Kuh Ledesma: Keeping the faith in music, art
Cid Reyes (The Philippine Star) - May 26, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - For starters, let’s consider some little known, eye-opening facts:

Did you know that the great balladeer Tony Bennett, now in the autumn of his life, does not have to sing for his supper? His paintings exhibited at posh New York galleries are snapped up by his rabid collectors. He signs his paintings by his real name: Anthony Benedetto.

Or top this: Beatle Sir Paul (McCartney) discussed his paintings with Abstract Expressionist titan Willem de Kooning. The crowd at his gallery shows had to be controlled as if it were a concert.

Indeed, the relationship between music and the visual arts have been symbiotic since pioneer abstractionist Wassily Kandinsky, over a century ago, compared the emotional impact of abstraction with that of music.

It should not be surprising therefore to find singers and musicians turning to painting as an extension of their creative expression. Or vice-versa: artists turning out to be excellent singers such as Allan Cosio and Lito Carating, both gifted with thrilling operatic voices.

And now comes Ms. Kuh Ledesma breaking into the Philippine art scene.

As incontrovertible fact, the public knows that when it comes to stature, class and quality of singing performance, no one can touch this incomparable chanteuse. And thus, after having duly acknowledged her supremacy in the realm of Philippine pop music, the viewer can now fully confront, objectively, without being star-struck, what Kuh can offer to the art community.

This current exhibition, billed as “Beauty with a Purpose,” is a follow-up to her successful first solo show “Unexpected,” also held in the same venue, The White Space. Both titles carry their own unique significations. “Unexpected” is an allusion to her commitment to art, a talent long sublimated, that Kuh has only now allowed to see the light of day. Since childhood, Kuh has always held a deep and abiding interest in painting. But, as with most artists’ lives, realistic exigencies and practicalities of life hold sway. After graduating with a degree in nursing, destiny as a singer determined her future, and the rest, as we say, is Philippine musical history.

“Beauty with a Purpose,” sustains the visual themes of the first show, as well as exalts the bounty of her faith, with its ineffable power to seize the artist’s humanity. The Biblical exhortation “Look at the lillies in the field” found its symbolic equivalence in Kuh’s “Talahib” (Wild Grass) series. Interestingly, the revelation of this unique subject matter had dawned on Kuh during her regular trips to her Hacienda Isabella in Indang, Cavite. Indeed, she had asked the Divine Spirit for inspiration. And from the large-scale canvases, some spanning 4 by 8 feet, emerged the shimmering fields of wild grass swaying against an expanse of skies swirling with centrifugal force. It’s tantalizing to discover the visual similarity of the talahib with sheaves of wheat, the substance of sacramental bread.

A paean to Kuh’s musical profession are the works in the “Musical Instruments” series. The voluptuous, sinuous shapes of the cello and the guitar, against a pitch-black darkness, serve as the hollowed empty space around which eddies a golden mass of circuitous and wavy lines, an elaborate gilded filigree creating a dizzying vibration.

Kuh Ledesma’s newfound engagement with painting has only deepened her faith in a higher source. Her commitment to art-making, as with her music, is itself an affirmation of her gratitude for the talents that she has been so generously blessed.

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