Arts & Culture

The garden of yearning of Joven Ignacio

Photos courtesy of the artist

Painter Jose Ramon “Joven” Ignacio is a naturalist to the core. He doesn’t need to go birding in far-flung places or deep in the forests to observe flora at their wildest and best to capture his subjects. But into nature and art he has always been.

For his latest solo exhibition “Mithi,” a Filipino term for “yearning,” at ArtistSpace, Ayala Museum annex on Makati Avenue and De La Rosa Street, Makati City, he shows how he keeps an eye out for what the natural environment has to offer and discovers many things.

Amuki, watercolor

“I don’t go far to observe nature, any garden will do,” he said. In addition, he seeks out reference books while some good friends send him photos of Philippine birds.

One time, a friend told him, “Joven, you are quite unusual.”

He asked, “Why?”
The answer was: “If I give you a piece of dirt or stone, you will think it is a work of art.”

That was when he realized that he saw things differently.

Lakambini, watercolor on paper

He is an architecture graduate of the University of the Philippines with post-graduate studies in tropical architecture at Sheffield University in England, followed by studies in energy efficiency and sustainable design at DeMontfort University in Leicester and finally conservation and management of historic buildings at Lund University in Sweden.

He turned to painting after his father had a stroke in 1999 while the family was attending to him at the hospital. Ignacio said, “Drawing and painting became my companion while attending to my father’s health condition.”

Art to him remains “a form of therapy. When I am faced with challenges both at work and for other personal concerns, I turn to art. It is very therapeutic. I am calm and happy when channeling inner emotions onto a canvas. I seem to heal faster this way.”

Lubag, watercolor on paper

Ignacio learned his medium, watercolor painting, from books. He said, “I taught myself patiently. I have always admired the watercolors of Vicente Manansala and the artworks of Fernando Amorsolo and Ang Kiukok. I also love the works of Audubon the bird painter. They are my idols. We are lucky nowadays as social media gives us the opportunity to see the works of many great artists worldwide.”

Makahari, watercolor on paper

In one of his earlier shows, “Amoroso,” what struck this viewer was his expert handling of textile the way Araceli Dans handles the fine calado embroidery. Asked if she influenced him in any way, he answered, “I admire the way many Filipino artists focus on our heritage. They allow us to recognize and revisit our culture: Dans, Antonio Malantic, Felipe Mayoya, Alfred Galura, Raul Patindol to name a few. These people have inspired me. We share common interests in showing our Philippine heritage, our culture as seen in our paintings.”

In “Mithi,” he focuses on  Philippine birds and flowers. In his quiet way, he shows his alarm at the loss of their natural habitats so in a way, his exhibit is his gesture of preservation and conservation.

Ignacio said, “I feel we have done so much to destroy our natural environment. I envy countries and people who make an effort to preserve nature. Can we undo the damage we have created? We have been living in concrete jungles far too long.  I hope it is never too late. Let us make an effort before we do more damage.”

Sumpo, watercolor on paper

He has an altruistic heart that beats for the propagation of the arts. Part of the proceeds from this show, which runs from April 2 to 16, is going to the Young Artists Development Program of Cultural Arts Events Organizer (CAEO). He said, “One of the CAEO goals is to bring music and arts closer to the youth. This includes also teaching painting in remote areas to less privileged individuals. I hope I will be of help to young orphans. I hope people will join me in this effort.”

In the past, he was part of art workshops for people who were undergoing processing for substance abuse. On other occasions, he also helped in giving workshops to children in rural communities through outreach projects of the Enrique Zobel Foundation in Calatagan Batangas and Fundacion Pacita Abad Foundation in Batanes. He has held workshops, too,  in cooperation with friends from the Pasig Arts Club.

Asked who are his favorite bird and floral artists, Ignacio immediately cited Karen Sioson whom he described as “such a brilliant botanical artist.” Internationally, he idolizes Deepti Singh and Cathleen Cavanaugh-Savage. When he sees all their works in social media, he confessed to “getting kilig (excited).”


Joven Ignacio at work

For inquiries on the exhibit, contact Joseph Uy at 0920-954-0053 or email him at