Power of four

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“JOY Luck Club” by Eileen Escueta.

Have numerologists truly favored the number four? Sure, there is a lucky seven, and an ominous 13, and three (a love triangle?) is rife with tension and competition. But undeniably the arts and music have found a cohesive and convivial character in the number four. Witness alone the changing of the weather in a yearly sequence of seasons: winter, spring, summer, autumn or fall. Not only the climate but classical music has bequeathed to us Antonio Vivaldi’s sparkling Four Seasons. And who better to render this music but a string quartet composed of two violinists, a cellist and a viola player?

And then there are the Four Temperaments which are dimensions of human behavior. To wit: Sanguine (lively, optimistic, buoyant); Phlegmatic (people person, loyal spouse); Choleric (goal-oriented, analytical, logical), and Melancholic (loves tradition, does not seek novelty or adventure). Most individuals, however, have mixed temperaments, so we who are untrained enthusiasts cannot judge solely by appearance.

“IN the Garden” by Ventanilla.

ArtistSpace presents “Quattro,” the group exhibition of visual artists Eileen Bondoc-Escueta, Irma Lara, Minda Ventanilla and Jo Uygongco.

The exhibit can tantalize us into analyzing the personalities of the artworks by the four participating artists. Indeed, it is a line from their statement which can trigger a provocative analysis: “The time has come for this band of different personalities to showcase their newfound passion.”

By virtue of having launched the Artists Studio based in Fullybooked in Greenbelt Mall, Bondoc-Escueta has perforce become the group’s rallying and inspirational figure. The varied backgrounds of the impressive number of students, beginners as well as veterans, who have attended Eileen’s painting workshops attest to the redemptive power of art. Bankers, corporate executives, marketing specialists, business entrepreneurs, lawyers, architects and designers have all heeded the clarion call of “art.” It was Eileen who had conceived “Quattro” as an all-women quartet of artists brought together “by fate or accident” into one happy blend of harmonious artmaking. And now, bearing in mind, that artists too have mixed temperaments, perhaps part serene and part assertive, part intuitive and part analytic. We can see how their works evoke the subtle strains of their individual sensibilities, and in what ways their works may unconsciously intersect and connect.

“QUATTRO” presents the works of four women artists.
“QUATTRO” presents the works of four women artists.

For Bondoc-Escueta, watercolor has ever been the medium of favor and choice. Conducive is the gentle handling of her brushstroke which coaxes to come to light her images of delightful koi fish. But regard how the fierce look of an eagle can be mollified into a wizened stare by the sheer delicacy of pigments thinning into shadows. A foliage of jasmine blossoms seems to twinkle from the undergrowth; a burnished cluster of coconuts is imperiously perched atop an unreachable tree.

Lara shares Eileen’s fascination with the sensuously gliding koi. She favors, however, a more expressionist handling of the brush, where the physicality of the pigments are manifest, almost as if she were animating the forms into life. An element of fantasy, however, graces her works, notably where a woman’s comely face is made more alive in the presence of orchid blooms. The stillness of a sunset is equally a vivid experience for Irma.

Indeed, a sunset, too, is an inevitable presence in the works of Ventanilla. This time, however, serenity has given way to a blazing fervor, as if her skies were on fire. Her floral blooms, too, are in searing red, applied in impastos that set the work in tension against the delicacy of the flowers. Yet, Minda can surprise with a soft-focus, almost mistily evanescent hibiscus bloom, where the passionate reds recede into the shyest shades of pinks.

“TWIN Peaks” by Minda Ventanilla.

While the floral images are distinctly representational, Uygongco opts for a more abstract rendition of her works.

Her lone orchid seems like a brief foray but still it is a marvel of marbling effects. Most of her works partake of this marbling technique, allowing the slowly coagulating pigments to merge into the most lava-like blending of colors. The pace is slow, flowing, meandering, as if seeking its own final destination, and stops fairly short of dominating the space.

Hence, “Quattro” is a performance and a projection of four women’s passion for art, which no matter how late the calling, is more than just an act of making up for lost time, engendering regret and guilt. Did they discover art, or is it the other way around? Like the four seasons and the four temperaments, these four women artists — Eileen, Irma, Minda and Jo — have had the good fortune of an ideal kinship, of finding the right time and place for the maturation of their selves and spirits.

“Quattro” runs from 3 to 17 October at the ArtistSpace of the Ayala Museum. For more information, call or e-mail Jane Salvador at (02) 759-8288 or artistspace@ayalamuseum.org or Jo Uygongco at jouygongco@gmail.com.

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