Arts & Culture

Inner Counterpoints: Four Filipino Artists

Images courtesy of R.C. Ladrido, Kaida Contemporary, and Benjie Lontoc

Perforated Outsiders, Kaida Contemporary’s exhibit, features the works of Pete Jimenez, Benjie Lontoc, Jose Tence Ruiz, and Pinggot Zulueta. It runs until November 25, 2023.

Musings of the inner self remain a running theme in the works of the four artists where they explore the recesses of the mind and the intricacies of emotions.

Benjie Lontoc

Working mostly in ink, oil pastel, or acrylic on paper, Lontoc explores vigorously the state of his mind.

Benjie Lontoc, Starry Night, 2021
Benjie Lontoc, Starry Night, 2021

He captures in fine lines of ink, the billowy lightness of reverie (Starry Night, 2021; Green Sun 2023) a mind wandering unfettered by everyday drama, a mind floating with the summer wind. He captures the inhaling and exhaling of existence, the desolate self, imprisoned with duties and obligations (Tired Artist, 2023; Edges of the Moon, 2022; Cello Song, 2021).

Benjie Lontoc, RIch Gypsy, 2012

The duality of Lontoc’s life, as an immigrant in cold and dark Norway, and as a returning balikbayan, albeit temporarily, who reconnects with his circle of friends and fellow artists and takes part in art shows must be a cathartic way to maintain one’s equanimity.

Pinggot Zulueta

Capitalizing on black and white hues in ink on paper with dashes of red, Zulueta‘s  densely textured and intricate lines of abstraction lead us into meditative journey into our inner selves: a series of contemplations  on the myriads of twists-and-turns, circuitous routes, and ups-and-downs of a life, as expressed in his Introspection, Wanderer, Journey, all done in 2023.

Pinggot Zulueta, MUSA, 2023

Encapsulated in his artmaking is his experience with migration in 2002 to New Zealand and Australia. Early on, he depicted it with a bleeding heart or a man with clipped wings, a migrant who belongs to two places, his native land and his adopted one.

Pinggot Zulueta, Journey, 2023

A visual artist, photographer, and political cartoonist, Zulueta is a fine arts graduate, major in painting from University of Santo Tomas, and a staff artist of the UST student paper, The Varsitarian.

He is the author of the Filipino Artists in Their Studios (2015) that features 75 contemporary Filipino artists and Asinta: Mga Tula at Tudla (2002) with poet Vim Nadera. He was also one of the photojournalists who contributed to the book Edsa 2: A Nation in Revolt (2001).

Pete Jimenez

Several steel canes with steel balls of different sizes stand around the Kaida gallery, sculptural pieces by Pete Jimenez, all titled Discussion Points (2023).

A sculptor, Pete Jimenez has been repurposing discarded metal from junk shops for his art works.  His preferred materials are industrial waste: steel, automobile parts, scrap metal, and durable surfaces that can be reshaped by hammering and welding. He retains their scratches, dents, and other marks of use, even their rust, as testament to their previous existence.

In an installation work Islands for Sale (until December 2024, Ateneo Art Gallery), a commentary on China’s encroachment of Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea, he upcycled decommissioned rescue boats from the Philippine Navy and invites viewers to explore the vessels and “to reflect on the spoiling and exploitation of our natural land and resources.”

A graduate of fine arts who majored in visual communications from UP Diliman, Pete Jimenez has had 24 solo exhibitions in Manila since 2000. He has also participated in group exhibitions in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Jose Tence Ruiz

Bogie has four big oil or acrylic on canvas paintings in this show, all related to the Abang Guards. When asked the meaning of “abang guard,” he says with a mischievous grin, it’s a play on “avant-garde.” For sure, he loves coining new words, usually expressed in the titles of his artworks all throughout his decades of artmaking. What about Makapili (synonymous with traitors and collaborators), what’s the connection? Hmmm, more puzzles to uncover.

Jose Tence Ruiz, The Baile Verde of the Abang Guard Makapili, 2023

Artists, of course, have their own reasons and little stories behind the making of a painting, or even behind conjuring a title like “The Abang Guard Makapili and the Cyanoacrylate Memoirs of Piazzale Loreto.”

Jose Tence Ruiz, The Tenaciously Inevitable Rise of the Abang Guard, 2023.

In trying to decipher the title, things start to make sense: cyanoacrylate refers to super glues or adhesives with strong bonds. Piazzale Loreto is a major city square in Milan, Italy. Historically, in 1944, 15 Milanese civilians were executed by the German occupation authority as a reprisal for an attack on a German military convoy. It is the same place where the corpse of Benito Mussolini (Italian dictator and founder of fascism) in 1945 was on public display, one of the best-known events in Italy’s modern history.

In other words, history is history, and the elephant never forgets.

Security guards remain embedded in the country’s landscape, found in banks, supermarkets, malls, gated communities, and other establishments. Everywhere, they are around. Signs of chronic underemployment and cheap labor, they get less than the minimum wage. And yet, why do we feel so unsafe?

Tence Ruiz works in a variety of medium: painting, sculpture, installation, performance, graphic design, editorial cartoons, multimedia, and set design. His most recent solo exhibits include Litanya, 1972-1922, The Works of Jose Tence Ruiz (March-September 2023, Ateneo Art Gallery) and fastBACKward (July 2023, Kaida).