VICENTE MANANSALA, FROM THE PHILIPPINES – PHILIPPINE NATIONAL ARTIST
“SERIES: HOMAGE TO THE YOUNG, THE NEW & THE EXCEPTIONAL CREATIVE TALENTS AROUND THE WORLD”
READ THIS FIRST: All images here are COPYRIGHT PROTECTED. You are advised to contact the artist direct for permission to re-produce any of his/her images. Contact details are available at the end of this article, or in absence thereof, please contact the writer.
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Not much is really known about Filipino artists here in France at the moment. The focus in Paris, at this time, when it comes to Asian art and culture is China, especially after almost two years of cultural exchange and celebration between China and France from 2003, ending just last year in 2005.
The Philippines has a rich offering of exceptionally good artists and some of the more famous ones in the visual arts are: Ferdinand Amorsolo y Cueto (20 May 1892 – 24 April 1972), Philippine National Artist 1972; Miguel Zaragoza; Emilio Alvero; Victorio C. Edades (1895-1985); Carlos V. Francisco (4 November 1914 – 31 March 1969), Philippine National Artist 1973; Galo B. Ocampo (1913-1985); Diosdado Lorenzo (1906-1984); Juan Luna; Cesar F. Legaspi (1917-1994), Philippine National Artist 1990; Jose T. Joya (1931-1995); Hernando R. Ocampo (1911-1978), Philippine National Artist 1991; Arturo Luz; Nena Saguil (1914-1994); Fernando Zobel (1924-1984); and, Vicente S. Manansala (22 January 1910 – 1981), Proclaimed Philippine National Artist 1981, (posthumous) and major proponent of transparent cubism in the Philippines.
My problem with Filipino artists and that of Asian artists in general is there is no one comprehensive source that gives detailed information on these amazing talents. The older the artist, the more difficult it becomes to also obtain information, and I have to wait until I return to Asia to do just that – spend time sourcing and noting particular information on these creative souls.
It’s also very sad to realise that some of these Asian artists die unknown and in great poverty in their own country or in foreign countries like Nena Saguil. She lived the rest of her life in Paris. She became a house helper to manage her daily existence and the lifestyle of Paris and she survived in a very small dingy apartment. No one knew of her hidden talent and no one recognized her to be one of the Philippines’ known artist overseas. A Filipina acquaintance who came from Davao and was one of four sisters who managed a classy Filipino restaurant in Paris as well as being a film-maker told of the story of how she would help pack up Nena’s earthly possessions when she passed away, and how she regretted so much not filming Nena’s life while she was still alive in Paris.
The trouble I honestly face is the inability for most Asian artists to draw attention to themselves. If a European artist is already a sensitive, timid soul, you can imagine how far more retiring and scared of the limelight an Asian artist would be given their mostly under-privileged background and their harsh upbringing. I have yet to understand why the most talented and creative spirit would be the same one living a life that is wrought with hardship, pain and terrible experience. Is it because they are the best to depict clearly what lurks beyond what every one else sees and feels? Are they gifted with precious insight that bring them pain when they are able to strip away masks and façade erected in self-defence to see something others cannot perceive easily … and to painstakingly reveal those images and intimate stories to us in a canvas of emotion?
Of course I’m exaggerating slightly here because there are those so-called “artists” who exist en masse to take advantage of the ignorance of people and indulge totally in “commercialism” thus robbing us of the real pleasure of encountering beautiful true talent. I also don’t mean to put the true artist down when he has to survive by all means with commissioned works that he accepts but sadly, and oftentimes, dislikes. But it is true that the questions I raised would apply to those rare few souls with God-given gifts of visual expressions. Where are they these days?
Unlike France, the Philippines does not have a special programme instigated by government to enable these creative souls to survive in dignity creating and expressing passionately and continuously what it is that drives them to share with us their world of colour and imagination.
C’est dommage. Or in Tagalog “sayang”. A real pity indeed.