El Pueblas: Dried and Tested


Time well spent on an art piece has always been the most considerate arbiter in determining how it can be best appreciated. Given too is the subsumed execution of its materiality to its concept, for Davao-based artist El Pueblas it will take six years and lots of dried, discarded and fallen leaves.

The circumstance of how Pueblas left a very comfortable job as a producer in a production house in Manila to continue what now comprises the exhibition Fallen Leaves could also add up to his mythology however that would just distract, and further delay in reviewing the exhibition’s merits. Pueblas would rather focus on his staunch message–his war against clichés–not be bothered by the corporate sacrifices that entailed it.

From collecting and sorting fallen leaves Pueblas sorts those he would use and keep, generally in large volume. For the few special ones, he goes out of his way and monitors them at their particular locations. Coming back only when they are already on the ground. Preferring thin leaves since thick ones are hard to manage, he tediously stores the leaves some more for an indefinite period. Observing if there are changes, noticing them only when they are perfectly ready at their driest. 

Inspired by Japanese leaf artist, Kazuo Akasaki, Artvocacy as Pueblas’ medium is his message: green as alternative. Once the leaves are ready, he cuts them into pixels. The smaller the paintings the bigger he cuts them. Everything is organic that he does not even dye them. He then proceeds to segregate the leaves depending on their veins as texture and native hues for color placing them on an already drawn image. Side by side the different shades of the leaves that creates most impact. Sometimes one piece takes longer awaiting its natural color to conform its valued place on the professed image. As soon as the composition is complete he just sprays them with transparent emulsion for durability.

In a zen-like manner, he does not even have titles to the seven genre pieces on featured however he painstakingly does his signature with leaves at an average of three hours tops. In depicting the exhibition’s main attraction, the so-called Mona Lisa amassed as many and as diverse leaves as possible in producing its desired iconography. Despite her popularity it could have been easily achieved using handy industrial oil paints but will just be like any other La Giaconda at the Louvre. Given that they were already featured in two of the most commercial venues in Davao, even the pieces do not carry price tags on them. 

With the vibrancy of contemporary art happening in the confines of fine arts colleges, streets and cyberspace, it still is surprising there is a dearth of art galleries to comprise a Davao art scene. With the closure of Ford Academy of the Arts last year trims down to three colleges that serve the formal artistic pulse of the youth. As for Pueblas, his body of work continues to be honed in the peripheries the long deserved validation cannot wait.