Arts & Leisure

Triumph of the worker

Posted on July 02, 2014

TUBA MAKERS with their labor-made muscles armored in green skin, a bahay kubo set realistically among trees, a mother and child rendered in a cubistic style, a river rushing down beside a cascade of purple and yellow rock -- ranging in style from realism to cubism, all of these were done by post-war Philippine modernist painter Hugo Yonzon, Jr.

With works spanning from 1948 to 1994, The Hugo Yonzon, Jr. Retrospective at The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) hopes to give the artist due recognition. "He was really good, but he was underrated," said the artist’s son, Hugo "Boboy" Yonzon, who curated the exhibit. "My father worked in the media (he did comics for The Manila Times), but he did not use his connections to promote himself. He was a very quiet person," he told BusinessWorld.

A few years after his father’s death in 1994, the younger Yonzon commissioned a researcher to document his father’s works and interview those who were familiar with the artist. The family was hoping to make a book, but then somebody suggested an exhibit. With the help of the CCP, they were able to gather works from family members, friends, and collectors such as Paulino Que.

When confronted with a blank canvas, the elder Yonzon did not fill it systematically. "He would jump from one part of the canvas to the other," said Mr. Yonzon in Filipino, noting this is why his father’s preferred medium was oil since it is slow to dry.

Mr. Yonzon is also proud of his father’s ability to use tertiary colors. "Even if he used muddy colors, they still look alive," he said, referring to the two pieces, Tuba Makers and Fisherman, which were borrowed from the Paulino and Hetty Que Collection.

Through these processes, the artist was able to depict the hardworking Filipino. "But there’s nothing negative about his works," noted Mr. Yonzon. Sweat is an anointment; the workman’s stance is of power not strife.

"You see triumph in his art," said Mr. Yonzon. -- Jasmine Agnes T. Cruz

The exhibit runs until July 6 at the CCP Bulwagang Juan Luna (Main Gallery).