Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

3/12/2009

Coming full circle

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |


FRESH from a seven-museum exhibit extravaganza, Amorsolo seems to be on everyone’s tongue. The country’s first National Artist, known for his use of light and choice of subject, brings to mind idyllic scenes of Filipino beauty. Yet, like a Pleasantville of the silverscreen, there lies an underbelly of discontent, especially from the art students measured against this ideal.

For art students, like it or not, Amorsolo was the yardstick. Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz recalls his days learning his art, “[Amorsolo] was the paradigm, and you have to break the paradigm.” He waxes almost nostalgic at the memory of his teachers’ standards and how he, student that he was, learned to negotiate with them, accepting but not capitulating.

Years later, he comes full circle like a prodigal son “who ran away from his father, but could enjoy a beer with him” with Bukod Tanging Pag-ibig, the show’s title itself a play on the words Amor and Solo. Bogie now recreates some of Amorsolo’s famed works and gently strips the gauze binding on it, revealing a nation stretched under the pressures of World War, Japanese occupation, and industrialization.

Bogie shares that Amorsolo lived from 1892 to 1972, yet not a single one of his works included a car or a motorcycle. “He was excluding things; he was defining an aesthetic.” Like Americana, glamorizing an era of war and political strife, so too does Amorsolo. While his works are couched on reality, he bathes it with an ethereal light—expressing perhaps a nation’s own yearning.

Beginning with the now-familiar Amorsolo background, Bogie transposes images of the traditional Maria accompanied by Hello Kitties and Astroboys, looking on as fellow Marias act the caddy for the wealthy. On a luminous sunset, he inserts an oilrig, ironically called Oil Painting. In Takip-silim: Motor, Bogie includes a motorcycle almost drowning amidst the coming darkness. He confesses, “It is almost a forgery, except for that bad detail.” He goes on to explain, “That motorcycle is menace…Amorsolo’s province is without menace.”

With glaring anachronisms or subtle additions, Bogie succeeds in creating a loving counterpoint to the classic Amorsolo. Whereas others may have been content to leave history as it is, Bogie takes up the cudgels. He negotiates the fine line between Amorsolo idyllic and the grayscale harshness of reality, producing works that acknowledge its origins in Amorsolo, yet challenges viewers to include what was conveniently forgotten.

Photo credit: vina@bmtv

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