(Feature photo courtesy of painter James Gabito)
Various artists from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, and Benguet brought their paintings to Sitio Remedios’ Centro Luna last October for the gallery’s opening on the 31st of the same month. The opening is Centro Luna’s biggest event for 2023 and according to Sitio Remedios, “It is only the beginning.”
“We are very happy that the paintings of Ilocano artists from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, and Benguet are the focal point on opening day,” says Angelie Maranan Banaag, a painter from Dingras, Ilocos Norte and Panagyaman’s lead coordinator. Curated by Kath D. Lagustan, the exhibit Panagyaman Daguiti Maris (Gratitude of Colors) includes paintings made from natural colorants while some are inspired by impressionism and other styles.
“Art is my solace,” Angelie Maranan Banaag shares. Banaag has been in the art scene for almost a decade, with several exhibits under her belt.
Known for her colorful paintings, her usual subjects are Filipino women wearing intricate gowns with lively patterns and hues.
Banaag’s work has a vibrancy to it that never fails to catch the eye but it isn’t just about vivid colors. To Banaag, striking pigments bring happiness and comfort. Baguio-based artist Ernie Gomez, more popularly known in the northern art scene as ErGo, offers the same lightheartedness in his work but this is in terms of his concepts. His latest piece The Laundress shows ErGo’s sense of humor.
A Diverse Artistic Landscape
A mover and shaker in the Ilocos Sur art scene, Charlotte Rafanan’s style is a direct contrast to Angelie Maranan Banaag’s but it gives art connoisseurs an idea of how diverse the region is in terms of its creative influences. With almost monochromatic yet very detailed paintings, the Vigan native showcases her visual and graphic artist background in every piece she produces.
“It is fascinating and heartwarming that these talented artists from the region are working together to make this exhibit happen. I have never felt so welcome,” Sissel W.M. Salucop said after being informed that she could join the Panagyaman Daguiti Maris. Much like Banaag and Rafanan, the Batac-born illustrator and painter treats her art as a reflection of her values.
“Lucia’s Forest,” an oil on canvas piece, is dedicated to the late Ilocana master painter Lucia Mangapit Valdez, Salucop’s grandmother and mentor. Influenced by impressionism through Valdez’s tutelage, the Brisbane-based artist’s gentle brush strokes offer bareness and unblended hues. Her body of work includes Little Willow and the Enchanted Empanada, a children’s novel she illustrated with her dad Wilfred Cuanang Salucop.
Love for One’s Roots
For many of the artists, Panagyaman Daguiti Maris is like a homecoming, and Adonis D. Ladera agrees. Known for using annatto seeds and coffee paste as his medium, Ladera’s work looks to the past and emphasizes the importance of the region’s heritage and values. Ilocanos are known for being resourceful and Ladera brandishes this part of his roots through his art.
Baguio-based painter James Gabito has the same point of view but it includes focusing on the Philippines as a whole. Gabito reimagines Old Manila in his work and to many of his peers, James is not just a painter – he is a storyteller. His brush strokes are done with intent, showcasing his confidence in his creativity and vision.
This emphasis on patriotism is also seen in the works of Kizzel Mina, a self-taught painter from Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur. Inspired by the works of Amorsolo, Mina sticks to painting Filipinas in their baro’t saya.
“I want to capture the beauty of women – to showcase their strength and frailty,” Mina shares.
Baguio City’s Kyle Egipto Vizacara also focuses on beauty. His expertise in painting faces can be seen through his work “Bloom V”. Using oil as his medium, Vizacara’s work is reminiscent of those done by old masters.
Jollee Dee Galamgam
Beauty in Imperfection
There is beauty in imperfection, too, and Ilocos Sur artist Roves Solar attests to this through her work “Woman and her Balloon Rabbit”. Roves celebrates irregularities and incompleteness and she says this whenever she is asked why her work is markedly different.
It would seem that Solar’s mission to show imperfections as beautiful is being lived by another artist from Magsingal, Ilocos Sur. Cherry DV Agoyaoy utilizes bright-colored plastic in her art despite her being color blind and that is beautiful in itself. Agoyaoy says that the intricate linkages of her work “Linked Lineage” showcase the strength of the Filipino but to Centro Luna, it symbolizes Agoyaoy’s own strength.
