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)

On Egai Talusan Fernandez’s ‘Padayon’ and today’s Lakbay Magsasaka culmination

by Walkie Miraña, Concerned Artists of the Philippines

THE mural says it all. The people’s suffering and oppression will give rise to people’s resistance.  It will serve as a fertile ground for the people’s struggle for genuine agrarian reform.

“Padayon” is a Visayan word which means to continue, persist or carry on. For this piece, Padayon meant “onwards with the people’s struggle for land.”  It was Talusan Fernandez’s contribution to the 32nd commemoration of the September 1985 Escalante Massacre that killed 20 farmers and injured dozens others.

The artwork is most relevant three decades after “Escam”. Farmers and agricultural workers continue to suffer from the exploitations that drove them to march that Friday morning that merited them nothing but tyranny and bullets.

“My memories of the incident and my recognition of the bravery of the survivors fueled me in creating this mural,” Talusan Fernandez said.

“This piece shows wave upon wave of protests from an outline of a shouting sacada’s (sugarcane farm worker) face that symbolizes their decades of struggle against their oppression. The barbed wire, which fuses with the planted and harvested sugarcane symbolizes the repression they struggle against,” he explained of his work.

Talusan Fernandez is a social realist artist since the time of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, producing nationalist propaganda materials since 1975 and paintings since 1976.

In his four decades of activism through art, he became one of the founding members of Kaisahan in 1977, Free the Artists Movement, Concerned Artists of the Philippines in 1983, and the Artista ng Bayan (ABAY).

Talusan Fernandez currently chairs the National Commission on Culture and the Arts  Committee on Visual Arts.

To the artist, “Padayon” only arouses more questions rather than answers.

PADAYON by Egai Talusan Fernandez, September 20, 2017, Escalante City, Negros Oriental

“Did their conditions change 32 years after the massacre? Have they been given justice and have they been given the land that rightfully belongs to them?” Talusan Fernandez asked.

Talusan Fernandez’s “Padayon” gains even more significance today as thousands of peasants are set to stage the biggest nationally-coordinated protest action to demand for genuine agrarian reform and to struggle against Rodrigo Duterte’s tyranny. Today is the last day of their nine-day Pambansang Lakbayan ng mga Magsasaka para sa Lupa at Laban sa Pasismo or #Lakbay Magsasaka as part of their annual commemoration of peasant month (October).

Like the wave of protests in Talusan Fernandez’s masterpiece, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Unyon ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura shall hold the culminating protest action in Mendiola, Manila with farmers and peasant leaders from Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, Negros, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Bicol, Central Luzon, Cordillera and Cagayan Valley now getting ready at a protest camp at the Department of Agrarian Reform main office in Quezon City. Simultaneous peasant-led actions will take place in major cities and urban centers: Iloilo, Surigao, Tandag, Butuan, Davao, Bacolod and Cebu. #