Tatang Bermudez: Filipino Naive Artist

Tucked in an obscure tiny village just off Bacolod, Negros Occidental there used to live a man, known locally as Tatang Bermudez.  Now deceased, the old man, Jesus Bermudez (1941-2013) had apparently left behind a collection of what perhaps can be considered to be some of the most authentic Naïve art in the Philippines.  The massive body of work created within a span of decades, exhibits raw talent that has somehow imbibed its own manner of expression significantly distinct from the culture that surrounds the artist such as Bacolod’s folk crafts and the famous Masskara Festival of colorful Hinduesque costumes.  It is this uniqueness and outright authenticity that has prompted gallery owner Albert Avellana to make it his own personal mission to bring Tatang’s works into the gallery setting where his works can be recognized as a clear example of true Naïve art.

The exhibition is set up in such a way as when Avellana went to Tatang’s house on the 40th day of his death – colorful sculpture of different shapes and sizes  gathered in a corner like a crowd of colorful people and creatures huddled together as if to pay tribute to their maker.

  “This is the image I saw when I went to his place.  Suddenly I miss him.  Now there will be no one to create charming and naïve works such as Tatang’s – the Diwata with a flower covering her private parts, the dog that looks like a cat, the girl in a two-piece whose ear is positioned on her cheek, the cockfighter, the Holy images, the cane, and so much more!”

“This show is my tribute to him.  I want to share with the audience some of the most cheerful subject matters in art and the pleasure and joy it can give the viewer,” says Avellana in a most affectionate manner.

Characteristically Naïve in style, the childlike simplicity of his subject matter and technique show little or no formal art training. Indeed Bermudez’ style is consistent with Naïve art – refreshingly innocent with the use of bright and unrefined colors, strong use of pattern, idiosyncratic scale and perspective and an awkward use of proportion.

Unlike Folk art that is produced by peasants or tradespeople from an indigenous culture, primarily for utilitarian purposes, the works of Bermudez portray a personal vision of a world peopled by Diwatas, guitar men and small men in hats as he celebrated the joy, peace and tranquility of human life.

Joey de Castro: Like a Rolling Stone, An Exhibition of Raku Pottery

“The clay we use is stoneware clay.  I roll the fresh pieces on sand to give it texture.  I listen to the Rolling Stones while working.  Most of the forms look like rock/stones…clay turning on the wheel like  rolling stones.”
---Joey de Castro, 2014

Pottery-making is not just about the chemistry that goes on but also the physics and the thermodynamics involved. One of the more delicate and unpredictable pottery techniques is Raku, where the process of firing becomes its main element.    

Raku (meaning “enjoyment,” or “comfort,”) is a traditional Japanese method of making tea bowls by hand, fired in very low temperature until the piece is glowing red hot and then allowed to cool in open air.  This technique however has been modified by Western contemporary potters.  The red hot glowing piece, after being taken out of the kiln is gently placed in a closed bin filled with organic combustible materials. This is where the magic of Raku occurs.  The heat from the piece will then burn up the combustible materials and will interact with the glaze thus creating that “Raku” effect – a combination of black soot (where glaze has not been applied) and cracked glaze. In short, Raku is the result of the play of materials, temperature and timing.

“Like a Rolling Stone,” is a collection of de Castro’s latest works using this technique known for its unpredictability.  The exhibition is largely made up of sets of three’s signifying the family, who himself has an 11 year-old son, now also a potter.  

Joey Cobcobo: I’m Doing my Father’s Business

Artist Joey Cobcobo (b.1983) adapts the Bible verse,Luke 2:49 as the title of his latest works.  The show, “I’m Doing my Father’s Business” is a collaborative work by the artist and his four-year-old son who at a very young age has been encouraged to express himself through the visual medium.  The artist have been gathering and collecting his young son’s drawings and doodles which has become the inspiration for his new works utilizing the printmaking technique of intaglio. 

An active member of the Printmakers Association of the Philippines (PAP), Cobcobo has created a collection of works that not only showcase his son’s early signs of artistic talent but also the artist’s printmaking abilities. 

Initially the artist traces his son’s childlike lines and forms using carbon paper and transfers these on to red bricks.  The image is then incised into the brick surface and applied with ink.  The incised lines that hold the ink is then pressed on to paper.  The result of Cocobo’s project recalls primitive cave drawings that feature human and animal forms, some containing random alphabet letters.  The works, all monoprints are done on rough handmade paper, while others are hand colored expressing the stark contrast either between the dark ink and the reddened paper, or the black ground that highlight the thin colored lines.

Cocobo, is a recognized young figure in Philippine art with a Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artists awardee in 2012 and in 2010, aJuror’s Choice of Excellency in the Philippine Art Awards, with a series of shortlist nominations  for the Ateneo Art Awards.  A holder of  a bachelor in Fine arts degree (Cum Laude) major in advertising from Technological Unversity of the Philippines, Cobcobohas had numerous exhibitions here and abroad such as New York, Seoul Korea, Singapore, Australia and Vietnam.

Mario Prencipe, the Artist Traveler in Manila

The profound experiences of foreign travel have always played a significant role in the development of artists.  There is something about the strangeness of a place and the experience of another culture that stimulates the senses and inspires creation.    One such artist famous for his travels and the resulting art that he produced was 19th-century Post-Impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin whose bold experimentations with color and style led to the development of modern art.  

Italian artist Mario Prencipe is your modern day “artist traveler,” who has on his own, been traveling to nearly 20 countries in the last two decades -- around Europe, Africa, South America, Russia, China, India, and now the Philippines – where he has been exhibiting his works in various galleries and museums. His works, mostly abstract are a culmination and combination of impressions from the places he has been to and the new knowledge that he picks up along the way. 

Born in 1965 and raised in Sesto San Giovanni, a metropolitan area located in the province of Milan in Italy, the artist, who has based himself in southern Portugal since the year 2000 decided to embark on his numerous journeys – exploring and witnessing other cultures and belief systems while seeking to enrich his understanding of himself and his place in the world as he pursues his artmaking.   

Now on view until February 8, 2014 at the Avellana Art Gallery, Prencipe exhibits about 15 abstract works in the show “Casual and Causal” that seeks to express the idea that human intervention should not disturb the innate harmony and beauty of nature--- just like his quiet presence in the foreign lands he goes to.  Using washed down colorful acrylics, the artist would gently move the surface of the canvas to create random forms.  When these dry up, he then traces some of the natural lines with a thin application of ink as he highlights selected elements of the composition. 

The collection, mostly “Untitled” tries to capture the local color and geographic formations of the various lands he visits as he creates compositions of structures that merge and overlap akin to a bird’s eye view of parcels of agricultural plots laid out casually on a geographical plain.  Inspired by the origins of geometry in ancient Egypt that began with the distribution of land, the artist interprets these images in various shades of color not unlike the colorful lands that apply agricultural biodiversity. 

“Everything is a source of inspiration – from the most sophisticated philosophical concept to a simple spot on the wall, ” says artist Mario Prencipe, this time finding inspiration in geography.

When he arrived in Manila, he requested his hosts to take him to a typical town where he can absorb its distinct local color which he can add to his visual storage which one day can find their way into his canvasses. 

“I usually visit popular neighborhoods to see the real life of people,” commented the painter as he explained that those sceneries are his inspiration tools.

Always in search of new horizons, lands that hold their own customs and traditions, exotic cultures that speak of diverse histories and gods, Prencipe becomes an artist/anthropologist in his quest for a deeper understanding of human civilization that give more meaning to his work. 

Prencipe’s works can also be found in private and public collections such as the Museum of the City, in Buenos Aires, Argentinia; the National Gallery in San José, Costa Rica; the National Museum in Managua, Nicaragua and the Museum of Fine Arts in Komsomolsk- na- Amur in Russia. * * *

Benjie Torrado: Silvercord

On view at the Avellana Gallery until January 11, 2014, is Silvercord, an exhibition of engravings on polycarbonate.  To date, Cabrera is one of the few practitioners of burin engraving in the country and is a consistent winner of printmaking competitions; among these are the first prize in Graphic Arts category in the 1978 Art Association of the Philippines Annual Competition and first prize in PAP’s 2002 Open Fine Print Competition. He has represented the country in international print competitions, such as the 3rd Tokyo Mini-Print Triennial in 2002 at Tama Art University Museum in Japan. He is currently a Fine Arts faculty member at St. Scholastica’s College and an active member of the Philippine Association of Printmakers.

Mario Prencipe : CASUAL & CAUSAL

Mario Prencipe is known as the Artist Traveller.  He is from Italy, lives in Portugal and is travelling the world. In the 1990s he decided to leave his native homeland and see the world, becoming a travelling artist or an artist traveller. He has exhibited in the following countries: Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Cape Green, Senegal, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Ukraine, Siberia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Grenada, India and now the Philippines. He uses what he can find in the various locales to paint with, and his works are a usually a mix of oils, acrylics, pigment, ink and pastels.

Casual & Causal is an exhibition that explores the concept of casual to that of the natural, or everything that moves in nature that occurs randomly with its innate harmony: a lava rock for example, owes its monumental aspect to the output of lava stream down the slope of the volcano that will lie in a place where it will take a singular, unique, and casual shape, nevertheless its appearance will be in perfect harmony with the rest of the lava formations in the area. Based on this principle, the artist settle the colors on the canvas with a sufficient dilution  to mix them together simply by  moving the canvas, to obtain a mixture of colors that can be defined as "casual"--  as it happens without  any  direct manual intervention from the artist. Once this layer of paint dries, the artist intervenes on the work by searching through the casual shapes where he can intervene without affecting the "created" harmony between colors. What Mario Prencipe wants to communicate with this process is:  that if  Nature owes its perfection to a set of random events, human intervention must look for the right accord without disturbing its harmony and beauty.

"Casual & Causal" opens on  23 November 2013 at Avellana ARTGallery at 6:30 PM.  The exhibition runs until 11 January 2014.

For details about the exhibition contact Avellana ARTGallery at  Tel. 83383357, avellanartgallery@gmail.com.  Avellana ARTGallery is located at 2680 FB Harrison St., Pasay City / Monday to Saturday