PAINTER Raymond Legaspi was a “promdi” (country bumpkin) from Silay City, Negros Occidental when he came to Manila in the 1980’s to study fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas. He relived the memories of those growing-up years, which, according to him, were his “most colorful years,” in his exhibit, Casting Memories, held July 25 to Aug. 13 at the Canvas Gallery and Garden in Quezon City.

Legaspi, a best-selling artist who won the Jurors’ Choice in the 2008 Philippine Art Awards, is known for his bright and happy colors and his fat and whimsical figures. He applied the same tact in his latest exhibit and added along the way biting social commentary, which was unavoidable since the Philippines experienced key political crises and transitions in the 1980’s.

In “Village People,” Legaspi seemed to evoke his “promdi” roots by showing a poor person from the province pushing a poor-man’s cart (“kariton”) in front of two parked posh cars in Manila.

“Rice and AK47’s” showed armed men planting rice, perhaps a commentary on the growing militarization of the 1980’s that affected the countryside.

One painting, “August 21,” had obviously its work cut out for it as it depicted the penultimate event of the early 1980’s—the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.

But a great number of the paintings were nostalgic depictions of his life as a student in Manila. “Sea Wall Reclamation” featured two guys sitting on their parked car drinking beer with a bucket just below them and a police car behind them. This obviously would be a reference to the time when the police caught Legaspi and his friends one night along the sea wall near the Cultural Center of the Philippines popping bottles of beer.

UST a campus, not a military camp

“Last and Final Number” showed Legaspi’s “happy hours” with his friends in night clubs around UST and Taft Avenue. This painting showed a typical night club entertainer doing a spreadeagle with college guys bawling out in the audience.

In “Major In Advertising,” Legaspi pictured the punk spiked Mohawk look of the student artist, wearing a chaleco, red skin-tight jeans and boots, carrying his classroom plates as he smokes along España Blvd.

“I did not even know what punk was,” Legaspi said. “I was surprised seeing on the first day of school a bunch of them in my class and they had really crazy heads.”

“The Bodyguards” featured high-class students who had their bodyguards with them in school.

“I always get intimidated with people with bodyguards,” Legaspi said. “It’s a scary thought or experience when people with power show them off. It was common those days that even young people would bring bodyguards.”

Because the1980’s were a heavily politicized era, it was also the heyday of social realism. In “Mendiola,” Legaspi showed his experience of student activism. Two policemen were depicted pulling and arresting a student activist. Although he was not that active, Legaspi was amazed at the energy of the young in involving itself in political activism.

Legaspi was shortlisted for the Philippine Art Awards, landing in the Top 10 for the Visayas in 2007; the following year he won the Jurors’ Choice. In 2009, he was named one of the country’s 10 Most Exciting Artists by Nokia and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.


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