In Pursuit of Integrity and Excellence:
Two Davao visual artists in PhilCenter-NY Exhibit
Artists are born, not created. Whoever first made this observation gave justice to the unique but often lonesome and turbulent lives of a small number of master artists who appeared all throughout history. At the same time, however, this claim is being used by those who introduce themselves as a rare breed of Homo Sapiens as an excuse for their own brand of eccentricity, so that the Artist today is stereotyped as the long-haired, unkempt, vice-stricken, non-conformist, and anti-social character we often see in movies or read in novels. True that society had seen masters of the description, but the above stereotyping does not an artist make.
In Davao City, Philippines, visual artists of diverse persuasions banded together in search of the true significance of their profession. This they did because of the sense of helplessness hounding the condition of homegrown talents. Gross commercialization and crass politicization of the local art sector has art dealers and politicians as prime beneficiaries. Artists are relegated to a condition of stiff competition, resulting to poor bargaining power and low income. Those who do not conform to the market forces suffer the worst in terms of suppression and non-recognition. Thus, the prevailing circumstances favor the stereotyping of the artist as described above. But a few among them struggled and succeeded in giving fresher meaning to their identity as artist – a meaning imbued with integrity and excellence. These artists formed the art group Artisthood in March 2002 with the long-term goal of establishing a strong community of art talents.
Artisthood conducts art workshops, encourages its members to join international art competitions, and envisions the establishment of the world’s first tropical artist sanctuary along the shores of Davao Gulf. Operating under the principles called the Three Rs, Artisthood members maintained camaraderie and productive working relationships. The Three Rs are as follows: (1) self-Respect, (2) Respect for others, and (3) self-Responsibility. Remarkably, Artisthood’s group activities, conducted under the mode of the principles of the Three Rs, bore positive results.
Firstly, the group successfully conducted seven group art exhibitions in its 3-year existence, showcasing recent and latest works, indicating the members’ heightened prolificacy. Six of its members either won prizes or gained recognition as finalists in the international competitions they joined in, the latest of which is the special prize won by Michael Bauzon in the Decourtenay Art Competitions, launched September 2005 from Belgium. Another is the recognition gained by Victor “Bong” Espinosa when his 2 entries to the Art Fix International were chosen, together with those of twenty-nine other entrants, to an offline show entitled Phases of Eve, which would be toured in the US, Canada, and Europe later this year. Yet, Bauzon and Espinosa are but two of Artisthood’s international achievers.
Earlier in 2000, Ega Carreon, he who sounded the clarion call for Artisthood to form, won first prize in the Asian Freeman Painting Competition conducted by the Vermont Studio Center. In 2002 he entered the finals of the International Symbolist Online Art Competition launched by Dracoblu-Canada. The following year, 2003, he won co-third with his acrylic painting “Lovers II” in the 9th Internet International Art and Photo Contest launched from Japan. Two other Artisthood members — Espinosa and Rodney Yap – also entered the finals of the same competition twice, in 2003 and 2004.
Bienvenido Bones Banez Jr., on the other hand, followed Carreon’s steps when he bagged the top prize of Vermont Studio Center’s 2002 Asian Art Fellowships Competition. His alternate winner was Artisthood founding member Dominador “Jun” Pamisa, himself a consistent contender to the Philippine Art Awards. When the president and executive director of the Wiliamsburg Art & Historical Center, Terrance Lindall, saw Banez’s donated work, “My Warlock Dreams 666,” he was so impressed that he commented Banez is “the Philippines’ greatest living surrealist.” Carreon and Banez will give New Yorkers a chance to view their works when they exhibit their works at the Philippine Center-New York (556 Fifth Ave.) on February 13-28. Their 2-man show serves as a prelude to the Artisthood group exhibition set for April 10-21, 2006, at the same venue.
Prepared by Phillip Somozo