Luis Lorenzana’s personal journey as an artist can rival his paintings’ fantastic elements. The Tales of The Beer Fairies, now running at SLab, takes us to Luis’s fanciful woodlands. Here, trippy beer bottles flutter around, getting drunk on the emotions of humans who wonder within their proximity. The paintings take the point of view of the fairies. Through their eyes, humans themselves appear like enchanted creatures— with soulful eyes and clown faces, possessing two heads, and levitating through fields of green.
I first came across Luis’ name at the catalogue of the 2006 Philippine Art Awards roster of winners. He had always dreamed of being an artist, but his parents would not hear of it. He earned a pre-Law degree, but still managed to join painting competitions. The first time he made it to the top 50 finalists of the Philippine Art Awards was in 2000, the year Nona Garcia won.
In 2004, when Senatorial elections brought in a new batch of legislators, he decided to make a go of painting full time. Broke but determined, Luis knew that it would be difficult to crack into the local art scene without an art degree, or without knowing the personalities with whom he could work with. “Wala akong grupo. Wala akong mentor. Wala akong pambili kahit sigarilyo. Iniwan ako ng girlfriend ko. Hindi ko daw siya kaya pakainin. Pero gusto ko magpinta.”
From early on, even with his competition entries, Luis’ sensibilities had always leaned towards the lowbrow. At that time, in the middle of the last decade, Pinoys had yet to accept this genre as mainstream. A copy of Juxtapoz magazine, shown to him by a friend, gave Luis some validation. He realized that out there, other artists identified with his aesthetic.
In 2008, Luis came across the website of Distinction Gallery in Escondido, California, a space partial to paintings with “an emphasis on figurative pop and an
urban surrealism”— outsider art. He emailed photos of his finished work, and they asked him to send them over. He had to tell them that he could not afford to even ship his pieces. They volunteered to take care of the charges. His works sold, they asked for more, and included him in group shows. After years of living off the generosity of friends, Luis had made it. He bought himself his first new t-shirt in four years, and couldn’t help but cry.
The shows in the US led to more shows in Europe, but still Luis remained unknown to the Manila art scene. A show with Fil-Am artists based in the US West Coast brought him to the attention of art afficionados like broadcaster Julius Babao. Still, Luis wanted to exhibit in Manila, in part to enable his parents and friends so see his work up on walls, and share his pride. He announced to them that he would show at SLab—-without having met Isa Lorenzo. He just knew that if he had to choose a space to make his Manila debut, it would be there.
When Isa received his application, she thought he was Mexican, and wondered why he would want to exhibit in Manila, given his resume. When she found out otherwise, Isa and Rachel Rillo paid him a studio visit. Luis secured a slot in their exhibit lineup for 2010, with a “teaser exhibit” at 20Square in December last year.
For this show, Luis draws even more from the influences of European masters for his techniques. He spent the summer in Paris and Copenhagen, visiting the Louvre everyday for the two weeks he had been in France. He attempted to recreate the palette of the Renaissance and Baroque greats, even to the extent of using white leaded paint. His process includes drawing complete studies prior to translating his images to canvas. Luis puts in 14-hour days and takes a minimum of one month to complete one painting.
This old world feel he gives to his imaginary creatures, emphasized by the ornate wooden frames he uses, is what makes his work stand out. This is what first appealed to the folks at Distinction Gallery. And now, Manila audiences can appreciate it too.
Tales of The Beer Fairies runs from 29 September to 23 October 2010 at SLab, 2F, YMC Bldg, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. Phone (632) 816-0044 or visit http://www.slab.silverlensphoto.com