Gelvezon-Tequi’s underlying messages

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THE 15 etchings of the Predella series (1984) show a lady seated at a throne. She holds power despite her ignorance of the violence and unrest depicted at the bottom half of the frame.

To create the pieces, artist Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi first made the illustration on tracing paper. The image was then transferred on a plate and covered with acid-resistant varnish by running through the press. The image would be in reverse once transferred on the plate. To achieve color printing, she exposed parts of the plate to acid in a process called deep biting.

“Sometimes, there are surprises which you can work with. ‘Yung una mong direksyon (Your first direction), because there are surprises, it swerves a bit. And then you go in that other direction. You have to be humble and accept that you cannot control everything. Sometimes, it turns out better than what you have planned before,” Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi told BusinessWorld.

Once the artist is satisfied, the proof, which is called the bon a tirer (press ready), is pulled (printed), signed, numbered.

The final work is a cooled-toned print contrasted by bright colors of the image of violence at the bottom of the frame.

“Prints are not done directly — there is always an intermediate process between my hand and the final work. Not like in a painting, my idea and my hand go directly to the final work,” Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi differentiated.

“You go through a chemical and mechanical process, either you accept it or you erase it,” she said.

“Prints,” the artist emphasized, “are not copies, they are multiple originals.”

The artist who now lives in a village 460 k.m. southwest of Paris returned to the Philippines for a retrospective of her works which is on view at the Main Gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

A project which started three years ago, Realities & Allegories, Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi in Retrospect showcases 219 works with subjects ranging from sacred images and religion, to still lives, and her commentary on social issues. The prints and paintings span five decades and explore thematic contexts and modes of art practices. The featured artworks are from private and institutional collections, and the artist’s personal collection.

“[Her] prints are very strong allegorical statements,” said exhibition curator Victoria “Boots” Herrera of the retrospective’s title at a press walkthrough on Feb. 19. “I also realize how she is very much rooted to the realities in the Philippines even though she lives overseas. I thought of putting both words together.”

The exhibition introduces the artist with her self-portraits such as the Sacra Conversazione (1980) which depicts the artist talking to herself and engrossed in reflection.

A unique detail that Ms. Herrera pointed out in a print was that the woman wore nail polish — something that the artist considered wishful thinking since she always got her hands dirty making prints.

At the center of the exhibit are works that comment on socio-political events. There is The Homage to Ambrosio Lorenzetti III (1987), a triptych which is an allegory of good government. The center of the piece has a benevolent ruler surrounded by virtues that the artists wishes for her country.

“My wish is that the magnanimous ruler would be surrounded by virtues [such as] faith, hope, and charity. He should be surrounded by virtues in such a way that you can lie down and feel safe,” Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi said.

Adjacent to the work is Homage II to Ambrosio Lorenzetti 3/25 (1987), an allegory of bad government. “The tyrant is surrounded by vices of vanity, pride, and greed. The visual pun is, he is accompanied by a buwaya (crocodile) and there is a tuta (puppy) at his feet,” she explained. The buwaya and the tuta commonly refer to the greed of politicians and sycophants, respectively, in Philippine culture.

“I would prefer my viewers to look deeper. I want them to see what I am trying to say,” said the artist.

At the end of the gallery are still lifes done in acrylic of furniture, flowers, and fruits from the 2000s. The exhibition extends with her early works done during her student days in Italy in the 1960s posted on the walls outside the gallery.

Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi earned degrees in Fine Arts and English at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She then earned a diploma in painting at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma in Italy and went to the Pratt Institute in New York City to pursue Special Studies in Graphic Arts through a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship. Among her awards and recognitions are a gold medal for printmaking from the Art Association of the Philippines (1982), and the Pamana ng Pilipino award (2014).

Archival materials on Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi are available for browsing at the CCP Library reading area.

A panel discussion with women printmakers will be held on March 4, 3 p.m., at the Main Gallery with Ambie Abaño, Ivi Avellana-Cosio, Yas Doctor, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Henrielle Pagkaliwangan, and Ms. Gelvezon-Tequi. The discussion is open to 20 participants. Interested participants may register at Admission is free.

Allegories and Realities runs at the CCP Main Gallery until May 24. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman