If I had not known that the complete roster of finalists for the Philip Morris Philippine Arts Awards had already been mounted in an exhibit, I would have not bothered going through all the galleries on the fourth floor of the Museum Of The Filipino People, aka our National Museum. With no signs, nor any promotional materials of any kind, it seems that only museum visitors who make a wrong turn actually stumble onto this display. Not even the very intrepid and efficient office staff of the Museum Foundation of The Philippines had any inkling that this level housed something other than the Slim’s retrospective. Sigh.
Ten finalists from Visayas and ten from Mindanao join the twenty finalists from Metro Manila and Luzon that had been presented to the public in December 2009. As expected, majority of the pieces are two-dimensional, with a smattering of small-scale sculpture. I really hope that artists get more daring the next time around. Perhaps the organizers ought to trumpet their acceptance of multi-dimensional pieces for the succeeding art awards. Still, the exhibit has been nicely laid out, with each piece provided a brief writeup from jurors Patrick Flores and Cid Reyes. And we see pieces employing a variety of media: digital prints, manipulated photographs, works fabricated from staples, or chicken feathers, or found fabric swatches. You even see a painting from soil!
As a keen follower of the PAA, I couldn’t help but notice that we see the same names that had been short-listed before. In some cases, the works seem like extensions of their previous entries. Over all, with one or two exceptions, the works reflect local concerns, and feel very Pinoy. I actually found them a tad insular, parochial even, their mood too serious. If these had been stories, they would have been cautionary tales that end with moral lessons. They employ that sort of a tone. You don’t get experiments with whimsy or forays into the avant-garde. Clearly though, one cannot question the skill, workmanship, and attention to detail that went into the works. But if your tastes tend to the contemporary, you will not find it in this group. I did not get the vibrancy that came out of say, last year’s Thirteen Artists exhibit at the CCP, or that you see in the Ateneo Art Awards every year. Perhaps the last two batches of winners (2006 and 2008) just set the bar too high for me.
Could it be that the opportunities in a thriving and exciting local arts scene have robbed young artists of the time and inclination to work on pieces worthy of competition? That perhaps will be a challenge to the organizers of the PAA. Yet, Philip Morris should be lauded for their unceasing support for this project.
Having said all that, I did still find favorites among the forty finalists. I thought Oscar Floirendo’s self-portait the most interesting of all the pieces. In a triptych, we see three versions of himself. The first as his silhouette cut out and filled with multi-colored rolls of rattan strips. At the center, a photo transfer echoing that silhouette on thin slats of wood. At the rightmost, his personal history told through photographs that are also holograms. From an angle, you glimpse that same silhouette from the first two parts of the piece. If I didn’t know that he had made similar use of those holograms for his 2008 entry, I would have been even more impressed. Crown Him King, Joey Cobcobo’s painting, oozes with rich details that you want to look at again and again. To round out my top three, Art Sanchez and his Tragic Playground, a multimedia piece with oil on canvas and collage on mirror.
The finalists from Visayas are Lucilo Sagayno, Eliseo Libo-on Jr., John Paul Castillo, Frank Alexi Nobleza, Marvin Chito Natural, Nomer Milano, Jzy Tilos, Cezar Arro, Edmar Colmo, Jovito Hecita Jr. The winners from Mindanao are Michael Bauzon, Bryan Cabrera, Solimon Poonon, Michael Bacol, Edgar Carreon, Rodney Yap, Jericho Vamenta, Marcelino Necosia, Nicolas Aca, Oscar Floirendo.
Please refer to this blog’s archives of December 2009 for the Metro Manila and Luzon regional finalists.
The awarding of the Grand Prize and Jurors Choice winners of the Philip Morris Philippine Art Awards 2009-2010 will be on 16 July 2010 at the Museum of the Filipino People, Finance Road, Manila. For more information, visit http://www.philippineartawards.org