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.