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Abstract or figurative? Or maybe both

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ARTIST Sam Penaso stands in between his abstract and figure works which are part of the exhibit Ambidextrous at Renaissance Art Gallery.

NO visual artist is ever one dimensional. They may start off working on still lifes, and end up pursuing abstract images, or the other way around. They may even start playing with sculptures and installations. But it is almost always certain that artists have one medium they are most comfortable to work with. But Renaissance Art Gallery’s ongoing exhibition called Ambidextrous recognizes and celebrates the duality, even multiplicity, of some visual artists’ skills in moving from one medium, technique, or style to another.

Ambidextrous is on view at the SM Megamall Art Center until July 4, and is part of the Renaissance Art Gallery’s 15th anniversary celebration.

“The Renaissance Art Gallery celebrates the talent of artists who might be regarded as ambidextrous, or possessing the ability to paint with either hand with equal ease or dexterity. Both hands, in this case, do not literally signify the left and the right hand, but rather, that each hand can represent representational art, and the other, abstraction,” said artist and exhibition curator Cid Reyes in his curatorial notes.

He added: “The show will be a revelation: some artists better known for their abstraction will demonstrate their skill and talent from years of academic and classical art, in works executed in a range of styles inflected by Impressionism and Magic Realism; while those whose reputations were built on the Mother and Child theme, still lives, portraits, or social realist figurations, can be impressive with their purely abstract works.”

The participating artists are Hermes Alegre, Art Bermido, Remy Boquiren, Valen Valero, Arley Carig, Addie Cukingnan, Egai Fernandez, Janice Young, Sam Penaso, Ronaldo Ruiz, and Aner Sebastian, who are all associated with the gallery.

The artists’ abstract and figure works were juxtaposed. The idea came from the gallery owner, Manuel “Noli” Romero, Jr.




Started in 2003, the Renaissance Art Gallery at SM Megamall started accepting all types of art to display on its walls, but eventually it became known for its abstract paintings. Through the years, it has been home to budding young Filipino artists. Mr. Romero, who was a visual artist before he became a gallery owner, said he himself was drawn to abstract works from when he was a child. while popular belief says that abstracts are easier to do than still life or portraits, Mr. Romero said this is not so.

“Some of our figure artists whom we challenged to do abstract could not do it [easily]. Abstract is not just about throwing the paint to the canvas, and that’s it. It’s not like that. It has techniques, strokes, concepts,” he told BusinessWorld at the sidelines of the exhibit launch on June 25.

One of the artists who was challenged to produce works for the show was Sam Penaso. A multimedia artist who does performance art, painting, and sculpture, Mr. Penaso did two new abstract paintings for Ambidextrous using acrylic paint and a top coat for a glossy finish.

Pasok ako sa Ambidextrous dahil dati figure din ako eh. Pero hindi din ako natatali sa abstract or figure, basta kapag may naisip akong concept, ginagawa ko. Minsan pa iba-iba para may element of surprise,” said Mr. Penaso. [“I fit in with the Ambidextrous criteria because I started with figurative. But I am not bound to the abstract or the figurative. As long as I think up a concept, I do it. I work with different styles for an element of surprise.”]

The artist said he likes to explore. “Masarap ang feeling, ibang klaseng self expression din siya.” [It feels good. It’s a different kind of self expression.]

His abstract works for Ambidextrous are the acrylic paintings called Silver Scape and Red Scape, while his figurative work is Fibonacci #2, which is mixed media piece done with silkscreen technique. He also has a sculpture using small metal boxes.

Sa art naman walang limit, kahit ano pwede. Ang labanan lang is patagalan, ‘yung iba kasi hindi nagtatagal kasi wala sa puso nila,” he said. [Art is limitless, and anything goes. The challenge is longevity, others don’t last because it is not in their hearts.] — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman









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