FOR THOSE who paid tribute to National Artist for Visual Arts Ang Kiukok, few words were left to describe the painter who would rather show than tell.

In a necrological service to honor the world-renowned Thomasian painter last May 15, hundreds of mourners including family, friends, fellow National Artists, and admirers gathered to pay their last respects to the late expressionist at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Main Theater in Pasay City.

“He rarely expressed himself verbally but his evolution as a person can be seen in his paintings,” fellow National Artist for Visual Arts and Thomasian Arturo Luz said in his tribute.

Even Ang’s acceptance speech, after being included in the Order of National Artists in 2001, is one of the shortest in the history of the awards, Luz said. “He just said, ‘maraming salamat,’ which he repeated thrice for emphasis.”

National Commission for the Culture and the Arts chair Ambeth Ocampo even compared the late artist to a sphinx.

“(Ang’s) look and demeanor was a big riddle,” said Ocampo. “What he could not express in words, he made up for his paintings that evoked the struggles of our time.”

Ang, whose name in Chinese literally means “save the country,” was known for his representation of harsh realities to express the unstable social and political state of the country. His works, painted in a vivid, cubistic manner, covered topics such as still-life, animals, and religious images like, Christ’s crucifixion the Pieta.

Fine Arts Dean Jaime de los Santos said Ang’s works are very exciting. “His artworks express his feelings and views on the world,” he said.

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Ocampo also said Ang’s brush “strokes” everything that he has to say and his art “described the disturbing world around him.”

Ang died last May 9 at his Quezon City home, severely weakened by loss of appetite caused in turn by his cancer medication. He was mourned by many at the Funeraria Paz, Quezon City and was cremated last May 16 at the Paz Crematory.

“He’s a master painter so it is really a great loss,” stage director Nonon Padilla said. “He has such dedication to painting, even breathing for his passion.”

Born on March 1, 1931, Ang studied at the former USTCollege of Architecture and Fine Arts (now CFAD) from 1952 to 1954. Ang’s work was noticed by his watercolor professor, Vicente Manansala, also a National Artist for Visual Arts. Unfortunately, Ang had to stop schooling for financial reasons.

In 1954, on an invite from Manuel Rodriguez Sr., he had his first one-man show at the Philippine Contemporary Art Gallery, where 20 of his works were exhibited. Since then, Ang received various recognitions: Outstanding Overseas Chinese in Art (1961); Outstanding Citizen Manila (1976); and UST Outstanding Alumnus Award (1978). The Mobil Art Awards named him as one of the top five contemporary artists in 1980.

He was well-known around Asia, and had exhibits in Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, as well as in the Netherlands, Canada and the United States. His works have also been recently selected for auction at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both in Singapore.

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