The art exhibit launched by the Group of Twelve (G12) at the Molo Mansion commemorates an end of a decade and it serves as a 50-year retrospect of Ilonggo art and the artists that helped shape its development.
The artists who participated in the show brought to the collection both old and new works and it offered a backward and forward link like an exposition of the past to visualize how we have reached this point.
The show steps back to the 1970’s and it attempts to summarize the milestones that characterized each of the decade to illustrate the progression of the local art sector. The canvasses and sculptural pieces acted like a conversation between a set of artists who have attained some level of enlightenment to a new generation of artists who are seeking empowerment.
The message carries a substantial burden of passing on a collective memory conceived from values and convictions which has now defined Ilonggo art. The collection envisages the artists over the art affairs that they have initiated. Hence, to a great extent, the G12 is an inter-generational chronicle of the artists and Ilonggo art.
A retrospect by the artists
“Before the 70’s, one finds it hard to believe whether there were any Ilonggo artists at all,” wrote UP Visayas Professor Gaudelia Vega Doromal in “Hublag Ilonggo: The Contemporary Visual Arts Movement in Iloilo.”
However, there were pre-1970’s Ilonggo artists. From 1940’s to 1960’s, Iloilo have Felipe Zaldivar, Jesus Herva, Fernando Kabigting, Lamberto Hechanova, Timoteo Jumayao, Jr. Adiel Arevalo, and Nelfa Querubin.
The 70’s to 90’s were considered as momentous decades and it “marked the development in the visual arts in Iloilo,” said Doromal in a VIVA EXCON 1990-1996 publication.
One of the milestones is the establishment of Museo Iloilo. It became the exhibit venue of Ilongga ceramist and printmaker Nelfa Querubin. The presentation of Querubin’s works revived local interest in art.
It is also within these period that UP Fine Arts Dean José T. Joya made summer visits to UP Iloilo where he conducted a series of art workshops. Joya is a National Artist and his visits were considered to have stimulated the Ilonggos’ attentiveness to art and art production.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, former Ilongga senator Nikki Coseteng’s Galerie Dominique would bring to Iloilo an exhibit of artworks by established Manila artists. These engagement helped developed the local art patronage.
In 1983, Ilonggo artist Ed Defensor made a history when he led the formation of Hubon Madiaas. The group was a consolidation of 31 visual artists at that time and it became the longest existing artist organization in Panay Island.
The 80’s period became a significant decade among Ilonggo artists for some of them started to participate in national art competitions and they emerged as winners. One of them is Hubon Madia-as member Nelson Ferraris who won a Grand Prize in the 3rd Edition of the Metrobank Annual Painting contest in 1986.
Many of the Ilonggo artist that we know today became a renowned name in the art sector from being a finalist or by winning major art competitions at the national level.
The 1990’s was also a successful decade for Iloilo’s art development with the holding of several editions of Hublag: Ilonggo Arts Festival initiated by the Iloilo Arts Council and supported by the Outreach Program of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The period of Hublag showed the Ilonggo artists’ experimental use of local and indigenous materials from stones, native mats, and even vines. Some of these materials were incorporated even on paintings.
It is also in the 1990’s that the Visayas Islands Visual Art Exhibition and Conference (VIVA ExCon) was organized. The gathering further developed art practice and production among Ilonggo artists and it strengthened its camaraderie resulting on a more dynamic sector with the formation of various art groups.
The first decade of the new millennium (2000) facilitated the growing development of local sculpture using mainly terracotta. Local artists began to bring their works and actively showing them on art venues outside of Iloilo.
By the second decade, several Ilonggo artists were already exhibiting works abroad. They also started to dominate national art competitions, sometimes sharing honors with their fellow Ilonggos in the same art categories. From then onwards, the number of artists started to grow and exhibitions became a regular feature in the arts and culture calendar.
G12: Artists, Periods and Works
The Group of Twelve cannot be oversimplified as a mere display of art pieces. It shows the Ilonggo artists’ resiliency as a result of its dedication to the craft and its continuing search for truth. It celebrates the Golden Age of Ilonggo Art – 50 Years of Ilonggo Contemporary Art – and the show explicates the secret to its longevity.
Ed Defensor is an Ilonggo contemporary art pioneer who began making art – painting, sculpture, printmaking – in the 1970’s. Defensor has effortlessly shifted themes, subjects, medium, and techniques with undiminished passion.
Similarly, Alan Cabalfin started as a student artist in the 1970’s. By 1980’s, Cabalfin became an apprentice on pottery to Nelfa Querubin. He also switched from two-dimensional to three-dimensional forms of visual expression with equal facility on his works which were showed in venues both domestic and abroad.
Also a student artist from the 1970’s is PG Zoluaga. He seriously pursued art and developed his skills in the 1980’s with figurative works that carry social commentaries. Zoluaga’s social awareness are dominant in the titles of his work and he later carried on his abstract paintings.
The show also presented the works of artists who were developed in 1990s like Martin Genodepa, Dodjie Tan, and Pierre Patricio.
Genodepa is recognized for his sculptures using wood and steel, and he has done installation work that are considered visually poetic. Moreover, Tan became known for doing prints, assemblages inspired by bottles, and playful terracotta sculptures.
In addition, Pierre Patricio who is a Capiznon entered into the art scene as a painter who began his career in 1990’s when he was in Europe.
At the turn of the millennium, the Iloilo art scene started to marvel on the excellent pieces produced by artists like Vic Fario, Harry Mark Gonzales, and Gina Apostol.
Apostol started out using clay to make human figures yet she ventured into painting using a style called Naif Art to assert feminism. Likewise a multi-awarded artist, Gonzales was known then for his terracotta sculptural pieces. Today, he produces cold-cast marble works and resin to create surreal pieces.
Fario is one of the very few local contemporary artist who holds a Fine Arts degree then being a graduate of the Philippine Women’s University. He is considered as a painter who possess technical proficiency and his works shows a combined technique of impressionism and expressionism.
The Ilonggo art community continued to produce new artists especially on the second decade of the 21st century. This is the period that Marrz Capanang, Alex Ordoyo and Sonny “Yob” Tolentino emerged.
Capanang has been very active in spearheading painting murals in Iloilo. He earned prizes for some of his works with art pieces that combines abstraction and figuration style and by using a method of messaging described by the artist as a “precedent transfiguring into the subsequent.”
The last among the Group of Twelve is Sonny Tolentino. He brought works that translates into quaint and often haunting paintings the urban and rural landscapes of his childhood dotting these with occasional figures of people that he remembered or imagined. He is also a poet and his poetry extends to his visual art.
The works in the Group of Twelve will be on show until February 3, 2020.