“Watercolor is a medium that can be as demanding and temperamental as those who choose to paint with it,” said Australian artist and writer Jean Burman.
“But it is a colorful and exciting medium all the same,” added Burman – “well suited to describing the many moods of the subject, as well as those of the artist wielding the brush.”
One could easily agree on how Burman described watercolor works and watercolor artists upon viewing the 56 art pieces by 14 Ilonggo artists who are members of Himbon in Duag sa Tubig (watercolor) at the Ground Floor of SM City Iloilo.
Although it dealt on a wide range of subjects, the masterpieces all appeared natural and light to the eyes and senses, a charisma and reputation distinct to watercolor works.
The collection was not circumscribed by a unified theme yet it focused on a medium as a unifying element to offer venue for both masters and neophytes to come together.
Landscape and daily life
Landscape and the daily life whether in the household or within the community remains an enduring subject of watercolor art and you will get lots of it in Duag sa Tubig.
The works can awe viewers by the artists’ dramatic execution that interchangeably transform complex subjects to become simple and simple subjects to complex given the intricacies of the images and the detailed coloring and shading of colors.
The social realities subjecting the artist abound among the works reflecting different levels of reality that illustrate undying poverty, serene rural life, and joyful environment where children play.
One will find these cross-cutting characteristics and dominant messaging in paper as executed by Alex Ordoyo, Angelo Sobrepeña, Gilbert Labordo, Anthony Castillo, and father and son Ronnie and Hiero Granja.
Children in the company of playmates in community setting either doing traditional community games or tending family work are strong subjects that magnetizes instant connection on the works of Vic Fario.
Fario’s many works, whether done in watercolor or using other medium, expresses religiosity, faith in God, and the virtues of patience and hope. His works describes traditions that either continue to hold true or are fast becoming poignant reminders of its struggles for relevance in the ever-changing world as a result of modern living.
Among the versatile watercolorist is Omer Suvisor. A member of the Philippine Guild of Watercolorists and the International Watercolor Society Philippines, four of his works are on display: Holy Sunday, Hala Bira, Peace and In Love.
Familial ties like father and children relationship, intimacies, expression of care, and the traditional scenes of rural life, especially during summer break, like Woman Washing at the Stream and Lady Bathing at the Stream are also central subjects among the works by siblings John Ernie Acedera and Norman Vincent Acedera.
Four female watercolorists
In various sizes and motivated by experimentation on different subjects and techniques exemplified the works of four female watercolorists.
“My work is mostly done with spontaneity,” intoned Liezyl Sobrepeña who exhibited two of his works: Red Dragon and Fist of Love, all 29 x 44 cm. watercolor on paper.
“I experimented on hard plastic by crumpling the material and dabbing on color and applied it on paper. I usually adopt wet on wet technique controlling hand pressure upon application to arrive at a desired image,” shared Sobrepena on how she was able to come up with her work.
An ostensibly delicate medium, watercolor is technically challenging to many aspiring artists, yet most, if not all, were introduced to art at a young age using the medium and after which they developed an affinity to watercolor and become comfortable as they age.
Althea Villanueva, for instance, preferred watercolor because it is “uncontrollable” yet when the color is applied on paper, the colors starts to interact “creating a unique texture and allowing vibrant colors to emerge.”
A self-taught and with influences by her father who is also an artist, Villanueva’s works expressed her faith in God as illustrated by her 8×8 and 8×10 inches works using Bible verses for titles: Songs of Songs 4:1-15, Song of Songs 5:10-16 and Psalms 84.
On the other hand, Krys Balmaceda, also a self-taught watercolorist and an ophthalmologist, shared that her works displayed in Duag sa Tubig describes her fondness for watercolor.
“Mahilig lang ako mag watercolor”, she intoned in Filipino and “my works usually come in small sizes.” Three 8×10 inches works were entered by Balmaceda in the exhibit: Aubrey,Flora and Kyoto. The latter stands out for it depicted her interest on Japanese culture and society having visited the country numerous times.
Among the four female watercolorists, Pam Reyes easily comes to mind upon viewing a collection entitled:San Joaquin 1-5. The 5-piece work with sizes ranging from 8×8 to 10×5 up to 14×6 inches, portrayed an almost photographic representation of the colorful mix of stones that can be found along the rocky coastline of San Joaquin town at the Southern tip of Iloilo.
Reyes have shared that she is found watercolor convenient and effortless, a characteristic she possessed that perhaps render her work in tactile quality.
Her Rock Garden, a set of four paintings fetched the interest of a German citizen at the recently concluded Art in the Park in Manila where Ilonggo artists brought a contingent. She has consistently pushed to sharpen her artistic skills by participating in collaborative shows.
Solidarity and collaboration
The evolution and development of watercolor also stretched through time and have crossed different periods. Our watercolorists underwent the same process by studying methods and techniques in order to create a unique art.
In arthistory.net, it shared that “artists have used watercolor painting to crafts works reflecting their gifts and passions.”
It recalled that “John James Audubon used watercolors to document the wildlife to which he was so devoted. Winslow Homer recorded the scenic beauty of the natural world, as evidenced in his seascapes of Maine, the soft colors of the Bahamas and the splendor of the Adirondacks.”
Moreover, it also touched onthe “French master’s Paul Cézanne’s technique of overlapping watercolor washes provided his distinctive use of color and tone, as shown in his piece “Still Life with Watermelon and Pomegranates.” Vincent Van Gogh, best known for his oil paintings, developed his watercolor techniques to create over 100 pieces, such as “Boats on the Beach of Saintes-Maries” and “Scheveningen Women and Other People Under Umbrellas.”
While we all look up on the versatility and brilliance of foreign watercolorists who have made their mark in history, Ilonggos can relish on the genius of its local artists by investing time and exercising thought by viewing their works on exhibits like Duag sa Tubig.
Promoting shared learning and attaining solidarity through art is at the core of Himbon as a contemporary art group and movement. Its collaborative effort has offered continuous public engagement that invites interest for art appreciation and education and on the process it attained heightened familiarity among viewers on the unique techniques and styles of a growing number of Ilonggo artists. IMT