HOW DOES an artist negotiate their aesthetics with their clients?
A man of few words, Filipino artist Andres Barrioquinto explained it simply as “It’s hard.”
A prolific artist with 17 years of experience in the art world, Mr. Barrioquinto is well-known for his surrealist works. Patrons, collectors, and media personalities soon started commissioning him to do their portraits. Lucy Torres, a TV host and politician, was among his first prominent clients. Soon the artist also did painted Torres’ husband, actor Richard Gomez, and their daughter Juliana.
“It is difficult. It is also flattering but it is difficult because it is a collaboration,” the artist said in the vernacular. “This is what they want but this is what I want to do. It could be that you don’t get to do everything you want because of what they want, like use a pink background, that sort of thing. Sometimes you would prefer they look one way, but of course they prefer that they look beautiful. So it is more difficult if the subject wants to look beautiful,” said Mr. Barrioquinto whose style includes the exaggeration and distortion of rather familiar objects.
BusinessWorld talked to the artist on Oct. 24, two weeks before his solo exhibition, Portraits by Andres Barrioquinto, was set to open at the National Museum on Nov. 8. The exhibit will run until the 15th.
The exhibit will feature 18 portraits of well-known personalities including politician Abigail Binay, clothing entrepreneur Ben Chan, designer Josie Cruz Natori, Audrey Tan-Zubiri, Bea Zobel, and Grace Barbers-Baja, among others.
The exhibit commemorates the 55th anniversary of the Asian Cultural Council (ACC), a non-government organization in the United States with branches in Manila, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Taipei, which gives educational grants to Asian artists to go to the US.
This year, the ACC is giving grants to eight Filipinos.
Not an ACC scholar himself, Mr. Barrioquinto was chosen to headline the event because his manager, Derek Flores, knew the organization. ACC-Philippines chairman Ernest Escaler said “We don’t want to impose on our grantees. Since Derek was the one who thought the idea, he could demand from his artists.”
So, there, Mr. Barrioquinto will be having his solo show.
Back to the question of compromise and negotiation, he said he does studies and presents these to his clients. He went on to share that not all faces are ready for portraits. He said: “May mga mukhang hindi talaga kayang i-portrait eh. Yung wife ko pwede, ikaw yung mukha mo pwede (There are faces that really cannot be made into portraits. My wife is ok, your face is ok too),” he told this writer.
His wife, Iya Consorio-Barrioquinto, is also an artist.
“Dapat ang mukha mo timeless. Malalaman ko eh, may something sa mata? Malalaman ko (Your face must be timeless. I will know, there is something in the eyes? I will know),” said the artist.
He likes to do portraits of people who have dramatic yet enigmatic expressions. “Pag nakatawa, ang baduy eh, parang magazine (If they laugh, it is corny, like something for a magazine),” he said.
While he said that most of his clients prefer that their portraits be beautiful, businessman Ben Chan was different.
“Yung kay Ben Chan gusto ko kasi pinalabas ko yung details ng mukha niya (For the one of Ben Chan, I wanted to bring out the details of his face)… baka sabihin niya ‘Oh gusto ko pogi ako dyan’ pero hindi (maybe he would say ‘Oh I want to look handsome, but no). Pinalabas ko yung veins niya, mga lines niya sa face, then simple lang ang composition (I brought out his veins, the lines of his face, then kept the composition simple).”
He includes butterflies and cats and peacocks in his portraits — animals that he has long used as part of his signature style — in the process transporting his subjects into a whimsical and magical world.
In Abby Binay’s portrait, for example, the politician was painted with a cat and some birds. “I did her composition and she said yes. Sabi niya bawas bawasan lang ng dito (She said tone down this)… parang Photoshop, pero I mean kinompose ko siyang ganyan (like Photoshop, but I mean I composed her like that). It’s like music.”
The artist uses pencil, then acrylic, then oil in his works.
After this exhibit, Mr. Barrioquinto will hold another one in New York. He said an artist should be a life-long learner.
“You’re as good as your last painting… So after this, what will you do next? As an artist, you must be consistently good, you can’t be a one-hit wonder. There are youngsters who are good — that is ok — but to maintain it, that is hard. You have to be good until you die. It is like going to the gym — it is easy to go to the gym for a month, but to sustain it is hard,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
ACC CELEBRATES ARTS
As mentioned, the exhibition is part of ACC’s anniversary celebration. Since 1963, over 400 Filipino scholars from different art disciplines have been sent to the United States of America to learn and re-learn art, which, in return, they must pay forward and share their acquired knowledge with the Philippine community.
For this year, the ACC gave grants to Grace Nono for music, Anna Margarita Reyes for dance/cinematography, Elena Comendador and Elizabeth Roxas for design and dance, Joseph Keith Anicoche for theater, Anna Marika Lissa Constantino for curation/visual arts, Maria Joselina Anna Gonzalez Cruz for curation, and Zeny May Recidoro for art criticism.
ACC-Philippines’ Mr. Escaler said scholars are required to return to the Philippines and apply here what they have learned abroad. “When we give grants there’s no strings attached but the only condition is for them to come back to the Philippines, and don’t make TNT [become an undocumented alien].”
He added: “By giving grants, from artists to art curation and arts management, it’s brought up the level of artistic community here. The grantees have trail-blazed their crafts, like for example the Ballet Philippines, the company is so high up there and I’d like to think that ACC has something to do with it because we’ve given them the opportunity that otherwise they wouldn’t have experienced.”
ACC alumni include National Artists Jose Joya, Alice Reyes, and Ramon Santos, artist Leeroy New, theater designer Gino Gonzales, and curator Dr. Patrick Flores. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman