MANILA, OCTOBER 15, 2003  (STAR) SUNDRY STROKES By Rosalinda L. Orosa  - Painter Manuel "Manny" D. Baldemor is repeatedly described as "prolific". To be viewed at his soon-to-open exhibit at Galerie Y are drawings and paintings done through a decade. The unprecedented retrospective encompasses scenes of various European countries – a major part of the global village – for which reason one might conclude, metaphorically, that Baldemor writes his travel diary with a prolific brush.

The word "prolific", however, must be qualified. Being double-edged, the adjective may deprecatingly imply a merely facile brush which turns out works with assembly-line uniformity and rapidity. Baldemor’s paintings are nothing of the kind. Ensuing from an inexhaustibly fertile and creative imagination – from an inner, uncluttered vision that perceives each scene in a fresh, innovative, intriguingly original manner – Baldemor’s astonishingly diverse works lead the cognoscenti to view him in addition as a prodigious, protean and versatile artist.

Baldemor’s wanderlust began in 1975 after he visited London and Paris on official grants. The tantalizing trips rendered the wanderlust even more acute and the odyssey continued with invitations from other governments following, each requesting a display in the host country of the visual impressions the painter would have gathered during his stay there.

Duly giving him further international exposure, a subsequent exhibit upon his return now often takes place in an embassy residence where ambassadors from both East and West peruse it.

Opening on Oct. 14, Baldemor’s exhibition of European drawings and paintings at Galerie Y will close Oct. 27.

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The wife of Fil-Spanish businessman Antonio Brias, Betsy Westendorp, arrived in Manila in 1951 as a lady of leisure. Painting to her then was a mere hobby. But having taken art lessons in Madrid under Julio Moises and Carlos Tejada, she soon realized that her avocation was turning into a serious vocation. Soon, she was venturing into dramatic landscapes while friends – including the elite in Manila and royalty in Madrid – were importuning her to paint their portraits.

Forthwith, Westendorp was exhibiting at the CCP, Ayala Museum, the Manila Hotel and Galleria Duemila. Abroad, the venues were Madrid’s Salon de los Trece, Galeria Fortuny, Galeria Ansorena and the Instituto de Cultura Hispanica.

Through Westendorp’s many exhibitions, flowers – which she paints exquisitely – have remained her favorite subject. This will be proven when "Paintings" (her first in three years) opens on Oct. 20 at Galleria Duemila, SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, running through Nov. 7.

Hereunder, I quote a critical evaluation of Westendorp’s latest works:

There is lucid vitality, a luminous quality of life and light in the way Spanish artist Betsy Westendorp depicts the flowers of both temperate and tropical climates. In her latest one-woman exhibit at the Galleria Duemila. Westendorp presents large-scale paintings in oil and canvas reflective of her recollections and sojourns.

Here, the artist depicts the flowers of spring and summer, such as the Arbol del Amor (Tree of Love), so-called because of its heart-shaped leaves, the Medellina Magnifica, a rare Philippine orchid, and spring flowers such as poppies, daises, dandelions, hydrangeas (milflores), peonies and rhododendrons. She also incorporate objects from personal history in her works, such as the statue of goddess Kuan-Yin set amidst the haze of waterfalls and water hyacinths.

The artist generally paints out-of-doors, depicting blooms amidst clear, breezy skies or the ethereal mist of dew. This show, however, is a transition of sorts for the artist. Here, several paintings depict milflores blooms cradled in exquisite vases – a rare instance, as she usually paints these in their natural surroundings. Despite this deviation, the works retain their enchantment and vitality in the intensity of hue and scale.

The artist derives from the Flemish courtly painting that shows blooms not as mere cut-and-dried-objects or dry botanical specimens. The distinct quality of her art lies in its depiction of beauty nearly non-existent in the congested metropolis, as she merges colors, palpitations, and temperatures. Even her still-life works exude an organic vitality, where the perishing and impoverishment, if only for a moment, seems distant.

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Momentarily, "abandoning" his usual medium, while surprising his artist friends, noted painter Allan Cosio will give a song recital on Nov. 8 at Cafe Ysabel in San Juan. Cosio will interpret arias from operas by Lalo, Massenet, Mozart, Gounod and Verdi. Soprano Stella Cristobal-Arenas, the First Monday Music Club Chorus and pianist Jude Areopagita will assist.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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