VETERAN painter and retired UST fine arts professor Antonio “Tony” Austria showcased his ageless artistic prowess in 6 Decades of A.G. Austria, an exhibit of his earliest and recent paintings dated 1957 to 2012 at the Bulwagang Juan Luna of the Cultural Center of the Philippines last May 7 to July 10.

For 60 years, Austria has been painting subjects like jeepneys, papaya trees and marketplaces through tubular human figures, compositions of heavy proportions and dynamic shades of full colors.

A graduate of the old College of Architecture and Fine Arts, Austria is known for his modern yet naive and folk style with a touch of impressionism, an art movement that uses short brush strokes and vibrant colors to present subjects the artist observed from a fleeting moment.

“My style revolved around my idea of simplifying everyday sights and subjects I find appealing,” Austria said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

Displayed upfront the exhibit is his undergraduate thesis titled “Magpapalayok,” a painting that captured a group of potters working near an open fire pit of carabao dung and red clay.

The Philippine jeepney, a favorite subject of Austria, is depicted in “PUJ,” an oil-on-plyboard painting. It is highly influenced by National Artist Vicente Manansala’s “Jeepneys,” a painting of Manila’s traffic congestion dominated by jeepneys. Manansala was Austria’s mentor in UST.

Austria’s version showed a typical jeepney designed with rapid horizontal brush dabs of bright colors.

Austria injected Filipino humor in “Tiangge Triptych,” a 1993 painting of a marketplace swarming with comically illustrated human figures such as a fruit vendor with hair curlers, a pickpocket and a man napping in the middle of the marketplace.

Before painting on canvas, Austria analyzes the composition of the subject by practicing on studies on paper he called “stampitas.” Samples of these studies were displayed beside the actual paintings.

“I could make a dozen stampitas for one painting,” he said.

Aside from Manansala, Austria’s teachers in UST were National Artists Victorio Edades, Galo Ocampo, and Diosdado Lorenzo.

He spent 27 years teaching laboratory classes in drawing and landscape painting in UST and became a mentor to many contemporary visual artists such as Ronald Ventura, Jose Tence Ruiz, Alfredo Esquillo, Salvador Ching and Melvin Culaba.

As a professor, Austria was known to be strict but simple in demeanor. He retired in 1996, five years earlier than intended, to give more time to his craft.

Austria is among the first group of CCP’s 13 Artists Awardees, an award given to promising young artists. His fellow awardees in 1970 were National Artist Benedicto Cabrera and Thomasians Eduardo Castrillo, Jaime De Guzman and Angelito Antonio.


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