Sunday, June 10, 2012

art reunites: IBA - Irigueno & Buhinon Artists

frank penones jr., fr. emil llagas, al oliva, pano carumba, cesar gumba, ben san miguel (not in picture)
they gather at one table in the garden here at the cafe, huddled close, bottles clicking, glasses filling.  the murmur is low, occasional laughter cutting through the hum.  jokes are staples in these gatherings.  most of the jokes are on them, too.  these artists, they love to tease each other.  

they are nervous, i can tell.  the exhibit opening is just about to start, and this is the first time that one such group show is happening here in baao.


reminiscently, i shake my head and wonder how i got here, sitting by the shop, and recalling how this cafe has evolved into the gallery that it is now.

the program started with a prayer and a welcome message, a poem was read, a song sang.  this, after all, is a celebration of the arts and the artists!  the pieces were viewed, some of them inspected, even.  bwahahaha!  pieces were reserved, some sale will be finalized in the coming days, i am sure. yehey!

i did not have to ask anyone to comment on their works, when one engages one's self with one of their works, then, there is no need for words.  the works speak volumes, not only about the piece, but more so about the maker.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

the aesthetics of psalms

the aesthetics of psalms:
fr. nunilon bancaso's found prayers
by:  tito valiente, business mirror 5 june 2012

as with his paintings, the energies of which are sourced from parables selected, Fr. Nunilon Bancaso's psalms on canvas - painted, pondered and prayed upon - bring back the issue of religion as framework.  shall faith be the foundation upon which any doubt about the vision of the painter rest?
religion being always contentious between acquaintances and, more so, non-sacerdotal and sacerdotal entities, the topic of faith was never brought up when i was taken to an old room of the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary in Naga City.  The guide was the good priest himself, Father Bancaso.  I was curious whether he had more works.  Indeed, he had more works in that room.
the paintings were about the psalms.
psalms are songs.  they celebrate the creation of life; they lament and grieve over distances and nearness to the Almighty.
in that ancient room, we talked:
"i shouldn't be telling you this but the reason i reviewed your Parables and now your Psalms is that i see in your art our struggles with things we believe in and what we also question.  much as you are perhaps consumed by faith, you are also toying with doubts?"
"what doubts?  you might be thinking that my religion is the ideology behind my works?  it's true but not always."
"the last thing i want from you is an explanation.  your art does that already."
"life is a constant search. . .i paint not because i want an answer.  i painted them because in a sense i found something, and i am satisfied."
and in that room, i shared in what the artist had found.  i could not get into what the priest had meditated upon.  i left him there with what perhaps Adre Gide once said about "a collaboration between God and the artist"  where the "less the artist does, the better."
i was interested to see what more the artist has done since, not the product resulting from his moments of abandon, spiritual or not.  i was not disappointed.  the experience, to use a young word, was awesome.
on the walls were canvases chanting with colors.  the palettes were hyperbolic as if the praying man was grappling with all the mightiness of the words.  how to deal indeed with the psalms?
the paintings do not correspond to any particular psalm.  if there is a sense of chronology or order in this creation, it is because the canvases are numbered from 1 to 10.  other than that, it is open season for art appreciation, with the viewer left to think or sense the work with either the psalm that is brought forth in his imagination or any images at all.
the paintings bring us back to the beginning of an old religion.  dogmas have not been created yet and no cults are still in place to prop up human hierarchies.  we can summon to our side, to our heart, a line from Psalm 8: "when i consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained; what is man that you think of him?
what is man that you think of him?
if the colors in this collection are the gauge, the artist navigates for us passages through darkness and valleys, out of afflictions and travails.  surprisingly, and this perhaps is the priest / evangelizer in the artist, the mazes and conflicts are always painted in bright hues.  Bancaso softened some of the strokes, recalling a technique called sfumato, where hard lines are lifted out of jaggedness into ductile, cottony surfaces.
except for no. 5 that shows giant leaf-like waves all swaying to one direction, all the paintings demarcate a space finite only insofar as we can identify the colors but infinitisimal with the promise that there are more out there, not necessarily in the form of prayers or psalms, but more primeval and organic to being human - a converstiaon with the Divine.  or at least, something that is vastly different from us, more powerful than any or all of our histories of sorrows and triumphs put together.
two works stand out in the collection:  no. 1 and no. 8.  these works are also the most disparate when put together.
painting/psalm no. 8 is the quiet terrain of rogation.  the green and blue tonalities play with our senses and instinctively calm us down, assured as we are that our supplications are heard.  here is where i like to disagree with Gide, for in this work the artist (he does not want to be called a painter) manipulates the strokes and transforms the white shining light into a yellowish iteration on the upper side of the canvas.  white is not the de facto color of grace.  the stereotypical is healed and salvation through acts is actualized.
the opposite of this piece is paitning / psalm no. 1, blinding and almost searing in its employ of reds, oranges and yellows.  we dare not look straight long into the bright lights of this prayer, this is beseeching.  the more ancient philisophies are conjured by this piece:  the One, the Eternal embraces us all, and all our weeping and wretchedness vanish in the omnipotence of the prayer that is the psalm, which is now the painting.