Filipino artist Raul Isidro rocks

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AT THE age of 75, artist Raul Isidro sees no reason to slow down in his pursuit of art. While he has an ongoing exhibition, Abstract Meditations, on view at Conrad Manila hotel until April 8 that features 22 of his works, the recent opening of his own studio in Parañaque City earlier this month also keeps him busy.

Mr. Isidro works almost every day, he told BusinessWorld during his exhibition’s opening at Gallery C in Conrad Manila.

For his current show, he highlights his abstract interpretations of rocks, which deceivingly do not look anything like boulders. They could be gems or birds, or anything your imagination could conceive.

“It’s a simple subject. I think about it and look at something I can develop on my own. Rock formation is just rocks, but you can develop it in a different way of seeing. That’s how I think,” he said.

One of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of 1979 and the 2006 Outstanding Thomasian awardee has long been focusing on landscapes. “I’ve been doing it for a long time, but lately, I said I’d change it with more colors,” he said. His works on display are playful works with blue, green, red, and yellow as the major color schemes.

Mr. Isidro started in the Philippine art scene in the late 1960s and ’70s, focusing on abstractions inspired from nature. From his province in Samar, he went to Manila to study Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas, where he learned about Modernism from mentors including Angelito Antonio and National Artist Victorio Edades. One of his classmates was Ramon Orlina, now renowned for his glass sculptures.

A prolific and passionate artist, Mr. Isidro has worked with other mediums including metal, wood, and stones for his sculptures. When acrylics were introduced in the country in the 1960s, he used them in his mixed media abstractions. As the years passed, he continuously experimented — in the 1980s, he tried using gold leaf on canvas while in the United States. Before leaving for the US, he was the dean of the College of Fine Arts of the Philippine Women’s University. He came back to the country in 1995, and despite offers to return to the academe, he politely declined and said, smiling, “I wanted to be a full time artist.”

Today his works are mostly influenced by nature.

Like an excellent wine that becomes better as it ages, Mr. Isidro said in hindsight that his style has changed gradually. “I developed the subject matter, but I like to retain a gradual change [over the years]. My works are mostly abstract because I want to have free expression, that’s why I do it — expression of whatever I see,” he said.

Abstract Meditations is part of Condrad’s “Of Art and Wine” series which features different Filipino artists and their works. Before Mr. Isidro’s exhibit, Arturo Luz’s large wooden sculptures were on view.

The five-star hotel has a focus on art and is home to more than 700 works by Filipino artists. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman