4 Mindanao artists seek deeper roots in national art scene

Mindanao-based artists aim to gain greater foothold in the national art scene with a second exhibit at Gallery 9 of the SM Megamall on August 15 to 19.

Entitled “Punla” (seedling), artists Victor Espinosa, Pinx Gaspe, Jag Bueno and Kublai Millan headline the exhibit, the second in a series of shows that follows the first called “Sibol” (sprout) last May.

The four artists from Davao have different backgrounds and use different media. 

‘Bong’ Espinosa is a seasoned painter whose rich oil and acrylic murals and painting have graced exhibits abroad. Considered a seasoned veteran who has mounted solo exhibitions from Davao, Metro Manila and USA since 2006, Espinosa won the Asian Artists scholarship grant at the Vermont Studio Center in 2008.  In 2010, he sustained Private Artist Residency Program in New Jersey through fund raising events. An architecture graduate of University of Mindanao, Bong has art in his genes with his father as his mentor. Eventually, he developed his own style in mixed media, notable for spontaneous bursts of embossed colors and strokes, harmonious with Mindanao’s diverse colors and groups. 

Come-backing sculptor Gaspe uses recycled sawdust and styrofoam. He has been in the art scene in Davao for decades and was mentored by internationally renowned Davao artist Bert Monterona who exposed him to social relevant art. This influence led Pinx to be the first artist to exhibit works on HIV-AIDS awareness for Davao in the early 1990s, and carried this on as a member of the Lakbay Diwa group which figured in local exhibits for environment and indigenous peoples’ advocacies.  Seeing art as an expensive medium, Pinx incorporated innovation and resourcefulness by using recycled materials in his backyard. In creating sawdust and styropor, he uses adhesives to produce a durable finish for his latest works.  His sculptures of the Lumad and Moro are imbibed with socially relevant themes of heritage, farm life, environmentalism and the pains of war.

Gaspe’s “Mga Mukha”

Newcomer Bueno is fast becoming known for his bas relief sculptures and portraits. He hones his skills from woodcraft figurines and evolved into making life-sized mixed media sculptures depicting Mindanao social realities.  Bueno has since focused in making bas relief sculptures and portraits of the Mindanao common folk. He credits his background in Assumption High School of Davao for his early exposure to  the lives of the rural and urban poor areas, who are the subject of his bas relief portraits marked with color and expressive lines in the faces of farmers, workers, Lumad and Moro people.  He is one of rising artists in the Davao art scene after joining group exhibits in the past years.

Bueno’s “Bas Relief”

Leading the group is internationally renowned sculptor Millan who is noted for his “Risen Christ” at the Tagum City Cathedral, the “Kampilan” honoring Sultan Kudarat and the Durian Monument at the Davao International Airport. A graduate of UP Fine Arts, he first broke in the art scene by converting his family’s hotel Ponce Suites into his art museum with mixed media works from art, photography to sculpture.  He said he has found art and immersion in indigenous communities as a way of connecting to the roots of Mindanao and wants to share this to the world.

“Punla” the exhibit finds the artists seeking new grounds by planting their raw vibrant Mindanao art of rich colors, textures and stark realities into the minds of the Manila art scene. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Country’s leading art critic Alice Guillermo passes away; tributes pouring in

Tributes are pouring in for the late University of the Philippines professor and leading art critic Alice Guillermo who passed away Sunday, July 29, due to a lingering illness.

She was 80 years old.

News of Guillermo’s death immediately circulated among academics, artists, writers and activists Sunday who held off posting announcements and tributes on their social media accounts in deference to requests by her family for some private time.

Born in January 6 1938 in Quiapo, Manila, Guillermo is survived by poet and essayist husband Gelacio and children Sofie and Ramon.

In his message of condolence, poet and fellow art critic Jose Maria Sison wrote Guillermo’s “great amount and high quality of works in the field of culture and art are outstanding and make her a brilliant icon in the national pantheon of culture heroes.”

“She and her works will live on both as significant contributions to the cumulative revolutionary tradition of art and literature and as inspirational guide to the revolutionary artists and creative writers of this and further generations,” Sison added.

Sison said Guillermo studied the entirety of Filipino artists and scrutinized the works of a wide range of Filipino artists, including Francisco Coching, E. Aguilar Cruz, Santiago Bose, Agnes Arellano, Alfredo Carmelo, Galo B. Ocampo and Julie Lluch.

“She paid the closest attention and appreciated most the artists and creative writers that may be considered as the artists of the people, especially the adherents of social realism who exposed the dire conditions and needs of the oppressed and exploited toiling masses of workers and peasants and expressed their immediate demands for national and social liberation and their vision of a brighter and better future in socialism,” he said.

UP professor Lisa Ito for her part expressed grief over Guillermo’s passing who she considers a “beloved professor.”

“Thank you for teaching how words should be wielded with perceptive precision and a sense of purpose for the people,” Ito wrote of Gullermo on her Facebook account.

“Pinakamataas na pagpupugay kay kasama’t kagurong Alice Guillermo,” former UP College of Mass Communication dean Rolando Tolentino wrote on his Facebook account. (The highest tribute to comrade and fellow teacher Alice Guillermo.)

A former chairperson of the Department of Art Studies of the U.P. College of Arts and Letters, Guillermo became one of the country’s leading art critics and expert on Marxist theory of arts and literature.

In 1976, Guillermo won the Art Criticism Award of the Art Association of the Philippines and became the Centennial Honoree of the Arts (for Art Criticism) of the Cultural Center of Philippines in 1999.

