Artists and their ateliers featured in book

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A NEW coffee-table book on Philippine art by former Varsitarian artist and photographer documents through beautiful photography and informative text the ateliers or work studios of 75 of the country’s foremost artists, what critics have described as a very helpful “archival” project to record the creative process that goes into masterpieces of the visual arts.

“Filipino Artists in their Studios” is published by the Manila Bulletin and conceptualized and photographed by visual artist-photojournalist Jose Vinluan “Pinggot” Zulueta, a BS Fine Arts in Advertising Arts graduate of the old UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts.

“Our goal is to give a glimpse of the artists’ lives, not just a usual profile presentation of them with their artworks,” Zulueta told the Varsitarian during the book launch last Oct. 30 at the Fiesta Pavilion of the Manila Hotel.

The 324-page book is not only a compilation of photographs by Zulueta that originally appeared in the C’est La Vie or lifestyle section of the Bulletin. It is also accompanied by insightful texts and captions written by writers and journalists such as Paul Zafaralla, Barbara Dacanay, Dennis Ladaw, and Isabel de Leon.

“Usually, the audience see just the artwork alone, mounted or framed in an exhibit,” said CJ Tañedo, one of the artists featured in the book. “But once they get to see the studio, they can see the artists in a new light, and they can see his work habits and the natural setting in which he works.”

Tañedo, a winner of the Metrobank art awards back in the late 1990’s, himself is a Thomasian.

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De Leon, a News staffer of the Varsitarian during her student days and now the news editor of the Bulletin and a former Malacanang assistant press secretary, compared an artist’s studio to a bedroom which is “not accessible to anyone.”

“We were very humbled when they allowed us to enter their spaces,” De Leon said. “Not everyone can be granted the opportunity to enter an artist’s sacred space.”

Art enthusiasts like Silvana Diaz, who owns Galleria Duemila, the country’s longest running gallery, said the book gives new perspective on Philippine art.

“He [Zulueta] brings the client and the public who are not well versed in art into an intimacy and place where they see the artist in their environment. When you don’t have art education or study art history, you may penetrate into their intimate life this way,” Diaz said.

25 alumni artists

Among the 75 artists featured in the book, 25 are notable Thomasian alumni mostly products of the old College of Architecture and Design. Sculptor Ramon Orlina, National Artist for Visual Arts Arturo Luz, the late abstractionist Romulo Olazo and father of Philippine conceptual art Roberto Chabet are featured along with Antonio Austria, Manuel Baldemor, Gabriel Barredo, Andres Barrioquinto, Salvador Ching, Fil Delacruz, Danny Dalena, Mideo Cruz, Igan D’Bayan, Edgar Doctor, Alfredo Esquillo Jr., Raul Isidro, Prudencio Lamarroza, Julie Lluch, Sofronio Y Mendoza, Mario Parial, Mario de Rivera, Jose Tence Ruiz, CJ Tanedo, Ronald Ventura, and Juvenal Sansó.

Ruiz, who was part of the creative team behind the Philippine Pavilion in this year’s Venice Biennale, recalled the time when the book was still an idea.

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“Why don’t I make a more active documentation of what’s happening in our art scene?” was the question asked by Zulueta to Ruiz back in 2008.

According to Ruiz, Zulueta was given the go-signal by the Manila Bulletin to start the project, and from there started a weekly feature in the newspaper that puts the spotlight on a local artist and his or her works.

“He would bring a young writer, and he himself was the photographer. Little did we all realize that that would be a book seven years later. It was all a happy accident,” Ruiz said in an interview.

The book has long been awaited by artists and art enthusiasts. Isidro, an abstractionist and a former fine arts dean of the Philippine Women’s University, said that the publication was “overwhelming.”

“Although there were books published before, this is different as it takes on a personal and intimate relationship with the artist,” Isidro said.

Meanwhile, veteran watercolorist Edgar Doctor said that this book is a breakthrough in the Philippine art scene because it gives recognition to local artists.

“It’s always the art more than the artist, and now the Filipino artist is given recognition,” Doctor said.

“Filipino Artists in their Studios” is available in leading bookstores nationwide.

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