Filipino among the world’s Top Contemporary Surrealists
By Phillip Somozo
Today, that same young man, now in his forties, has been accepted by some of the world’s foremost authorities in Surrealism as one of the Top Contemporary Surrealists, among the best from the United States, Europe, Russia, Colombia, and Australia. At least, this is the gist of a list printed, along with the essay What’s New in the Surreal World, in the highly respected New York-based Art & Antiques Magazine, March 2006 issue (Artandantiques.net).
The late National Artist Victor Edades was so impressed by the craft and earnestness of a student at the Learning Center of the Arts in Davao City more than twenty years ago that he declared the sophomore an emerging artist ready for a one-man show.
Today, that same young man, now in his forties, has been accepted by some of the world’s foremost authorities in Surrealism as one of the Top Contemporary Surrealists, among the best from the United States, Europe, Russia, Colombia, and Australia. At least, this is the gist of a list printed, along with the essay What’s New in the Surreal World, in the highly respected New York-based Art & Antiques Magazine, March 2006 issue (http://www.artandantiques.net/).
Bienvenido “Bones” Banez, Jr., already New York-based, showed that he is indeed one of the world’s best living surrealists when he opened his first major solo exhibition in America last August 25. In describing Banez’s opening night, the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center (WAH Center) stated in emailed press release:
“On Friday, August 25, 2006, there was cause to celebrate as Bones Banez, the greatest surrealist from the Philippines, opened his one-person show at the Amarin Café in Williamsburg/Greenpoint, Brooklyn, USA. In attendance were press, friends and, also, four of the world’s foremost surrealists.”
The above-mentioned four are Yuko Nii, Founder of the WAH Center and also a great surrealist artist and named by Governor George Pataki as one of New York State’s “Women of the Year” in 2001, are Keith Wigdor, leader of the International Surrealist Movement, Peter Dizozza, acclaimed New York City surrealist author and founder of Cinema VII, and Terrance Lindall, surrealist artist, philosopher, and President of the WAH Center.
Terrance Lindall is the only organizer who gathered 500 surrealists from all over the world in surrealism’s largest-ever show, called Brave Destiny, in New York City in 2003. He is also the author of the said essay in Art & Antiques Magazine. Keith Wigdor is owner of the website http://www.surrealismnow.com/ where presently the world’s leading surrealists, Banez including, are exhibiting online. The WAH Center Press release continues:
“Amarin Café provided exquisite cuisine, while the “Big Five” and guests played “Exquisite Corpse,” a surrealist game, and discussed the direction of the movement over the coming year.”
Ben, as he is fondly called by colleagues in Davao, phoned and informed this writer that among the topics discussed by what the press release referred to as “the Big Five,” was a planned “foremost contemporary surrealist exhibition .” It would take several years to plan and execute and is targeted for a major museum, as yet unnamed.
Ridiculed by his Davao contemporaries for his obsessive portrayal of the clandestine evil in man and the prevalent presence of the Devil in the world, Ben remained true to his surrealist calling throughout his more than 20-year artistic career. Morbid, awful, horrifying, bizaare! These are but some of the negative adjectives branded on Banez’s painting subjects, such as his Anti-Christ 666 series.
When we were together in New York during spring of this year, he confided to me that as a child he was diagnosed with a mild case of autism and learning disability. He was converted to believe in the reality of the devil when he saw, with his own two eyes and along with other witnesses, a possessed woman levitate from bed.
Favorite target of ridicule he may be, nobody could deny Ben’s mastery of the human anatomy and rich conception of unearthly figures, which he remarkably fuses with dazzling abstraction of colors. While standing before his painting, the viewer witnesses the unfolding of grotesque images as if they are released from the depths of one’s opened subconscious.
When Surrealism founder Andre Breton said “Beauty must be convulsive or nothing,” he did not realize that three quarters of a century later his radical definition would find fulfillment in the works of an artist who conquered autism through surrealist art. Ben’s physical stature too does not easily escape memory. A gangling six-footer, of Hispanic mestizo descent, he stutters like a child in an effort to convey a natural friendliness to fellow artists.
Bones Banez’s solo show in New York and his being featured in the ongoing international surrealist online exhibit (visit website above) are not the only good things going for him. Today Ben stands a full head, not just physically but artistically, above the pretenders who shun the subject of evil in their work. This man whom they branded as an artist of morbidity has barged into the international art scene with a flourish just by being himself.
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About the author: Phillip Somozo is a visual artist and writer from Davao. As painter he has had two solo exhibitions. In March of this year, he spent a 1-month residency in America’s largest international artist community, the award-winning Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT., USA (http://www.vermontstudiocenter.org/), where he had his second one-man show. From April to May, he stayed in New York City, joining Artisthood’s group art exhibition at the PhilCenter-NY in Manhattan, visiting museums, and interacting with Filipino and American artists, including Bienvenido “Bones” Banez. He co-founded the art group Artisthood in 2002, and has since been its writer and publicist. He was contributor to the Art Manila Quarterly Magazine in 2003.