Hunt for pretty
LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - September 5, 2015 - 10:00am

Where has all the "pretty art" gone?

That was the question du jour at a conversation with a long-standing friend, an admirer of art as well.  We had been oohing and aahing over gorgeous artworks by a Thai artist, which for me were collectible-worthy.  Mostly done in pastel shades of cream, sky-blue or mint-green, the figures portrayed were serene, even happy.  His trademark floral embellishments would be sprinkled liberally all over the canvas, but sometimes there would be houseplants, goldfish or ferns adorning the central characters.

In fact, my admiration had spilled over to fan-hood, as I had actually mustered the nerve to talk to the artist one hot day in the Chattuchak market in Bangkok, and after trading halting introductions, I had gleaned the information from him that we could be Facebook friends.  After befriending him, and admiring what he had on display, Slang Gank Pansuay let it slip that he had more works on Instagram.

That piece of info spelled the death knell on my years-long resolve never ever to open another virtual account, for there I went, signing up on Instagram (which isn't really instant, considering how long it takes to load pictures and decide from the multiple options, and neither is it a 'gram, as nothing gets sent. But that's another rant.)

So I became a follower, and over the next couple of years, admired Slang Gank's prodigious talent, to the extent of ultimately, somehow maneuvering him to paint my very own portrait, trademark flowers and all.  And that's not all.  Considering how easy it is to see artwork all over the world, I've been admiring and hungering for various sundry pieces by artists I will probably never meet from countries I will never go to.

Which somehow leads me to my point.  Where in Metro Manila can you find, as my friend coins it, "pretty art"?   (I describe my taste as leaning towards "pop", but that doesn't really capture the range of artworks that can tickle my fancy, either.)

Forgive our lack of sophistication.  We are just art admirers.  While my friend is an established interior designer with his own thriving practice, I have no fancy degree from art school, and (gasp!) I nearly flunked my Humanities class memorizing boring facts (sacrilege!) about artists and schools of thought.

The Filipino masters are amazingly talented, but after a while, looking at portraits and pastoral scenes doesn't really quicken my pulse. Contemporary art, on the other hand, is so often visually unappealing.

I can do a quick survey of contemporary artists that are dominating the current scene, and what do I see?  The highest priced artist now, with works running into the millions (of dollars), is Ronald Ventura.  Dark.  Gloomy.  Stark.  That's how I would describe his work.

This same emphasis, we find in galleries or contemporary art fairs.  Artists want to be "conceptual" or "intellectual." We are fed visions of poverty or despair. Protests against corruption or iniquity.  Messages of defiance.

That, or pretentious pieces that make me feel like the naked Emperor.  Blank canvasses with only a dot in it. Magazine pages that are cut out into a boring collage.  Rolls and rolls of toilet paper arranged just so.  This is art?  We're supposed to like it?  And buy it?

Horrors.  I will willingly run away, screaming in fury and disgust at the blatant attempt to make me believe that the emperor's new clothes are made of gold.

One Bacolod artist I have been tracking over the years, Raymond Legaspi, told me that a gallery in Manila contacted him and wanted to sponsor a show for him at the capital.  But, the request was, for Raymond to churn out "dark" works. Channel his dark side.  Reach into his inner demons.  Which is a bit of a stretch for Raymond (I think) because his works center around corpulent people that are jolly well having a good time swimming or dancing or eating.  Raymond's works are infused with Bacolod laid-back indolence, with its charming quirks, and his humor infects his canvasses.  How to translate that to make it palatable to the Manila market?

But enough with the dark, I think.  Bring out the pretty.  Which is an insipid way to describe the gamut of art forms that lie waiting to be discovered out there, the vibrant, inspiring and even breath-taking testaments to beauty or joy.  I'm sure there are multitudes of Manila artists that have a yearning to express delight, glee, or even fun.

I just have to locate them.

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