Cesare Syjuco startles / Pundaquit Fete winds up
SUNDRY STROKES () - May 20, 2006 - 12:00am
Cesare A.X. Syjuco will always remain an enigma to me. As a person, he is warm, engaging and, yes, charming but as a multi-faceted, multi-talented artist, he will always elude complete understanding or comprehension – mine, at any rate.

When I was cultural editor and performing arts reviewer of the Roces-owned and managed Manila Times, in the mid-1980s, Cesare would send me his brilliant art reviews (critiques) which I would publish with immense pride. I knew Cesare then as a poet-critic.

In early 1985, a brochure printed on the occasion of his exhibit titled "The Sleights and Slants of a Fast Hand/Very Recent Paintings at the CCP Small Gallery" told the reader that Cesare’s concerns then included film, video and electronic music.

In that same brochure, it took no less than four introductory essays to explain the man and his works. The essayists were the late Raymundo R. Albano, then CCP Museum Director; award-winning painter Jean Marie Ricafort Syjuco, Cesare’s wife; Jacinto Sotto, a distinguished painter, and Gerald Esmilla, a writer, poet and counter-culture critic, as the brochure described them.

Here are excerpts from Sotto’s essay: "Because they are distinctly biographical, Syjuco’s new constructions echo much of his vast literary and visual output, both past and present. Themes and images recur and reverberate: from the Pop Art iconography of his earliest efforts, the deadpan cerebralness of his conceptual works; the scratched and worn surfaces of his ‘Tanka’ paintings; the visual-verbal hybridization of language from his verse collections like ‘The Chameleon’ and ‘The Fat Lady’, his seemingly endless repertory of automatic and simulated writing, gestural drawings, rehashed and unrehashed ready-mades, quick-draw snapshots, hysteria-ridden videos, and countless volumes of xeroxed pages from books, newspapers and magazines." If this is not mind-boggling enough, read on.

"But more importantly, Syjuco’s current exhibition reveals the painter at his most audacious yet. His meticulously crafted assemblages are truly daring sleights of hand. Illusion and reality, the comical and the bizarre, are inextricably woven, their very ambiguity puzzling the eye and provoking the intellect. Like a magician who wields elaborate gestures and then effortlessly conjures something wondrous to behold, Cesare Syjuco easily transcends the obvious and the commonplace with wizardry in these bewildering and complex new works. Undoubtedly, his is an art both illusive and elusive, and appropriately so."

The "bewildering and complex" extend to whatever else Cesare does in his vast area of creativity. From visual artist, the mightily versatile Cesare recently turned musical performer at the Conspiracy Garden Cafe in a show described as "A Noise From Underground". The invitation had this quote from Cesare: "I’m basically just a brooding poet . . . but a very, very loud one . . ."

I missed the performance which followed at the Penguin Cafe because the invitation came a day after the event. Herewith is another quote from Cesare on the Penguin invitation taken from a 1992 interview: ". . .if art and poetry are what I do, then what the hell is this . . .?"

At the Conspiracy Garden Cafe, Cesare read poems while playing on an electric guitar against electronic "underground" music – sounds that were weird, fantastic, even ghoulish. To the accompaniment of the uncommon, unique, extraordinary sounds, Cesare read: Is There Anybody Out There? Is There Anything Alive? Black leather birds are circling / And spooking the sky / Miles of concrete curdling / Are stinking up the air / The sea swells and rises / But there’s no fish there.

Are there any faces out there? / Is it anyone you know? And if they call to you in riddles / Are you inclined to go? / Whose dreams are those left out there / Playing in the heads / Of children and their sorceries / Dancing in their beds? /

Are there any sounds out there? / S. . . , music in the least! / The click of mahjong pieces / At one wake of a feast? / And how the shrieking crowds will haunt you / When there’s no one in the streets / There are no church spires standing / Except between your feet.

Before Cesare’s performance, poet Vim Nadera introduced young poets who shyly and diffidently read their works. Then eminent, established poets took over: Alfredo "Krip" Yuson, Joel Toledo, Angelo Suarez, Raymond Lazaro and, not the least, Geminiano Abad.

The evening’s surprise was the attractively pretty daughter of Cesare, Maxine, who read "A Secret Life: Selected Poems" whose sophisticated innuendoes belied her youth. Maxine’s mother Jean-Marie, and the other equally talented Syjuco children stayed in the background, the focus having been on the enigma that is Cesare.
Pundaquit Festival winds up
CASA San Miguel Foundation, the art mecca in San Antonio, Zambales, will present a musically-charged month as the Pundaquit Festival winds up.

Today, there will be a special performance of the multi-awarded Philippine Children’s Choir from Mandaluyong under choirmaster Sebastian Trinidad. Formerly known as the Mandaluyong Children’s Choir, the internationally-acclaimed group will conduct a weeklong workshop in Zambales.

The Festival draws to a close on May 27 with a day-long festivity featuring visual arts, dance and chamber music. Up-and-coming sculptor Jan Leeroy New mounts his first solo show at the Siemens Hall, Casa San Miguel’s art gallery. Titled "Myself as Adam after the Big Bang," the installation work ends the artist’s residency at CASA San Miguel which began early this year.

A UP College of Fine Arts student with a scholarship from the Sunico Foundation, New won the grand prize in the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence for Sculpture last year. His exhibit runs until June 3, and can be viewed later at the UP Vargas Museum June 6-30.

A dance concert will feature Myra Beltran and her Dance Forum in "Order for Masks."

Finally, a memorial mass and concert will mark the first death anniversary of Ricardo K. Bolipata, patriarch of the Bolipata artists. The Pundaquit Virtuosi, the children’s string ensemble he helped put together – will play classical chamber compositions like Mendelssohn’s Octet, along with his personal favorites – Tony Benett and other 1960s crooners.

According to Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata, founder and artistic director of Pundaquit, this year’s festival is among the most successful because of its diverse offerings, the warm reception from the Manila and local community, and support from corporate sponsors.

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