Tarlac Artists: Serious Play

Judeo Herrera


The need to understand the contemporary practice in Philippine art has always been the burden of the young. Emphatic assortment of paints on top of one another made more evident by their predominant metaphors reflected in their experimental yet distinct, confident yet sensitive brushstrokes. Playgroundweaves all these assumptions not merely as a conscious interlude of colors, illustrations and other media but something that originally perceived in their fragile/fertile imagination. Newly initiated in the art scene however these artists have already been recognized in national art competitions for their promising visual language and in finding novel approaches in painting.
Fernando Ramos
Defiance to the norm and piercing its persistence in memory have always been rooted in this unobtrusive Central Luzon province. The continuous wandering of the aetas that dwell along its streets is a blatant reminder of negligence yet one’s constant exposure is reminiscent of their pure and simple precolonial ways. The long McArthur highway is witness to rebellion to another colonial rule that tested our inner core in the infamous Death March. Some even lived to experience life more painful than death to this day. 
It is not only the geography that veers Tarlac from Manila. Less than 3 hours and 107 kilometers away by road travel, Tarlac directly manifests the disparity in directions concerning the Philippine art scene. With only an aging museum to speak of, there are neither art galleries nor art spaces abound. Ironic as it is paintings on canvases have found their way of conducing what is already lacking in the society. A visual critique thrives in an abundance of newly found expressions on how these emerging artists look at themselves and their communities.
Alfredo Baluyot
In Alfredo Baluyot’s silent yet haunting pieces shout the loudest meanings. Desperation marked by insensitivity of the powers-that-be Baluyot succumbs to his rants to ease his numbness to anger and deceit. Decay seeps in fluid-like strokes capable to overreaching the viewer to sympathize in this decreasingly bleak plight.
Chrisanto Aquino
On scratched canvas Chrisanto Aquino pays tribute to that dying breed of indigenous people dislocated by political reality. Against the advent of superfluous technology, their precolonial culture threatened into extinction. Aquino further hones his artistry by dwelling on long forgotten patterns inked on their tribal skin.  
Abstraction in its purest form occupies Fernando Ramos whose works are more autobiographical in nature. His choice of colors coalesce his ever-changing moods sometimes too heavy eliciting texture in capturing its weariness. Staining real gold makes the canvases more ethereal than usual. Ironically he does not find it romantic at all whatever it is that whimsically deals directly with his emotions. 
Elle Simon-Yokte

Elle Simon-Yokte is another artist that freshly dabbles in non-representational rendition. Although glimpses of figures still forebode she further induces more layers to thicken the plot typifying happiness and confidence within her.   

Judeo Herrera engages in deep nostalgia by waxing realism with abstraction in a prolific visual style his own. Herrera starts off by splattering colors as the background he favors. After the expressionist nature of this under painting he then deciphers what images will emerged eventually dictating the current themes of his thoughts. Here we find a bygone child’s play and bevy of horses in tipsy amusement or locked in symbol of their strength in character. 

Wiljun Magsino

Wiljun Magsino simplifies as he reminisces his childhood in black and white. Uniquely done by using stapler instead of paintbrushes he primes his canvases either black or white canvas and reversely tucks the wires depending on his chosen subjects. This tedious process challenges him in achieving a pen and ink effect. What he can still do with such steely art form is a promise that awaits us. 
As it is Playground is as literal as literary resistance of provincial artists hobnobbing in the city. These manifestations confront validation as their own inherent contents and permutations stressing the value of spontaneity, appropriation and positive energy. Establishing tension, solitude and equilibrium, these spatial yet lyrical pieces may be subtle or harsh yet both convey the sense of delight in the painters’ free reign of imagery and visual style. One looks long and hard as each art intensifies. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of Playground, their personal to randomly induce varied perceptions are commendable.
Playground encourages critical dialogue between the discriminating tastes of the patronizing public with the creative ambition of this current crop of Tarlac artists. As they are open to experimentation and more raw approach in art, they still value that paintings should be embodied and its social function is not lost in the art market discourse or painting for painting sake. Assuring a hopeful bright direction, Playground devotes a different attitude, a refreshing way of looking at visual arts. It is an undertaking that may enrich your lives as it has indeed on them. Sometimes seriousness is fun.