Rellie Liwag & her grateful art

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Rellie Liwag & her grateful art
Rellie Liwag.

Vivid are her colors, candid are her strokes. And all over the canvas is visual artist Rellie Liwag’s salutation to God.

Rellie’s paintings are a covenant between her and her Maker. Sure, she satisfies her artistic inclination, follows the deepest recesses of her heart when she paints, and yields to the temperament of her soul when her paintbrush makes love to the canvas. But beyond that, her artwork is a silent prayer, a lilting yearning, a colorful celebration.

At her ongoing joint exhibit “Painter’s Eye” at One Serendra in BGC with Ed Lantin, Dante Silverio and Junn Roca (in absentia because he resides in the US), Rellie displays the verve of her heart and soul. Her soul is as open as the sky because Rellie, with her co-artists, offered free art workshops on the fundamentals of drawing for six consecutive Sundays at the exhibit venue. The workshops ended last Sunday and the students will have a graduation and exhibit tomorrow. (“Painter’s Eye” will run until June 5.)

Rellie knows how to live her life and this is apparent in her paintings. Nature is an inspiration because “nature is God.” In her impressionist style resides her love for landscape and portraiture.

For instance, her “Japanese Landscape” (oil on canvas, 15” x 11 ½”) is aglow in the monochromatic color of summer that slowly bids goodbye to give way to autumn. Two seasons are captured in one frame. Auburn leaves eclipse green growth. In between seasons are the artist’s joyful, soulful experiences of Japan. All are memories that have come alive on her canvas.

Rellie has a penchant for the Zen and serenity of Japan. This is evident in her “Boat Ride in Japan” (oil on canvas, 23” x 17 ½”). Luminous are the aquamarine waters in the painting, refreshing to the eyes, creating rebirth for the weary soul. Life and living are splayed on the canvas. Hopes and dreams are romanticized. Peace and tranquility come like a reward to anyone who observes the work. Yes, her works offer peace. The peace that at times is denied to many an overthinker is afforded to him or her by Rellie’s genius that crawls and sprawls on her canvas.

The lady artist has the capacity to excite the senses of the viewers of her artworks. For instance, her mind’s eye took a miniscule portion of the 100-hectare New York Botanical Garden and transported its memory to her piece titled “The New York Botanical Garden 1” (oil on canvas, 30” x 20”) and created a huge desire for one to visit the botanical garden. The painting is a burst of orange tempered only by the hues of green and brown. Celebration is the order of the day.

New York Botanical Garden I, oil on canvas, 30” x 20”.

There’s familiarity of emotion in the works of the artist. Indeed, the joy felt by a kid frolicking on the white sands of Boracay can be found in “Karyll in Boracay” (acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”). This one, despite the face of the kid not shown, is replete with merriment perhaps because the lines are alive in the froth of the waves. There’s movement. There’s inertia. There’s force. All combined — there’s delight ensconced in juvenile bliss.

Rellie’s paintings are a repository of happy meanderings and memories. Her familiarity with a particular place comes alive in her works. For example, her oval-shaped paintings “Serendra’s Aviary” and “Serendra Bonsai” (both oil on canvas and 20” x 16”) overlap joy and bliss. This is the same excitement and happiness that can be found in her soul.

In “Young Rembrandt” (oil on canvas, 25” x 21”), she proves herself an ardent fan. “I am a diehard fan of the famous artist Rembrandt and executing a replica of his masterpiece was no easy task,” she says.

She painted a replica of the “Young Rembrandt” in oil on linen canvas while taking an intensive course at the Florence Academy of Arts in Italy in 2019. “My Russian mentor Igor Nagaslov was strict, very thorough, a detailed and realist painter. He reprimanded me that I was too eager to finish my work and should slow down, most especially (while) doing the intricate parts. Furthermore, he showed me how the old masters painted, and the materials they used, some still available at a specialty art store in Florence, which I ended up purchasing for use.”

The end product is a masterpiece. All of her 10 paintings in the exhibit were sold except for the “Young Rembrandt” — because she’s not selling it. She has developed an attachment to this work, a memento of how she remains a student of art despite being already an established artist. (She also credits world-renowned art stalwarts Daniel Greene and Nelson Shanks as her mentors.)

Rellie, who finished a degree in Communication Arts at Maryknoll College (now Miriam College), was, for a time, a fashion model for Pitoy Moreno and Auggie Cordero. She worked as a visual aids specialist for McKinsey and Co. Inc. in Los Angeles, California for five years. Later she moved to ITT Sheraton, also in LA, as administrative assistant in the human resources office. The artist in her stubbornly surfaced so she studied oil painting in West LA before relocating to the Philippines with her family after 18 years of living in the US. With the paintbrush in her hand and a canvas before her, she found her new self, her new joy, her new aspiration. Upon her return to Manila, she joined Galerie Joaquin and was invited to join the Guevarra Group of Artists. Since then, she has joined many a group exhibit and mounted solo shows both in the Manila and Manhattan.

“I’m always grateful to God for the talent He gave me,” she says. That gratitude is found in her art, where the joy of her self-rediscovery is depicted in every line and stroke, in every color, in every beating of her heart.

Provence II, oil on canvas, 20” x 30”.


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