By Vernon Velasco
ON Independence Day at the Newport Mall in Resorts World Manila, there was hardly an indignant call to arms and taking-the-cudgels-for-Pinoy-pride themes decking the walls of in-mall quasi-formal galleries. Instead, artworks apropos to the very essence of being free mapped the aisleway and engaged passersby to contemplate the so-called concept of freedom.
No, the exhibition was not Filipino-themed, devoid of, say, a visual narrative for Edsa or anything reminiscent of our struggle for emancipation.
It was the usual—if you will, nondescript—staple of contemporary artworks of which very no-holds-barred expression made them appear larger than life. The gathering of paintings, sculptures and wee objets d’art were the brainchild of Kulay Diwa Art Gallery and the Newport Mall to make sense of what has been always at the back of our heads on Independence Day and bring it out to the fore.
“Actually, we invited Kulay Diwa because we had looked at their galleries before and we were impressed with the selection of artists and the kind of artworks they exhibit,” said Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Senior Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Business Development Tefel Velentino. “We thought that we have a place—a perfect place—for them to showcase their artworks. And we find it that it’s very timely to do this for Independence Day, so we called the exhibit Freedom of Expression.”
Curated by Julius Villarete, the arts on display are existing pieces, what with the works of Kulay Diwa resident artists like, among so many notables, Filipino-Spanish sculptor Raimundo Folch, winner of the prestigious Baumel-Schwenck Grand Prize at the Salon de Carousel in Paris in 2011; Ernest Concepcion, one of the recipients of the 2015 Cultural Center of the Philippines Thirteen Artists Awards; and surrealist painter Andres Barrioquinto, whose brooding sensibilities on canvas have taken their place in the Singapore Art Museum, and have been successfully auctioned at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong.
“We just chose from the collection; we chose prominent artists alongside upcoming artists. About 85 percent of the exhibition [is by resident artists] from Kulay Diwa. And then other artists contributed some of their new works, among them Raymund Kawataki Go, Bembol de la Cruz, Jecky Alano and Bincent Balandra,” Kulay Diwa Managing Director Bobbit Nolasco said.
“Each piece is [an embodiment] of freedom of expression and whatever it was that the artist was thinking and feeling at the time of creation,” Valentino said of the opuses that border on the surreal, the mysterious, the macabre. “The Filipino artist usually follows what is going on in Europe, in the United States and all the other art capitals,” Nolasco added.
It has always been the goal of Kulay Diwa to promote deviation and encourage creativity on young contemporary artists by giving them the freedom to do whatever they want, if that means giving them “freedom to choose their subjects, their materials, their persuasions. We never dictate that, say, you should paint this because this is beautiful. The creation of art is spontaneous,” Nolasco said.
Like other swank properties, or communal spaces like malls for that matter, which impose art appreciation in public spaces, Newport Mall and Resorts World Manila have been an avenue for culture and the arts.
“If you remember, years back, we advocated for the performing arts; we hired Filipino artists and did our own local shows and toured them in other countries. We want to showcase how great Filipinos are not just in performing arts, but also in other aspects of the arts. One way of showing that is through this exhibit,” Valentino said. “We don’t want to be associated with just one medium or type of art. We want to be known as supporters of Filipino art. That is what we have been advocating across all our properties: These are proudly Filipino-made and we have great artists in our country. We believe that, through this and other similar efforts, we are able to make a difference in our communities.”
***Freedom of Expression is on display at the ground floor hallway of Newport Mall in Resorts World Manila until June 30.