Abstract Conversations

It can be said that all the arts are generally abstractions because in making art, the artist takes away an image, a concept, or form from anything he perceives and converts it into an object for appreciation like a piece of sculpture or painting.

Abstraction in the visual arts is classified by art scholars into either partial or complete. Partial abstraction alters forms and colors; complete or pure abstraction dislocates reality referencing by solely relying on lines, forms, colors, and even processes for content. Abstract art’s taxonomic cohorts are non-objective art, non-representational art, and non-figurative art.

Abstract Conversations

Darnay Demetillo (1946-2012)
Untitled (Landscape) / 1974 / Oil on Canvas / UPV Art Collection

Demetillo was Professor and Artist-in-Residence of UP Baguio from 1978 until he retired in 2005. He was mentor to students who won in major art competitions in the Philippines.

Abstract Conversations

Virginia Flor A. Agbayani (Filipino, b. 1922)
Sunset / 1969 / Oil on Canvas / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Agbayani is Professor Emeritus and former Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines Diliman. She helped organized the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) in 1948 with Purita Kalaw Ledesma. She now lives in the US.

Abstract Conversations

Edward Defensor (Filipino, b. 1945)
Panakayon / 1982 / Oil on Canvas / UPV Art Collection

A leading figure in the Ilonggo arts movement, he created Lin-ay sang Iloilo, the sculpture that crowns the new Iloilo City Hall. He recently made a large statue of St. Ignatius of Loyala for the Ateneo de Iloilo. He was recipient of the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Regatta Pinoy Icon Juan Luna award for the Visual Arts in 2013 and the Garbo sa Bisaya Awardee from the Visayas Islands Visual Artists Exhibition and Conference (VIVA-ExCon) in 2010.

For this exhibition works by pioneers and masters of abstract art from the art collection of UP Visayas were selected to form one party to the conversation: Jose Joya, Ang Kiukok, Cesar LegaSpi, Virginia Flor Agbayani, Romulo Olazo, Manuel Rodriguez Sr., Mauro Malang Santos, Norberto Carating, Rock Drilon, Darnay Demetillo, Nelfa Querubin, Ed Defensor and the Taiwanese Lee Shichi. Works by a new generation of contemporary and award-winning Ilonggo artists who practice the art form make up the other party: Allain Hablo, PG Zoluaga, Oscar Peñasales, Mark Gonzales; Rheo Nepomuceno, Ronnie Granja, Marrz Capanang, Jeline Laporga, Riche Baylon, and Vic Galino Jr.

Abstract Conversations

Mauro ‘Malang’ Santos (Filipino, b. 1928)
Flower Vase II / 1979 / Tempera on Board / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Malang was an illustrator-cartoonist for the Manila Chronicle. He created two comic-strip characters, Kosme the Cop (Retired) and Chain Gang Charlie. 

In the 1960s, he became a serious artist painting simplified forms. He received the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award in 1963.

Abstract Conversations

Manuel Rodriguez Sr. (Filipino, b. 1912)
Many Mansions / 1966 / Print / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Rodriguez was one of the pioneers of printmaking in the Philippines and is dubbed as the “Father of Philippine Printmaking”. He is also the first Filipino to have exhibited his prints in biennial shows held outside the country. He also established the Philippine Association of Printmakers
in 1968.

Abstract Conversations

Jose Joya (Filipino, b. 1931-1995)
Fate / 1983 / Intermedia / UPV Art Collection

Joya was a leading exponent of Abstract Expressionism in the Philippines. He was posthumously conferred the title National Artist in 2003. He was former Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of the Philippines Diliman. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from UP Diliman and finished Master of Fine Arts from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

In the Philippines, abstraction was championed by many prominent artists. Hernando Ocampo, Arturo Luz, Constancio Bernardo, Lee Aguinaldo, Vicente Manansala, and Fernando Zobel are some of the artists in the roster although they are not represented in the UP Visayas art collection save for Luz. But the university art collection has very good specimens of abstract art from some of the major and pioneering abstractionists in the Philippines.

Abstract Conversations

Norberto “Lito” Carating (Filipino, b. 1948)
Untitled / 1967 / Acrylic on Canvas / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Carating is well-known for his series on the lamang lupa (earth creatures) and on the underwater, which he calls the Anilao state. He was categorized as an impressionist rather than an expressionist by art critics.

Abstract Conversations

Rock Drilon (Filipino, b. 1956)
Untitled (Scroll) / 1984 / Acrylic on Canvas / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Drilon studied painting in UP Diliman College of Fine Arts and was director of several art galleries in Manila before relocating to Iloilo and mentoring young artists in the place. He was Second Prize in Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) Black and White Competition (1977); Second Prize, AAP Annual Painting Competition (1978); and Second Prize, Manuel Quezon Centennial National Painting Competition, Manila, Philippines (1978).

Abstract Conversations

Romulo Olazo (Filipino, 1934-2015)
Cave-In / 1979 / Intaglio / UPV Art Collection (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Olazo studied fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas under National Artist Victorio Edades and Teodoro Lorenzo, a pioneering Filipino modernist. He is famous for his diaphanous Series which made him a respected abstractionist in the Philippines and abroad.

Among his many awards, is the Thirteen Artists award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1972.

National Artist Jose Joya’s art was believed to have been impelled by the abstract expressionists he was exposed to when he studied in the U.S. for his Master of Fine Arts degree in the Cranbrook Academy. Joya later made protégés of Rock Drilon and Norberto Carating who also practiced abstraction. Edward Defensor, although Iloilo-based, was interacting with Joya, Drilon, and Carating and perhaps by osmosis took on abstraction, too. He straddled between figurative and non-objective art early in his career which was nurtured in UP Visayas. He has turned to painting pure abstractions upon retirement from teaching. Romulo Olazo was exploring colors in his Diaphanous Series but even his prints are pure abstractions. National Artists Ang Kiukok and Cesar Legaspi as well as cartoonist-turned-painter Mauro Malang Santos practiced partial abstraction — all were locally educated in art although art scholars find strains of the styles of the Mexican Rufino Tamayo and the Swiss Paul Klee in their works. Darnay Demetillo and Virginia Flor Agbayani, both UP art professors, were also partial abstractionists in their landscape-inspired paintings. Ilongga Nelfa Querubin was making abstract paintings and prints in Manila before turning to pottery which is essentially sculptural abstraction.

Abstract Conversations

Nelfa Querubin (Filipino, b. 1941)
Dwellings / 1999 / Intermedia / UPV Art Collection (Gift of the Artist)

Despite her early success in printmaking, Querubin was drawn to ceramics. It was during the 70s when she focused on making studio pottery and became a pioneering artist in the field. In 1980, she received the Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Abstract Conversations

Ang Kiukok (Filipino, 1931-2005)
Rooster / 1977 / Acrylic on Paper

Named National Artist in Visual Arts in 2001, Ang Kiukok was a dynamic artist known for his unconventional paintings which represent violence and social terrors.

He was a perennial winner in the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) Annual from which
he won First Place in 1959 and five other prizes, his last in 1963.

Abstract Conversations

Cesar Legaspi (Filipino, 1917-1994)
Untitled (Nude Descending) / 1977 / Oil on Wood / UPV Art Collectionb (Dr. Dionisia A. Rola Bequest)

Legaspi, a National Artist for painting (1990), worked alongside with HR Ocampo in paintings with social commentaries. He moved later towards cubism but still retained his social message in works that are filled with rhythm and movement.

He Studied art in the Philippines, Spain and France.

There are also foreign abstract artists who are represented in the university art collection. Of these, the Taiwanese Lee ShiChi is most prominent. His presence in the UPV art collection testifies to the vibrancy of the art market in the Philippines in the 1970s and early 1980s. Gallery Dominique, owned by former Senator Anna Dominique Coseteng who is an Ilongga, used to exhibit in the UPV Auditorium at the time when the UPV Gallery was non-existent. Gallery Dominique was selling works by Lee Shichi; UPV acquired a serigraph. Lee ShiChi works fuse Eastern and Western art idioms.

Abstract Conversations

Lee Shichi (Taiwanese, b. 1938)
Memories / 1978 / Print (Serigraph) / UPV Art Collection

Lee Shichi graduated from the Department of Fine Arts of Taipei Normal School, Taiwan. Known for his activism, his forward thinking and endless energy makes him a respected Taiwanese modern artist who has fused traditional Asian and contemporary aesthetics.

In Iloilo, abstraction has been given a fresh impetus by a band of artists who started as figurative painters. The transmogrification by these artists perhaps, over again, proves that one has to have a good grasp of form in order to successfully transcend toward abstraction because abstract art is basically about simplification and restructuration.

Abstract Conversations

PG Zoluaga (Filipino, b. 1958)
Ritual 1 / 2016 / Acrylic on Canvas

Zoluaga paints, sculpts and does graphic arts. He was Juror’s Choice in Philippine Art Awards in 1998. His painting was also Best Entry in the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) Centennial Painting Competition in 1998. His sculpture won the Grand Prize in First Dumaguete Terra Cotta Festival in 2005. In 2011, he was Pinoy Icon (Juan Luna Awardee) for Visual Arts.

Abstract Conversations

Ronnie Granja
Oplan … Pabierde / 2015 / Acrylic on Canvas

Granja is an artist-teacher. He is Quadro Minor (Honorable Mention) Letras Y Figuras National Painting Contest in 1999. He was finalist in the Philippine Arts Award Painting Contest in 2001. His painting was honorable mention in the Art Association of the Philippines Competition (Painting Category) in 2003.

Abstract Conversations

Marrz Halley Capanang (Filipino, b. 1986)
“Tagum” “Blue” / 2015 / Acrylic on Canvas

Capanang studied art since High School and finished BS Fine Arts in the University of San Agustin in 2015. Among his many awards are: Grand Winner in NCCA-PCEP: Bayaning-Bayan sa Ating mga Katutubong Epiko, Mito at Alamat (2015); First Place in Philippine Post Regional Stamp Design Competition (2014); and First Place in the 39th Paraw Regatta: Pintawo (2011).

Abstract Conversations

Vic Galino Jr.
Tears in the Sun (Tribute) / 2015 / Intermedia

A former policeman and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agent, he received recognition for his services. He also received the Tradean of the Century Award in 2005 from the West Visayas College of Science and Technology (WVCST) now the Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U). His Technical Architectural Drafting course helped him in his artmaking pursuits which he started upon his retirement from government service.

Abstract Conversations

Ritche Baylon (Filipino, b. 1976)
Urban / 2015 / Acrylic on Canvas

Baylon studied Architectural Drafting at West Visayas College of Science and Technology (WVCST) now the Iloilo Science and Technology University (ISAT U). He was one of the thirty (30) finalists in the Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards in 2006.

Allain Hablo won several national art contests for his works that depict people including his own family. Currently, he specializes in earth-colored paintings whose titles suggest sarcasm and irony. PG Zoluaga, an excellent illustrator, did well in the graphic arts but he had moved from one style of figuration to another before painti¬¬ng, in these past few years, his colorful but edgy abstracts. Oscar Penasales is an award-winning architect, so he is naturally at home with abstraction; but he admits he swings between figuration and abstraction just so he will not lose touch of his skill in doing both. Marz Capanang, Rheo Nepomuceno, Jeline Laporga, Richie Baylon, Ronnie Granja, and Vic Galino had displayed a flair for stylized and conceptual figure painting that signified early on their patent trajectories towards abstraction. Mark Gonzales, award-winning sculptor, is adept at fashioning partially or completely abstract terracotta and cold-cast marble pieces.

Abstract Conversations

Harry Mark Gonzales
Light of Life / 2013 / Cast Marble and Resin

Gonzales does terracotta and cold cast marble sculptures. He won the Grand Prize in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) National Competition in 2007 and had exhibited in group shows in Manila, Cebu and Singapore.

Abstract Conversations

Oscar Peñasales (Filipino, b. 1968)
Untitled / 2015 / Acrylic on Canvas

An Architect by profession, Peñasales was Grand Prize Winner in the Metrobank Arts and Design Excellence Architecture Competition in 2011. He was also Outstanding Professional in the field of Architecture in 2015.

Abstract Conversations

Jeline Laporga (Filipino, b. 1966)
Reasons and Alibis VI / 2013 / Intermedia

Laporga is multi-awarded. He won First Place in 2012 GSIS National Open Art Competition (Abstract Category). He also won first place in 2005 Gawad Amadao Hernandez para sa Sining Biswal.

Abstract Conversations

Rheo Nepomuceno (Filipino, b. 1967)
Untitled / 2015 / Acrylic on Canvas

A veteran of a host of collaborative art exhibitions, Nepomuceno was finalist in several Art Association of the Philippines’ art competitions. He has experimented with a number of style and media.

Abstract Conversations

Allain Hablo (Filipino, b. 1968)
Not So Sacred / 2015 / Intermedia

Hablo has had fine solo exhibitions in Iloilo, Manila and USA. He is a multi-awarded artist: Juror’s Choice, Philippine Art Awards in 2005; Second Prize, Art Association of the Philippines Open Art Competition (Sculpture Category) in 2004; Third Prize, Metrobank National Art Competition in 2000; and Juror’s Choice, Art Association of the Philippines Open Art Competition in 1993.

Abstract Conversations explores possible traces of common aesthetics in the abstract works of an older group of artists who practiced art in Manila or abroad and of a new breed of Ilonggo artists. It seeks evidence of disparate motivations in the abstraction done by those who were steeped in the formalist habits of modernism and by those who have been baptized into the perorations of postmodernism.

Abstraction seems to be the aesthetic refuge of artists in times of precarity and uncertainty from all planes. This was true in the rise of abstraction in the modern period; this is also true in its current resurgence in what art historians and scholars call the postmodern time. What to make out of this phenomenon is something worth studying. But it is not absurd to hazard that when sensitivities and circumstances are too overwhelming for the sentient soul to contain, the poetry and terseness of abstraction are solaces and consolations.

UPV Gallery
UPV General Luna St. Iloilo City
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