MANILA, January 7, 2004 (STAR) ARTWEB By Ruben Defeo - Inside and out, the Cultural Center of the Philippines was bedecked with the traditional parol for the Christmas season. The entablature at the CCP façade featured a cascade of white star lanterns which when lighted at night looked like a meteor passing by. At the lawn fronting the fountain were more white parols in varied sizes, installed on bamboo poles of varied heights. The holiday décor was stark and simple, yet it was very breathtaking and quite succinct in its cheerfulness and optimism that bright days are ahead for the coming year.

The festive feeling continued inside. On view at the Main Lobby were 15 award-winning star lanterns done by students of Bauan High School in Batangas. Using garlic, palay, sugar cane, fish scales and crab shells, among others, these young people gave vent to their ingenious creativity to produce an assortment of forms, shapes, patterns and motifs out of these unconventional materials. The native artistry was in fact awesome.

Even the print exhibit at the third and fourth floor hallways was ushered by "Parol," an early intaglio print done by no less than the acknowledged father of Philippine printmaking, the venerable Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., now 92 and based in New York. The small print, all of 12x16.5 cm, depicts a chilly but nonetheless starry night in the countryside. A boy is astride a carabao on the foreground carrying a big star lantern to guide his way home after a day’s toil in the field.

The 52 fine prints on exhibit at the CCP were all done by the members of the Philippine Association of Printmakers. Entitled Limbag, it was a fitting tribute to five eminent members of the association who had crossed the great beyond, namely, Santiago Bose, Ibarra dela Rosa, Mars Galang, Ojeng Jocano, and Jerry Elizalde Navarro.

The five fallen "comrades in art" were represented by two works each in the exhibition.

Like the wonderful lanterns that lit up the CCP complex this season, the print show was a gathering of the country’s superstars in the field. Led by no less than National Artist Arturo Luz, the exhibition was a formidable assembly of stellar names in Philippine printmaking, which included Raul Isidro, current PAP president, Virgilio Aviado, Fil Delacruz, Bing del Rosario, Araceli Dans, Bencab, Romulo Olazo, Mario Parial, Deo Viloria, Benjie Torrado Cabrera, Rey Concepción, Restituto Embuscado, D. Lodronio, Evelyn David, Jesus Flores, Ambie Abaño, Danny Sola, Bernard Temporosa, Emiterio Valente, Mikel Parial, Armando Toleza, and Chris Bayani.

Printmakers who are now based abroad were also represented in the exhibition, like Rudy Samonte, Ofie Gelvezon-Tequi, and Ileanna Lee. Gelvezon-Tequi and Lee still produce fine prints from time to time. Samonte, for his part, has since moved on to digital art, and now helps in the operation of an art gallery in San Francisco, USA.

Conspicuously absent, however, was Lenore RS Lim, a noted printmaker based in New York.

The Modern Museum of Art in New York classifies print as "a work of art made up of ink on paper and existing in multiple examples. It is created not by drawing directly on paper, but through an indirect transfer process. The artist begins by creating a composition on another surface and the transfer occurs when a sheet of paper, placed in contact with this surface, is run through a printing press. Among the advantages of making an artwork in this way is that numerous ‘impressions’ can be made, because new pieces of paper can be sent through the press in the same way. The artist decides how many to make and the total number of impressions is called an ‘edition.’"

The Limbag exhibit at the CCP was the culminating point of the PAP traveling show that had been to 10 parts in the country. The PAP’s advocacy to bring the tradition of prints closer to the public was indeed commendable.

The prints on exhibit are part of the growing collection of the PAP. This year’s selection shows the paths that the association has taken through the years, documenting changes in the choice of subject matter, for instance, or even the processes that happily have expanded through time. Given the many options that are now made available to artists, our printmakers are just as committed to create their significant dent in the art scene today.

Santi Bose’s "Baguio Cathedral" and Deo Viloria’s "Isang Umaga sa Morong" may have some 20 years between them. They may differ in hue – Bose’s monochromatic intaglio as opposed to Viloria’s polychromatic etching. But the way the two compositions are treated reveal an affinity in their utmost, if not remarkable, respect for the discipline of the craft.

One can conjecture at this point that Bose, representing the earlier generation, and Viloria, representing the emerging generation of printmakers, have found ample pleasure from the art form. It is not a coincidence at all that two prints depict age-old structures of cultural history in the country. The use of such cultural landmarks in fact becomes emblematic. Printmaking, with its long and august history, needs all the care and attention of the viewing public.

Another poignant facet of the exhibition was the inclusion of a father-and-son team in the case of Mario and Mikel Parial. It is somehow reassuring that the tradition of printmaking is being passed from one generation to the other. But the passing of such tradition is never perfunctory, as shown in the case of the Parials. While Mikel, the son, busies himself with imbibing the rigors and discipline of the craft, the elder Parial, Mario, continues to break new printing grounds.

With the myriad challenges that printmaking faces at present – the effects of technology on the art form, the blurring of boundaries between painting and printmaking – Mario submits the traditional lithograph print to an extraneous process of hand-coloring it with acrylic.

The exhibit hoped to advance the cause of printmaking in the country. The idea was for printmaking to scale greater heights, reach a wider audience and generate handsome patronage and rewards for the artists. My wish is that such rise, like the white star lanterns adorning the façade of CCP for the holidays, equally assumes the proportions of a meteor!

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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