Arts and Culture

Miguel Buhay's leap of faith

- Elaine O. Herbosa -

Artist Miguel Buhay calls it one giant step, or more precisely a leap of faith. This refers to a suite of paintings he will exhibit, which opens on Jan. 21at Ayala Museum’s ArtistSpace.

The past few months have been frenetic for Buhay in preparing for his first solo exhibition titled, aptly enough, “Leap of Faith.” As a spectator and follower of his career, as well as a colleague, I saw “Miggy” wielding a brush, fiercely attacking his canvas with precision and advanced technical skill, and in a matter of hours rendering a beautiful Tagaytay landscape on a once-empty canvas. I have seen this scenario several times both inside the studio on regular sessions or in our plein-air adventures; the members of the Atelier L’arc En Ciel gather around him and stare at his painting in awe and admiration. “We hate you, Miggy,” they say in jest, smiling and coveting his precious finished painting, while still struggling with the primaries of their own compositions.

Ten years from now, I see Miguel Buhay comfortable in his own niche in the art world, exuding a new confidence, his art having been recognized from his first solo show at Ayala Museum and several other successful shows thereafter. He now has a respectable following, and they eagerly await his production. He still paints daily with the same passion and skill he started with. Such is my faith in the man

As one views his vivid pieces breathing with life, one feels the strength and power with which they were produced. As one zooms in on his focal points rendered in the realist manner, impressionist influences are evident in the surrounding areas producing an overall effect of drama and mystery. 

“Sometime in the year 2000, I started my share of studying, researching and practicing the art of oil painting,” Buhay explains. “But I was sidetracked into a business management course since my concerned father, successful businessman Nonoy Buhay, encouraged me to take up a business management course instead of pursuing an artistic career, which he casually warned was a ‘gutom’ path. But as the muse tugged at me constantly while doing my numbers course, I decidedly shifted to a Fine Arts course at the University of the Philippines.”

Buhay says he wouldn’t have it any other way. He wakes up each day and looks forward to facing his canvas. If we need to eat every day, the artist needs to paint to nourish his soul.

“Painting with a group adds inertia to my painting. The members are quite nurturing and inspiring. I have also been blessed with a most supportive mom. (Buhay’s mother, Clarissa Guerrero Buhay, is also a painter). I have found myself in my element. And there is no turning back. David Leffel and Gregg Kreutz — both contemporary American masters teaching at The Art Students League of New York — whose books on art are the bibles at L’arc En Ciel — are among my role models. But presently Jeremy Lipking ranks highest on my list.”

Yes, the atmosphere evident in his works is a tribute to these three great names.

* * *

Buhay’s forthcoming show, indeed, portrays his metamorphosis from being in a college course alien to him into making a breakthrough in the art world. Inspired by present-day influences, he breathes and lives for his art and would not be happier doing anything else. Oh, except of course to dote on Diego, his five-year-old son with wife Nina Ongpin-Buhay, a surgeon. Diego jumping halfway up into the air in his sando is his signature painting for this show. Diego’s leap signifies Miggy’s “highs” in this season of his life.

Twenty-plus pieces include figures and faces, landscapes and still lifes. Viewers can see the artist’s mastery in depicting fabrics — as in “Flow Like a Waterfall,” where the varying degrees of ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson blend in with titanium white and a tinge of yellow. You can almost touch the silkiness of the cloth and behold its subtle glow. 

When asked by the students how he made his copper pot in “Fragrant Bath,” he quickly answers, “Orangey brown in the light; bluish/raw umber in the shadow.” The pinkish silk cloth and the copper urn both have the color of things around them. He is very helpful in giving tips to the hungry-to-learn students around him. Thus in the atelier, which he gravitated to in order to learn more, we are in fact the lucky recipients of learning from this budding master, if he is not already one.

* * *

Miguel Buhay’s first solo exhibit is on view until Feb. 3 at ArtistSpace, second floor, Glass Wing, Ayala Museum, Greenbelt Park, Makati Ave. corner Dela Rosa St, Makati City.  For information, call or SMS L’arc en Ciel at 0917-8901219, Miguel Buhay 0917-8076976, Marinella Mina of Ayala Museum at 757-7117 local 33.

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