A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: Sustaining artists’ creativity while being able to live on their art

Art Exhibit Review

DAVAO ART FESTIVAL
Mounted by the Dabawenyo Artists Federation, Inc. (DAFI)
Venue: La Herencia, Torres St., Davao City
Dates: April 21 to 26, 2022

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 April) – Finally, there is a visual art exhibit in Davao City that no longer mainly showcases the images of Davao’s iconic symbols, namely, Mt. Apo, waling-waling, durian and our indigenous peoples! In the past few years, art exhibits – including the few ones that got mounted even during the pandemic – were highly dependent on these images.

It seems that with this DAFI-sponsored exhibit ongoing at La Herencia, the Davao artists have expanded their arts’ content beyond these iconic images. The range of subjects covered in this exhibit include nature (landscapes, flowers, animals and other creatures on the planet), lives of the ordinary folk, women’s bodies, family love, children and the abstracts of humanity’s desires and declarations, desires and dreams.

It seems either the Davao artists are fed up concentrating their subjects on the iconic images or they believe the viewers would rather now see other things represented on the canvas. I didn’t see any painting that had a Mt. Apo and durian. There are however a few on our Lumads. However, while there are images that are oriented to the foreign, our artists continue to pursue localized scenes and prefer visualizing images of our own from nature scenes to our people’s ordinary lives.

This is DAFI’s fourth exhibit after it was founded in 2020 with this vision – “to become the foremost cohesive visual artists organization of Davao City” – and mission – “to establish an ecosystem of marketing processes to help artists sustain their creativity and be able to live on their art.” At the same time, it hopes “to establish an artistic environment where artists can relentlessly produce artworks in utmost excellence, honest to goodness creativity and humility of heart”.

Between 2020 and now, it had mounted three virtual shows and one onsite exhibit at SM Lanang Premier in 2021. In this year’s exhibit 13 artist groups banded together for this fabulous exhibition, including BaiHinang, Floral Artists of Davao, Bintana Gallery, Artists Initiative, Piguras Contemporary, Art Sanctuary, Art Pavilion, Watercolor Society of Davao, Tabularasa, Pintanao, G.A.M.A., Guhit Pinas and TM Artists.

The hundreds of artists – painters and sculptors – whose works are present in this exhibit used the usual media from acrylic (which seems to be the most dominant of all media) to oil, watercolor to mixed media. The sizes ranged from small to mural-sized paintings. All works are for sale, but prices are not indicated on the labels beside the works. A prospective buyer needs to check out the prize with whoever represented the artists.

Flowers, flowers and more flowers – these dominated the images in this exhibit and one can see all kinds rendered in various media and forms: roses, daisies, anemone, hibiscus, lilies, bougainvillea, birds of paradise and orchids. The artists apart from the watercolorists who painted flowers include Amanda Fe Echevarria, Thea Go, Jess Icacordova, Sol Jickain, Dadai Joaquin, Fides Baddongon, Jearvy Lanoha, Arnil Nararro, Rolie San Satera, Mary Anne Tan Guinoo, Tricia Borbon, Adelina Reyes, Gie Europa, Vic Navarro, Pery Jane Abian Fune and Dotty Du. The outstanding works among them include Echevarria’s Dawn Workshop Triptych and a number of monochromatic art.

The works are clustered mainly according to the groups to which the artists belong. Perhaps this was the exhibit’s liability apart from how cluttered the whole exhibit space is. It could have been better curated, maximizing the kind of space provided by the venue, which in itself is already an ideal place for art exhibitions. Still it is an exhibit that all art-loving Davaoeňos should see.

Each viewer naturally would have his/her favorite cluster of paintings, or specific paintings in this collection. My own favorite cluster is that of the Watercolor Society of Davao constituted by the works of Saldy Mascardo II, Editha Abada Tuazon, Jojo Jimenez, Anthony Serafin, Ritzer Bolivar, RoyRoy Gubyan, Vanessa Ann Ong, Ging Lopez Balinas and Mathew Arts.

These watercolors are for those who prefer works of art that are soft to the eye, mostly of pastel colors, gentle and makes one smile. These watercolors’ subjects mainly encompass flora and fauna but also bodies of water and human beings. The outstanding ones are Serafin’s Bougainvillea Blooms and Net Nouy 1 & 2, Jimenez’ Agos ng Buhay and Mascardo’s Yellow Corn Series.

The ones on family love (grand/parents with their grand/children) are beautifully rendered in two media – oil (by Bernard de Lumin’s Unang Lipad series) and pen-and-ink by Allan Desierto (e.g., Father & Son). Interesting that both contributed four pieces each, but the former are of medium size, the latter small.

The landscapes are also some of the marvelous pieces. Vic Secuya’s collection of abstract landscapes painted in acrylic’s soft pastel colors (Landscapes 1 – 6 and The Past That Binds) are a worthy addition to his accumulated works. There are also the haunting images painted in oil by Bryan Cabrera (A Summer Day and A Rainy Day) and Kim Valle (Landscape No. 3 and 4). Though these are small pieces, the viewer resonates with these paintings demand for solitude.

There are but a few sculptures, but the ones included are outstanding. There are two pieces which are pyrography in wood by Imelda Pangar and Yan Navales-Cuezon (titled Ang Puno at mga Sanga at Bunga and Ang Siyang Nagbubunga ng Marami), one in wood by Gilbert Miraflor (Buntis) and three pieces in stone craft with rock slate by Brando Cendeňo (Filipina with a Pot, Rice Farmer and Farmers on Carabao).

As with other art exhibits mounted in Davao City in the past few years, this one brings together works of acclaimed artists who already have their own collectors and who continue to do their best to refine their crafts, but there also the up-and-coming artists who are now tapping into their creative wellsprings. While this is laudable as it provides a venue for our young artists it does impact the quality of the whole collection. And the viewer can easily pinpoint the gaps between the works.

I had some interesting encounters with a few of the artists who were around when I went to see the exhibit. I was pleased to bump into Ega Carreon – one of Davao’s veteran visual artists – who gave a talk on non-representational art. He had two pieces in the cluster to the group he belongs (After the Storm and Transcendencia).

I had an interesting conversation with Alex Alogon who represents Bintanadigital. He has been doing a lot of computer art (a recent genre of visual art favored by the tech-savvy millennial artists). Artists engaged in such art worry about protecting their intellectual rights to their works. He informed me that there is already a program to help artists protect their rights known as “Non Fungible Token” (NFT). He showed me in his cellphone how this can be accomplished via a link that appears as a QR. I did wonder if this is one form that will dominate the art scene in the future!

I also bumped into Aurelio “Yoyax” Peña, whose works in this exhibit are various abstract representations in the power combination of black-red-white (with one-word titles, including Profanity, Melody, Contingent, Dialectic & Accent). The interesting detail of this painter’s biodata which appears on his calling card identifies him as a painter of great masterpieces.

In fact, there is a remarkable replica of the Mona Lisa in this exhibit (much bigger in size than the one at Louvre). He told me that there have been many people who have known of his prowess at doing replicas of the masters from Matisse to Monet, Picasso to Pissarro, from Van Gogh to Da Vinci. He said that he would rather paint his abstracts, but as they insist on replicas, he continues to paint in the shadow of the masters.

I naturally responded to his comment with a rather catty remark: “Why do they try to project that they are ‘cultured’ by owning replicas, instead of buying original works of our very own artists?”

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland,” which won the National Book Award for social science category in 2012, “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” and his latest, “Handumanan (Remembrance): Digging for the Indigenous Wellspring.”. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). Gaspar is a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]