's La Mar (or; Port/Portal), 2004

Hemingway's La Mar (or, Port/Portal). Pastel on paper, 2004 [LOST WORK]
June 2004
Tacloban City.

Dear Cel. I wish I had the money now to be able to frame this other pastel work (very small one) that I also finished late May (or was it early June?). Initially I called it "Night Swimming", because it's a portrait of a mother (with another woman) with a baby and a bag posing in front of a large portal or arch behind which is a moonlit bay. The portal or arch is actually that of Malolos' Barasoain Church, but I turned it into a mysterious or surrealist arch right beside a beach. The mother is you (or you're the model, I painted this from a fragment of a photo, that fragment showing you, Gabo in your arms, my sister Adette behind you).
    I was attracted to the fragment for two reasons. Because of the blackness in the photo backgrounding the mother, I'd once again be able to say what I need to say about our mothers' black hair, here a blackness that melds into the blackness beyond the archway. Same with the baby's hair, Gabo's black hair.
    The other reason was this: because this was a photo fragment, zooming in resulted in an Impressionist effect that I liked. Therefore this became not a portrait of you and Gabo and Adette in front of a portal to a sea in the background. This is now just a portrait of any like-looking tourist trio.
    Oh, one other thing. I kind of liked the Virgin Mary effect the arch had on the mother in the center, creating a grotto-like composition, shattered only by another figure's presence (Adette's) coming out of that grotto "cave". A Marian mother-and-child piece, then? Or, can you see a Moses-like allusion with a recall of a Nile-to-the-palace progression? But the color of the baby bag hanging from the mother's shoulder, and the color that I used for the arch to complement the mother's blue, emulates the official assignation of the light cobalt or cerulean blue color on the Virgin Mary. Thus perhaps this is more useful as a piece referencing the Catholic context than any Jewish thing.
    So now may I call this painting "Birhen"? Nah, that would be too ambitious, the picture being vague towards that direction. "Port / Portal" is more like it, or "Hemingway's La Mar," referencing Hemingway's simile involving woman and sea and moon in The Old Man and the Sea. With this final title, our piece now points to a kind of arrival, wherein the darkness of death and the limitless sea and night behind is acknowledged, whilst women and babies foreground a future of life.

Wind Above, Sea Below (I Ching Stripes) [2004]

Hangin sa Taas, Dagat sa Baba (I Ching Stripes) [Wind Above, Sea Below (I Ching Stripes)].
Line photograph and pastel on pastel paper, 2004 [LOST WORK]

July 21, 2004
Tacloban City.

Hello again, Miguel, I only just now have gotten to sit down on this other desk to write about this piece that I finished last week. I am writing a screenplay-novel, you see, the reason why I can't spend more time on my art pieces for you.
    Anyway, this is a continuation of my experiments with the line photograph. This one, of your Mama in the early '90s in front of a window and beside two umbrellas hanging from the window's ledge and facing aslant a wall, has been printed on pastel paper, thus the striped pattern effect. I was already enamored with the mechanical imprint but thought of a way by which I could provide a sort of counter to it using soft pastel. Then I saw this photograph of your Mama with a shirt bearing an I Ching hexagram and I thought this was the context-ridden stripes I was looking for.
    Then, given the angelic look on your Mama's face in that photo, I thought I'd soften the whole thing not just tone-wise (graphite could have done it) but also texture- and color-wise. So there was no better choice than pastels, as anyway this was pastel paper I printed the line photo on.
    The result? A Picasso-esque (pre-Cubist Picasso) cum Chagallian piece with Oriental allusions. All a miraculous outcome of a simple objective of letting the "impersonal" printer roller's marks fight with the soft pastel chalks' "personal" caresses.


New Society Mood of the Day, 1985

Bagong Lipunan Mood ng Araw (New Society Mood of the Day). Clay, bread buns and Nat King Cole vinyl record, 1985