With exhibitions in Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and in her home country, Agoyaoy has proven that talent and resilience result in success.
Another artist from the nearby town of Santo Domingo is making waves like Agoyaoy. Franz Benedict Reburon is making a name for himself in the art scene. A teacher by profession, Reburon’s work is distinctive – his brush strokes are bold and the hues he uses are almost always a combination of both deep dark colors and vibrant reds and oranges. Much like his colleague Vizacara, Reburon has mastered painting faces. The only difference is, his brush strokes show a more violent technique. And that is his signature.
Ilocos Sur artist Dexaur, on the other hand, has a more modern take on his work. A visual artist, Dexter Keith Prepose only has one model and that is Bond, a teddy bear character he created. Dexaur says that he wants people to find “comfort and joy” when they see his muse.
Michael D. Rosqueta’s “Pintero,” showcases his love for digital and realistic art. Although his work is colder than Dexaur’s, they share one goal – to affect the emotions of their audience.
When asked if he plans what he paints, Rosqueta’s candid answer was that he just paints once he is in front of the canvas.
According to Centro Luna, this batch of artists employs different methods. In a statement, the gallery said that “those influenced by impressionism have a more old-world way of creating their pieces – outdoors and in the moment.”
Salucop does this while cubism enthusiasts like Jollee Dee Galamgam draw from their own emotions to produce colorful paintings. Galamgam’s cubism is reminiscent of Picasso’s work but she adds a tinge of Filipino cubist flavor to it.
Contemporary Ilocano art is so varied that it is difficult to choose favorites. While some derive their styles from old masters, others infuse flavors from pop culture. This can be observed in Shena Mae C. Robles’ “The Artist”. This painting is her ode to the contemporary artist who would like to both hide and be seen. A depiction of her mind and her modern-day influences, Robles gives the audience a burst of colors.
Chen Maneja-Andres’ latest work mirrors the pop culture elements of Robles but the Ilocos Norte-based artist also adds a fleetingly painful commentary on modern love to the mix. A reflection of the times, her latest piece responds to a global environment – one that is technologically advanced, multifaceted, fun, yet treacherous.
If Maneja-Andres takes inspiration from modern society, fellow Ilocos Norte artist Joshua Miguel Agdigos gets his through the exploration of various materials. Agdigos often works with resin as he loves playing with several layers of colors. An architect, Agdigos put up Likhang Hilaga Studio to nurture his art. Another Agdigos shares the stage in Centro Luna’s first exhibition. Grandjoy Agdigos loves vibrant colors much like her nephew but she is more philosophical when it comes to her paintings.
Laoag City’s Mike Kairuz also has a penchant for exploration but with him, it is all about concepts. Kairuz shows his opinion on what lies ahead through his work, a direct contrast to Gabito’s reimagining of a distant past.
Established artist Art Lozano is a part of Centro Luna’s Panagyaman Daguiti Maris as well. Often tackling nature and vintage cars sitting in vast flower fields, Lozano’s art is exquisite. His daughter Summer is also in the lineup but her paintings are different from her father’s. Summer Lozano, like other painters from her generation, is all about the exploration of colors and their interactions. Her work is markedly more minimalist than her father’s.
Gabriel T. Pingol of Ilocos Norte employs this minimalism as well. With his work almost ethereal, Pingol manages to provide a certain calmness in every piece. For Centro Luna, however, Pingol will display “Life,” a more vibrant take on his usual minimalist style.
Florence Eduarte of Abra employs an amalgamation of modern and old techniques. A graduate of Fine Arts, Eduarte’s watercolor paintings fuse abstract and realistic art powerful enough to inspire both happiness and solitude.
Perhaps, duality is an important ingredient in creativity as can be seen in Pingol’s and Eduarte’s methods. Duality is also where Roel Salvatierra thrives. The architect dips his toes in creating philosophical art. Using oil as his medium, Salvatierra does not betray his profession but uses it to enhance his work.
Gratitude of Colors, the exhibit, was inspired by diversity and the many colors and styles of the region’s painters.