Home is where their Art is

- Ching M. Alano () - October 26, 2002 - 12:00am
They certainly have their art in the right place. They’re artists and art collectors (or both) who live with their art – nay, breathe and eat art every day. "It’s difficult to tell where art ends and real life begins (talk about art imitating life)," writes mother-and-daughter team Josephine "Opat" Hermano and Ma. Alessandra Hermano in their coffeetable book At Home with Filipino Art and Artists that’s enough to perk up the spirits of art lovers on a hot, muggy day.

"An ultimate experience in living with art," so the book (published by Anvil Publishing Inc., National Book Store and Sta. Barbara Publishing Corporation with design concept by Yodel Pe) promises. "It’s not just about art and homes, it’s about art in the home."

The Hermanos and their team of researchers invaded the homes and ateliers (and private spaces) of artists (some of whom reluctantly yielded) Annabel Alejandrino, Napoleon Abueva, Augusto Albor, Gabby Barredo, Ben Cabrera, Danny Dalena, Diether Korbanka, Lao Lianben, Alfredo Liongoren, Arturo Luz, Anita Magsaysay-Ho, Ramon Orlina, Alfonso Ossorio, Impy Pilapil, Alfredo Roces, Marivic Rufino, Claude Tayag, Ofelia Gelvezon Tequi, and Phyllis Zaballero. They also visited the homes of art collectors and had an art-to-art talk with Silvana Diaz, Gilda Cordero Fernando, Jaime Laya, Rajo Laurel, Jose Maria Trenaas, Marivic Vasquez, Marilies and Peter von Brevern. There’s also the home of the late National Artist Jerry Elizalde Navarro, whose atelier used to bristle with nonstop activity.

Notable notes: The book points out that a piece of artwork "adds dimension to a space, particularly if it can be felt, rubbed, even leaned against or climbed over." So you see, art is not just for looking at.

It also points out that "elements that are central to artists’ creative works also appear to be important in their homes – like color, light, texture, space and materials."

It notes further that "for collectors, to collect is to enter into communication that spans eras and bridges cultures."

Painter/writer Alfredo Roces, whose art now belongs to his second home Sydney, Australia, describes his house as sitting at the edge of Garingal National Park with a sweeping view of a rocky ridge painted with eucalyptus trees across the horizon. It’s a scene straight out of a painting. The split-level, orange-colored brick house perfectly blends with its surroundings. Nary a blade of grass or a stone was disturbed to build the Roceses’ contemporary Filipino home filled with antiques and art- works by Filipino artists, among them Amorsolo and Hidalgo, as well as Roces’ own. And these works of art live happily with the cockatoos, lorikeets, turtle doves, three-foot-long lizards, deadly snakes and spiders that inhabit the Roceses’ bushland garden. More, the Philippine santos and Ifugao bulols cohabit beautifully well with the bits and pieces of Southeast Asian art like Buddha heads from Thailand, Chinese temple carvings, Balinese cowbells, Papua New Guinea masks and pots, and Korean chests.

From the bushland of Australia, we go to the boondocks of Pakil, Laguna where Danny Dalena’s ancestral home nestles at the foot of Mt. Makiling. The artist in his trademark straw hat, loose camisa de chino and bakya has captured some endearing images of his town on his canvas. The painter/illustrator has endeared himself to local art lovers with his biting political cartoons. As you enter his home, you’re greeted by "the warmth and richness of the highly carved and burnished wood of the balustrade that acts as a counterpoint to the often satirical paintings that depict Danny Dalena’s view of modern life."

Opening his art and soul for all to see, Dalena keeps his windows and gates open. The book asserts that people-watching is great from the vintage barber’s chair below the staircase in the living room. If the walls could speak, they would share many a colorful kuwentong barbero.

Wherever they go, they like to live close to their art. Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi luxuriates in the softly rolling landscape of her 18th-century stonehouse, filled with her art, in a magical countryside in southern France.

BenCab, whose works give you a different kind of high, nurtures his art (and feeds and his soul) with nature’s rich canvas. His home-cum-studio (or is it studio-cum-home?) in Baguio is described by the book as "a large expanse with entire walls of windows to let the generous Cordillera sun in, illuminating the artworks juxtaposed with the working furniture." His Japanese-inspired rock garden is an ideal setting for a Zen garden in the City of Pines.

Claude Tayag doesn’t have to leave home to enjoy a slice of paradise. He’s carved one for himself in his native Angeles, Pampanga. You gotta see how he’s sculpted the terrain of his Pampanga garden! His home was built out of the structure of an old church that had been torn down. There are assorted other time-cherished, wooden pieces in this house. You could be sitting on it, lying in it or eating with it.

For their part, fun couple Alfredo and Norma Liongoren have built for themselves a home on the side of a hill in Antipolo. The sliding doors and large windows give a generous view of the outdoor greenery. "Go with the flow" may well be the couple’s guiding philosophy.

Phyllis Zaballero has fashioned a haven out of her Malate apartment overlooking Manila Bay.

Everything old is new again. An unsigned old master’s oil-in-canvas painting hangs in Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s living room, an eclectic mix of European and Asian artifacts, to give it an Old World aura.

The old and the new mix in Gus Albor’s minimally furnished home, made visually bigger by whitewashed walls.

If a picture paints a thousand words, looking at Gabby Barredo’s house, you’d say it’s on fire. It could be because the cathedral facade of this innovative artist’s home is brightened up by glowing glass lamps, as if keeping vigil over the entire neighborhood. Take a look at his spiral wrought-iron white staircase – adorned with crystal chandelier teardrops, hands and eyes "– and expect only the unexpected from this artist who’s turned trash into cash.

The book paints a picture of the home of National Artist Arturo Luz, thus: "The crisp modern interiors of the Luz residence reflect the same aesthetics that characterize the artist’s paintings. Just as there are no extraneous or unnecessary lines or strokes in his painted works, every object and piece of furniture serves a visual and functional purpose in his house... A 1950s house with contemporary sensibilities, his house seems to have presaged the advent of minimalism, what with its use of space."

A calm, meditative space is what nourishes versatile sculptor Impy Pilapil. Clean and white is her spare living room, graced only by a composition on the wall that echoes gentle waves and two signature crystal and glass sculptures titled "Silence," which symbolizes the Supreme Soul.

Impy says "her bedroom is the way it really is every day." No Pratessi or Frette beddings for her. She gets her stuff from Shoemart where she shops a lot. The paintings on the wall are all by her daughter Isabella.

Ramon Orlina makes economic use of space through "cleverly designed partitions that give the family comfort and privacy. Bare walls painted in dusky white and a polished wood floor serve as a perfect background for his sculptures."

Napoleon Abueva’s house-cum-temple is as well-thought-out and as intricately constructed as his sculptures. The book tells more about this massive masterpiece: "An engineering and construction effort that spans many years, the National Artist for Sculpture brings his art to life in his dwelling – a continuously unfolding organic creation."

Home and art do mix – and beautifully, too.
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