(An endearing portrait of Alice Guillermo as narrated by her children Bomen and Sofie Guillermo, husband Gelacio, and visualized by documentary filmmaker, Jaja Arumpac.)

A prodigious author and writer, Guillermo was most famous for her books The Covert Presence, Social Realism in the Philippines, and Image to Meaning: Essays on Philippine Art and Protest/Revolutionary Art in The Philippines.

According to her profile by the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Guillermo finished bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in education, magna cum laude, in 1957 at the College of Holy Ghost. She then went to UP where she obtained her master’s degree.

Awarded a scholarship by the French government, she studied at the Universite d’Aix-Marseille in France where she obtained the Certificat d’ Etudes Litteraires Generales, the Certificat de Seminaire d’Etudes Superieures, avec mention Assez Bien, with a study of the French nouveau roman, “La Modification par Michel Butor: Themes et Structures” and the Diplome de Langue et Lettres Francaises, also Assez Bien, in 1967.

She was a member of the Cultural Research Association of the Philippines and the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and was a long-time art studies department professor of the College of Arts and Letters of UP Diliman.

Guillermo wrote numerous reviews and articles for magazines like Archipelago, Observer, Who, WE Forum, Business Day, and New Progressive Review.

Her other books included Mobil Art Awards (1981), Blanco: The Blanco Family of Artists (1987), Images of Change (1988), Alfredo Carmelo: His Life and Art (1990), The National Museum Visual Arts Collection and Cebu: A Heritage of Art (1991), and Color in Philippine Life (1993).

Guillermo was one of the senior authors of the survey of Philippine sculpture, From Anito to Assemblage (1990), and authored an essay for the book, Anita Magsaysay-Ho. She also participated in the CCP’s Tuklas- Sining monograph and video series project as essayist-scriptwriter for Sining Biswal, An Essay and Documentary on Philippine Visual Arts (1989) and Sining Biswal IV, An Essay and Documentary on the American Colonial and Contemporary Traditions in Philippine Visual Arts (1993).

She was the co-author of the textbooks Art: Perception and Appreciation (1976) and Ang Sining sa Kasaysayang Pilipino (1991).

Guillermo was a recipient of a Japan Foundation Fellowship Grant in Tokyo in 1991, a UP Diamond Jubilee Assistant Professorial Chair in 1988, and was a UP ICW national fellow for the essay in 1987-1988.

Her essay, “Ang Kaisipang Filipino Batay sa Sining Biswal”, won a Palanca Award in 1979. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Writers and artists nominate Joma Sison as National Artist

Hundreds of groups, artists and personalities nominated Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison as National Artist for Literature Saturday.

Nominators led by the Concerned Artists of the Philippines and National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera beat yesterday’s deadline by a few hours as they submitted hundreds of pages of testimonials and lists of Sison’s works at about 8:30 in the evening at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Citing his profound impact on many Filipinos and on Philippine society through his poems, essays and other articles, the nominators and endorsers urged the Conferral Order of National Artists to formally include Sison in its list as one of the country’s greatest writers.

“The nomination of Jose Maria Sison for national artist for poetry and the essay is moved by recognition of the crucial role he has a played and continues to play in the making of the Filipino community and nation by developing and enhancing the Filipino capacity to understand the Philippine crisis through the poems and the hundreds of essays he has written on the manifold aspects of that crisis,” a part of the nomination entitled “Jose Maria Sison’s Enduring Legacy: People’s Art, People’s Culture” read.

A copy of Sison’s nomination as National Artist for Literature entitled “Jose Maria Sison’s Enduring Legacy: People’s Art, People’s Culture.

Lumbera, University of the Philippines deans Luis Teodoro and Roland Tolentino, writers Alice and Gelacio Guillermo, playwright Bonifacio Ilagan, National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Allan Jazmines, Davao-based writer Don Pagusara, UP professor Rommel Rodriguez, and director-producer Soc Jose led hundreds of individual artists, writers, academicians and personalities who nominated Sison.

The Concerned Artists of the Philippines, College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, Sining na Naglilingkod sa Bayan, Linangan ng Kulturang Pilipino, Teatro Obrero, Artista kag Manunulat nga Makibanwahanon (Panay), Artistang May Diwang Dagohoy (Bohol), Sining Banwa Performance Collective (Albay) Panday Sining (Metro Manila), Liga ng Kabataang Propagandista, Southern Tagalog Exposure, Kodao Productions and The Philippine Collegian were among the organizational nominators.

Sison has authored dozens of books of essays and poetry published locally and internationally and translated into various languages. He has won several awards as a writer, including the Literary Achievement Award for poetry and essay writing from the Writers’ Union of the Philippines, National Book Award for Poetry (Prison and Beyond), Manila Critics Circle, the Southeast Asia (SEA) WRITE Award for the Philippines for essay writing and poetry (reputedly the most prestigious literary award in Southeast Asia) and the Marcelo H. del Pilar Award bestowed by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

The nominators singled out Sison’s Struggle for Nationalism and Democracy, Philippine Society and Revolution, and Prisons and Beyond as his most influential books, saying these undoubtedly changed Philippine history and helped define Philippine society.

“[Sison’s essays] have enlightened several generations and inspired them into living lives dedicated to the service of the people in furtherance of the empowerment of the poor, the marginalized and the powerless so they may themselves transform their own lives in a society of peace, prosperity and democracy of their own making,” the nominators wrote.

“He has thereby raised the level of public discourse on such issues as poverty and underdevelopment from the confusion and misdirection of the past to its current focus on their historical and structural roots, and as neither mandated by heaven nor an affliction inherent in the human condition, but as man-made and therefore susceptible to human intervention,” they added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)