A WORK of colorful chaos, a memento of places travelled, and beauty as seen through an evolving image of a woman’s face are just some of the artworks on view at Manila Hotel’s newly opened Art Gallery.
Titled The Masters, the gallery’s inaugural exhibit features works by Hermes Alegre, Ross Capili, Salvador Ching, Fil Dela Cruz, Edgar Doctor, Raul Isidro, Raul Lebajo, and Mario De Rivera.
Upon entering the gallery’s hallway, Fil Dela Cruz’s painting of a fairy, titled Diwata: Perlas, greets guests with the woman’s eyes looking in their direction. According to the artist, he has been working on it since the 1980s after a stay in Mindanao. Mr. Dela Cruz said that the image evolved from the original face of a woman from an indigenous community, into that of a goddess, and, finally, into a fairy.
Mr. Dela Cruz said that the painting’s counterpart, Diwata: Punla, which is displayed at the far end of the hallway, is a “sleeping” image of the former artwork. “One is sleeping, the other one is wide awake. It is a symbol of night and day,” he said. The image representing day also symbolizes water given the image of a pearl as its right eye, while the other symbolizes land as seen from the plants surrounding the image.
“It is not about who, it is about how and why. My idea is to portray beauty,” he told BusinessWorld.
For Mario De Rivera, his work Between Diu and Makassar is very personal. He recalls his childhood through the images of places he has been to and the people he met while living for a year in China as a young man.
“I was working in Beijing for a while and the culture gets into you,” he said.
The painting — done on a folding screen-shaped canvas — depicts mountain landscapes and characters from his Chinese grandfather’s children stories.
Hermes Alegre and Mario De Rivera collaborated on Palayupuy, creating an image of nature and man.
Mr. Alegre, who focused on painting the female images in the piece, said that the artwork turned out to be what they thought of despite their refraining from communicating. “Mario saw what I saw. The image that I saw in my head was what came out. The image he was thinking of was what I painted,” Mr. Alegre told BusinessWorld in a mixture of English and Filipino.

Made in the Philippines
Made in the Philippines by Salvador Ching

“I don’t start on a blank canvas. Many do that. I don’t,” he said. “Lalagyan ko siya ng kalat para tulungan niya ako mag-isip, kasi kung blank ang hirap mag-isip. Wala kang makita (I put a mess into it [referring to an initial scatter of paint he makes on the canvas] to help me think, because if it is blank, it is hard to think. You don’t see anything).”
Mr. Alegre also revealed that the artwork is unfinished, pointing to nude-colored area where an arm of a woman should have been defined. “’Yun yung masayang part. Natapos kami bago kami tumigil (That was the best part. We finished even before we stopped).”
Manila Hotel’s Art Gallery was established to showcase Filipino culture and heritage.
“We always had this vision to have more attachment to culture and arts and try to promote the local artists, both world-renowned and young, but we just did not know where to put it,” Chris J. Orta, Manila Hotel’s resident manager, told BusinessWorld at the launch last week, adding that it took a year to finally open a gallery space in the hotel.
It was the artists who decided which of their works to include at the exhibit.
“We got the opportunity to be introduced to these artists and they helped collaborate with the idea (of opening the gallery),” Mr. Orta said.
After its inaugural exhibition, the Art Gallery will continue to showcase artworks from celebrated and emerging Filipino artists.
“We are a Filipino hotel and we want to portray that heritage,” he said.
The Masters will be on view until March 30, 2019 at the Art Gallery by the Manila Hotel, located at the hotel’s ground floor. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman