Unexplored Terrain

Roy Veneracion is no slave to tradition. While other artists are satisfied with restricting themselves to a particular style, the rigid confines of art genres do not exist for the artist who has set himself apart with his diverse portfolio of paintings that are exceptional, colorful, and playful. Championing the style known as Syncretism, Roy has been known for his ability to merge different treatments, abstraction, figures, and all other possible combinations and permutations, without paying heed to classical rules. The result is a body of work that is a most authentic expression of his soul.

A voracious reader of all and every literary creation, Roy has admitted to reading all volumes of the Encyclopedia on his bookshelf from cover to cover in a span of two years. His passion for books provided him with a comprehensive knowledge of quirky topics. This, coupled with his active effort to engage in the world, served as the basis for his unique views and insightful commentary on many pressing social issues. This is the very catalyst that drove him to his particular style, which is marked for being inclusive of all styles.

The atmosphere of tension, suffering, and political aggression that prevailed during this time spilled into the blank canvas in a wild confession of colors, lines, and figures. These served to represent the thoughts, moods, and feelings of the artist, as well as the trends of public opinion. It was an artistic snapshot of humanity, naked and vulnerable.

“Every blank canvas to me is an unexplored terrain of discovery, projection, sublimation, and revelation,” says Roy. This desire to confront the deepest anxieties of society has been a running theme throughout his artistic career. In fact, in his last interview with Manila Bulletin, he related an exhibit that featured his paintings on the perils of climate change. The exhibit opened a day before Typhoon Haiyan came and left Visayas in a wake of turmoil and devastation. In recollecting the eerie foreshadowing of his paintings, he opts for a more positive approach saying that, “industrial, business, and political leaders have finally acknowledged that climate change and global warming are real problems that need to be urgently addressed.”

“It might be said by advocates of Art for Art’s sake that these issues have nothing to do with art and aesthetics,” Roy said. “But all of history reflect the personal experience, as well as the socio-political issues and faith that surrounds the artist. Nobody creates in a vacuum, as the saying goes.”

Indeed, it is for this very reason that these issues became the take-off point for his more internal reflections. “I moved on to everyday, dreamtime, personal and psychological themes,” Roy said of his evolution as a painter, “In my latest collection, Syncretism or “Syncre Art” is reflected in the interaction among the pieces with each other in the exhibit.”

Offering a new dimension to the artist, his upcoming exhibit at Altro Mondo entitled Finding Without Seeking, is in response to Picasso’s “I do not seek, I find.”

Featuring not only the product of his own contemplations, the latest collection also showcases his latest innovations in the studio: “I’ve discovered and invented new techniques such as ‘color merge drag,’ wherein ribbons of primary colors direct from the tube are dragged over a prepared ground with a spatula. Crinkletex is made from coagulated thick paint as underpaintings that I glaze over with thin colors, these are new techniques in addition to older ones that I also still use.  My colors have become more intense, and contrasted with darker colors.”

In one work entitled Time, Roy places the logo of Time magazine amid a stunning black and white abstract background. The somber mood according to Roy is his “reaction to the feelings of uncertainty everyone experiences in our world today:  religious fanaticism, terrorism, random sociopathic behavior of schoolchildren with guns, and narcissistic irrational politicians.”

The chaos of the world may flood the consciousness and artistic creation of Roy. But this has not made him a pessimistic man. In fact, it is in his discussion of these harrowing and heartbreaking topics that he finds the most potential for redemption. He advocates the duality of man in his work, not only in the underlying tone of hope in his paintings but also in his very convergence of multiple ideas and style in one piece.

“I accept duality and dichotomy as a condition of existence: two sides of a coin, night and day, etc. By embracing and accepting differences and conflicting ideologies, Syncretism breaks down boundaries that divide—to make the world truly global and in harmony.”

In his artwork, Roy highlights the potential of diversity. Instead of focusing on its ability to divide, he uses his inclusive style as an opportunity to bring together these issues and demonstrate how individuality is not a hindrance to peace.

Relevance is deeply integrated in Roy’s artwork as the world in all its beauty and madness serves as his eternal muse. As the presidential elections are on the horizon and political debates scattered across social media pages are straining online and real-world friendships, the message of embracing differences and cultivating tolerance is more important than ever.

Syncre Art will be on display at Altro Mondo from May 5 to 19.

By Hannah Jo Uy and Pinggot Zulueta

Read more at http://2016.mb.com.ph/2016/05/02/unexplored-terrain/#51S3hBob3U5pKyQd.99

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Roy Veneracion opens up to the world

IN ROY Veneracion’s solo exhibition currently on view at Altro Mondo Gallery, there is one particular work that will likely be the cynosure of all eyes.

The reasons are varied, and at once amusing and morbid, but surely and predictably Pinoy: The subject is a national obsession—the beauty pageant competition.

What’s arresting, however, about Veneracion’s work is his equation of beauty with a theme, or thought, that is indubitably farthest from the viewer’s mind. The title is “Beauty Queen: Eros and Thanatos.”

Eros is the “life force” from which was derived the word “erotic,” while Thanatos is the “death drive,” the demonic representation of death in ancient Greek mythology.

And so, what have we here? Are the two abstract panels essential to the creation of a Roy Veneracion artwork? Or, if abstraction were sufficient unto itself, what need was there for the representational depiction and literary narrative?

So, indeed, does Veneracion follow his own desires. Think of “Beauty Queen: Eros and Thanatos” then as the artist’s own De Kooning “Woman.”

But instructive, however, was Veneracion’s participation in last year’s   Finale Art File show titled “Line between Gestures and Color,” wherein five of the country’s top abstractionists showed their latest works. Veneracion ranged his works, grand size for grand size, against those of Gus Albor, Norberto Carating, Junyee and Nestor Vinluan.


Experience of everyday

Apropos the works of Veneracion, one reads in the exhibition notes: “Roy Veneracion moves away from the elemental and delves into the experience of the everyday. [His works] underscore the fluid, encompassing character of language itself—drawing parallels between this and the nature of contemporary art.”

At Altro Mondo, Veneracion’s show is titled “Finding Without Seeking,” a reference to Picasso famously saying, “I do not seek, I find.”

From this philosophy emerged the landmark sculpture—in the critical sense that it changed the course and concept of what constitutes a piece of sculpture—the singular piece titled “Bull’s Head.”

The work was precisely what Picasso found without seeking right within his studio: a bicycle’s seat and handlebar. Joined together, the work was pure simplicity and genius, ushering the practice of constructivist sculpture, beyond carving, modelling and casting.

In Veneracion’s close to half a century of artistic striving, always finding without seeking, a life story must unreel.


Syncretic art

The word associated now with the artist is “syncretism.” It is the amalgamation of different religions, cultures or schools of thought.

Veneracion regards syncretic art as: “a strategy for making art in the 21st century. It is not an art movement in the sense that it proposes to replace the old order with a new order. It is the future order. It is intent not to promote ‘novelty’ for its own sake or ‘nostalgia’ for some glorious past. It accepts the constancy of change and welcomes it.”

Intriguingly there is another work in the Altro Mondo show titled “Time.” It is simply a reconstruction or a remembrance of the famous magazine with its distinctive font.

Responding to the current crisis inflicted by the Islamic State, the artist wanted to depict images of children carrying guns and being trained for combat. After much wrangling with his artistic conscience, he decided, finally, to slather the magazine cover with nothing but sloshes of abstract paint, swirling and sliding in the space that they have created.

It was a decision that catches a glimpse of the way the mind of Roy Veneracion works, a process of finding without seeking, opening up to the world, with all its beauty and terror, in the fluid motion and memory of time.


Source: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/229315/roy-veneracion-opens-up-to-the-world/#ixzz4a9lPfur7 

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Finding without seeking

MANILA, Philippines – Over the past 40 years, artist Roy Veneracion (also known as the father of Ian Veneracion) has constantly amazed and challenged his audiences with mind-bending solutions to art that places you beyond the comfort zone of the familiar, urging you to think beyond your current boundaries. In the mid-Eighties, Roy began exploring a hybrid art technique in which he combined figure painting with abstraction, resulting in what he calls “Syncretism Art.” Coming close to the brightly-colored optimism of US West Coast Abstraction, Roy’s “Syncre Art” uses surrealist themes, timely headlines, and biographical references as a means of making art relevant to today’s audiences by engaging them in a conversation about life, politics, the environment, and how much more enriching and liberating an open mind will always be.

In his latest exhibition “Finding Without Seeking” (Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea Gallery, 3F Greenbelt 5 Mall, from May 5 to 22), Roy recuperates his experimentations with free abstraction with his latest Syncre paintings to assert the view that art for him will always involve the unpredictable, the refreshing, and the revealing. A response to Pablo Picasso’s claim that “I do not seek, I find,” Roy’s artworks revel in the assertion that true art will always come from experience and revelation, and thus art becomes manifest only when you realize it — thus, art is found, rather than sought after. This recourse to experience should be seen as a consequence not only of the veteran handling of techniques and materials, but also a well-attuned mind that keeps on generating new vistas of hope, humor, and meditations on existence that goes beyond simplistic thinking, and engages in the eternal questions of faith, love, and life’s purpose. 

“Tele-transported Visions from A Parallel Universe” reveals this multi-dimensional goal for Roy’s Syncre Art. A large square canvas is subdivided into smaller squares and rectangles, each having its own set of bright colors and shapes, unified by the throbbing set of rings that serve as the “wormholes” through which one imagines traveling between different universes. The psychedelic use of bright greens, blues, and oranges contrasted with browns and blacks, done in both color-field appliques and improvised brushwork hint at the universal conflation of forms and experiences that Roy aims to achieve in this work. On the other hand, “Beauty Queen-Eros & Thanatos” harks back to an old European formula called the memento mori, or reminder of death, when a live person is juxtaposed with a skull in order for us to remember life’s fleeting transience. In this case, it is a nude beauty queen — whose crown makes her familiar to us as Miss Universe — as she confronts a skeletal version of herself, set within a landscape of red in between a blue sky-stripe and a black subterranean city. The title also alludes to a psychological source, the “death drive” that Freud locates in our subconscious as the seat of hatred, anger, envy, and aggression.

On the other hand, “Reclaiming Territories Along Hypnotic Parallels” goes back to a more serene psychedelia of late Sixties Abstraction, when subject matter became acceptable once more as topic, thanks primarily to Roy’s UP Diliman education under National Artist Jose Joya. Bands of yellow, red, and green are subsumed under a square blue sky punched by another yellow square, resulting in a harmony of color and shape that spiritually uplifts. The opposite direction is suggested by “Their Cultural Pretensions Equal Their Blindness,” where a rain of black, red, green and blue pours from a tan sky, overwhelming a small portrait of a 1940s cartoon broad in the middle to suggest cultural philistinism and the rush to social status that money is supposed to buy.

All in all, “Finding Without Seeking” recaps Roy Veneracion’s recent forays in abstraction and Syncre Art to tell us that we do not need riches so much as an enlightened mind to be truly happy.

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An Abstract Peerage

The Sunday Times Magazine

May 6, 2007

The Filipino Champion



Artwork by Roy Veneracion


                Of late, abstract paintings have become the watchword among interior decorators and architects doing modern housing and high-rise condominium units. Its noncomplicated subjects and simple compositions allow an ideal design parameter in which color patterns are the primary consideration for their inclusion into a predesigned interior.

                At the same time, though, a dedicated corps of abstract drawn from the professional and executive ranks has also emerged since the millennium, invigorating the art scene with a more critical eye for quality, uniqueness and the original expression of Filipino artists. These abstractionists, growing up in the sixties and seventies, learned their cue from Western Abstraction, true, but have strongly adapted them to suit local realities.

                Such can be found in an exhibition of five major Filipino artists now continuing at the Pinto Gallery in the Silangan Gardens, Antipolo City (until May 12). Titled Peers Ensemble, it showcases the : new works of Roy Veneracion, Gus Albor, Junyee, Nestor Vinluan and Virgilio Aviado. As an exhibition among recognized peers – and now seniors in Manila’s art scene – it is indeed remarkable that such a wide variety of abstraction is possible.

                This may be due to the very different personalities and educational backgrounds of each of the participants: Albor is from UE, and was mentored by the late abstractionist Florencio Concepcion; Veneracion, Junyee and Vinluan were graduated of UP Diliman, and were tutored by Jose Joya, Constancio Bernardo, and Napoleon Abueva; which Aviado was from Ateneo, then under the sway of Eric Torres and Araceli Dans.

                These different backgrounds also explain the diversity of their art-making principles. Albor utilizes a highly minimalist approach by covering the surface of his darkly-primed canvas with delicate layers of acrylic textured medium and then staining it with infinitesimal shades of white, grey, sepia, and raw ochres and siennas. “Impurities” is one such work that alludes to Albor’s forte of subliminal shading on top of a vigorously-textured, concrete-like surface, looking like delicate photographs of Saharan sand storms mixed with London fog.

                Aviado’s work alludes to a highly mechanistic grid of black-and-white squares and lines that reflect his training as a printmaker. Vinluan’s stain-colored paper pieces, which continue a visual counterpoint from his densely-stippled oil paintings, glow like absorption lines on an spectrograph – a better metaphor would be ghostly stacks of gaseous pancakes floating on an ice field.

                Junyee, who is more known for his organic installations of found wood objects and functional wooden sculptures that connects itself with environmental issues (well before many a Johnny-come-lately would profess the same), presented the show with a deliberate contrast between “painting” and “sculpture.” His two paintings are a deliberate monochromatic contrast to each other. One piece consisting mostly of a black ground with thin white lines on top; and the other of a white background with delicate tendrils of black smudged on top. The technique of achieving both is vintage Junyee: he used an oil lamp to “smoke” the black patterns on both panels, using a mosquito screen as a stencil. His sculptures are composed of hardwood benches that had rockers for legs, and hence were called “rocking benches” – a democratic twist on the traditional household rocking chair that now seats up to six people.

                The previous four abstractionists rely on an interpretation of Abstraction that relies on the Modernist concept of removing the perceived image (known as Representation), and in its place, retains simplified elements like lines, planes, colors and textures to produce an absolute, implacable whole, a work rather than an image, whose purpose is to force viewers into considering the power of art to suggest an idea or an image, rather than to spoon-feed them with empty platitudes of natural observation. It is Roy Veneracion’s courageous intermingling of abstract ideas and appropriated imagery, however, that sets him apart from this Peerage as among its more radical.

                This is based on Veneracion’s aesthetic concept of “syncretism,” of the mixing of both abstraction and imagery, and of high art and pop culture. He avers to this concept in the following: “(Syncretism) is the blending of opposites that carries implications going beyond art and leads all the way, at least  in concept, to understanding, harmony and peace.” As a young man, Veneracion, Along with Vinluan and other UP fine arts students during the late sixties and early seventies, was profoundly influenced by the Hari Krishna and Hippie movements, and this melange of Asian mystical holism and Western youth radicalism worked its way into their works, most notably, in their use of brilliant, acidic color.

                Moreover, this radicalism had also begun to question the absolutism of the Philippine Abstraction movement that was born in the fifties, an ascetic intolerance for other aesthetic concepts that Veneracion felt suppressed his artistic urge to be free. Thus, in his works from the early eighties onward, his painted jostling of abstract washes and carefully redone human figures, arranged into grids or center-versus-margin combinations, amounted to a significant diversification of Philippine Abstraction, an art form that influenced not by Moderism, but by Postmodernism.

                By this we refer to the idea that a consciously historical and social process of art making results in works that do not set themselves apart from alienated audience, who must approach art like a mystical, dimly-understood icon. Rather, Veneracion’s aesthetic argues for a reintegration between concepts of beauty and irony, order and chaos, and a basic questioning of what constitutes the conditions by which we understand and accept art as a consequence of our lives – but not apart from them. This turn to the social in Veneracion gathered plaudits from such socially-minded critics as Alice Guillermo, while still managing to address himself to the audience who, in the end, decides which art to acquire – a balancing act made possible by his syncretic action.

    We see this in works like “El Tango Final Antes del Diluvio,” an installation that comments on the dire consequences of global warming, with its imagery of flooded cities and technology combined with a dancing couple, a shocking but real attitude among people recalling the devil-may-care attitude of Nero as he played while Rome burned (he played a hapr; the violin won’t be invented until the 16th century). In “Crimson Silk,” we see a deliberate contrast between high and pop art, when red and white abstract gestures that pour from above are transformed into black curved ethnic-like patterns, finally resolving into a monochrome image of Rita Hayworth.

The tongue-in-cheek aesthetic commentary regarding art and sex continues with “Antonio’s Mondrian,” in which a black lace panty hangs in a clothesline over a parody of Piet Mondrian’s red grid paintings, which seem to point toward the parodic clichés concerning Spanish (and Filipino) machismo, and their obvious weakness for the opposite sex. “Arabian Dancer,” seemingly rounding off the set, contrasts a painted depiction of a belly dancer on the top, wriggling in a blue field, while the blue eventually drips into what looks like acid rain, falling on a Mickey Mouse cartoon strip underneath.

 These dense historical and social allusions (they can also be read as commentary against Western culture, or a sex games in which women seem to be the animator) found in Veneracion’swork continue in dozens of smaller works that are hung at various parts of the gallery, in effect creating a miniature solo exhibition within a grouped show. Indeed, taken as a whole, Veneracion’s work dominates this assembly of peers, and shows the diversity, and the possibilities of change, that is still possible in this group (averaging in their late fifties) of senior “abstract” practitioners.


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The National Museum Visual Arts Collection


“…Some of the most striking paintings reflecting the temper of the times came from a former abstractionist, Roy Veneracion. In unusual and visually arresting works, such as ‘Panaginip and Pangarap (Ika-12 Pangitain ni Juan),” the artist deals with the end of the Marcos rule and reveals an accomplished figurative style. Deviating from the traditional illustrative approach to history painting, the works are surrealist, combining recognizable public figures with symbols such as monster robot signifying militarism and a beautiful nude woman symbolizing Filipinas who is sometimes shown contemplating her identity in a mirror and who is ever in danger of being ravaged by malignant forces. Within the visual field, the artist brings together the ‘amatis personae’ of that historical conjuncture: Marcos and Imelda, Cardianl Sin, the Generals, the widow Corazon, and the Filipino family, as well as references to the United States in the Stars and Stripes alongside the Filipino flag. The figures in themselves are not realistic but are recognized by their salient features, some of them, too, are disguised in symbolic form. The superb handling of values creates a dreamlike, mesmerizing atmosphere, and the figures appear as though they were acting out their parts on a stage. This work brings out hidden potentials in the category of historical painting.

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