Journey: Art: 50, Part I: Works on Paper

27 APRIL - 18 MAY 2017

  • In 1967, the 1st Inter-Asian Graphic Arts Competition was held in Manila. Having learned printmaking first as a Fine Arts student at the University of Sto. Tomas under the esteemed Cenon Rivera, then later at the Contemporary Graphic Arts Workshop under the master of Philippine printmaking, Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., I took the plunge and joined the competition, thus making my entry into the professional art scene. 50 years later, this exhibit opens a series which will show the different phases of my career as a visual artist. As the name suggests, these are works in different media and from different years, but all on paper.

    The Prints: Along the walls of the upper gallery are prints produced using different methods --- woodcut, etching, serigraph, relief, embossment, and collagraph, a hybrid method which allows practically any material to be made into a plate. Unfortunately, because of humidity and the passing of the years, all these works have developed foxing, the brown spotting that is the bane of printmakers and anyone who works with paper. Once it appears, there is absolutely no possibility of camouflaging or removing it. You just learn to live with it.

    The Photographs: When I was a young girl, my father, National Artist for Film and Theater Lamberto V. Avellana, introduced me to photography. He brought home some short ends of 35mm film, excess from a movie he was shooting for LVN pictures, loaded it into his still camera, taught me how to operate it, then left me on my own. No other instructions except to make sure that my subject was never out of focus. Unless I really wanted that effect. Eleven years ago, I mounted “Available Light”, a retrospective of 50 photographs taken in the 1970’s up to 2006. Using a variety of analog cameras --- Pentax Spotmatic, Pentax SF7, Canon EOS 888 (loaned to me by my son-in-law Paolo Mercado when my Pentax shutter went on the blink), even a tiny Kodak Advantix --- and relying solely on the illumination present at the scene (hence the title of the exhibit), I captured images that caught my fancy because of the subject, the lighting, the mood, the colors, the composition or the humor in them: clown buskers frozen in their poses along La Rambla in Barcelona; sunlight streaming through weather-beaten windows at the Museo de Artes Modernos in Cuenca; theater costumes for sale in a show-window in downtown Paris; abstractions created by natural light shining through thick glass. “Available Light” was dedicated to three photographers par excellence and I still think of them as I view these images over and over again: my father, who allowed me to discover this fascinating artform; my uncle, award-winning sound engineer Angel Avellana, who encouraged me to go on shooting; and singer Paola Luz, with whom I spent many an afternoon discussing photography and life.

  • The Paintings: I adore flowers and usually paint them in extreme close-up, rather like a bee or butterfly would see them, I suppose. I also paint them huge when I use acrylic on canvas. Even my still-life subjects are painted up close, the better to focus on them.

    The Nudes: Although we had four-hour-long classes on life drawing at UST, only upper- classmen taking Painting as their major were allowed to draw the nude. Since our major was Advertising Art, our class could only draw not-so-young models dressed in tops and shorts, thus leaving us to try to imagine the anatomy that lay beneath those clothes. Many years later, on the invitation of a dear family friend (who happened to be National Artist H.R. Ocampo) my husband Allan and I joined the Saturday Group, which also had as senior members the redoubtable National Artist Cesar Legaspi, National Artist Vicente Manansala, and Alfredo Roces. I slowly but surely made up for lost time, and did nudes in pencil, pen-and-ink, pastel, and acrylic, amassing a large number of them over the years. Sadly, as also happened with many other of my works on paper, I lost quite a few to water damage and termites, two other unfortunate possibilities.

    Mounting any exhibit is always extremely hard work, and I am deeply grateful for the invaluable help of Mr. Albert Avellana, who as over-all curator of JOURNEY: ART: 50, has the unenviable task of planning the other exhibits for this year-long retrospective; and Archivo 1984 Gallery. My thanks, as always, to my Girl-Friday daughter Ina and my husband Allan for his unstinting support.

    These many years of my journey in art have been exciting, heartbreaking, challenging, fulfilling, disappointing, amazing, exhausting, surprising, painful -- figuratively and literally---, wondrous, nerve-wracking, mind-blowing, joyous, depressing, exhilarating, enlightening, gut-wrenching, soul-satisfying….. Would I do it over again? Absolutely.