The first thing you’ll notice about Allan Cosio’s paintings is that they are big; the second that attracts one’s curiosity is the lack of titles.
And when one’s preference in paintings is confined to just one genre, impressionism mainly, and is used to seeing soft, feathery brush strokes consisting of pastels and subdued colors, being confronted by Cosio’s will also come as a mild shock.
In a solo painting exhibit “Still in Awe of Nature“ at the AFM Gallery of the Alliance Francaise de Manille, Cosio unravelled 25 paintings that present the above-mentioned characteristics as well as his impressions of nature through the abstract expressionism technique.
“By nature, artists love nature to begin with. Everybody loves nature, even those who unknowingly destroy it. Because you were born with it, you see it. Everybody loves nature. The artist’s role is just to bring it out some more and to just remind the viewer that it’s worth preserving.”
The fact that Cosio uses almost floor-to-ceiling-sized canvases somewhat helps convey this message in a more obvious and compelling manner and one can’t help but feel drawn in by the sheer size of these paintings.
“I’ve always painted big, because I’m big,” he explained with a chortle.
“Of course, these (big paintings) are hard to sell. That’s why I’m still poor. But you can’t just let commerce overrule your art. I don’t paint to sell and I never had selling in mind, but if I do sell, I’m happy, of course. And I noticed in some artists that once a certain style sells, they’ll keep doing that, then it is saleable. And I’m not like that. I just keep on going. Tumanda na akong ganito (I have grown old like this). I’ve never allowed the market to dictate my art.”
And in the same manner, Cosio doesn’t want to dictate how the audience views his art, hence, no titles.
“No more na, bahala na silang maghanap, kaya pati title wala. Because if you give a title hahanapin nila yung title mo dun sa painting mo so I just leave it at that, bahala na sila. Magiging personal interpretation na nila kung ano man yun (No need, they can just look for the meaning themselves, so even the title is not there, Because when you give a title, they will look for it in your painting so I just leave it at that, it’s up to them. It will be their personal interpretation),” he explained.
Audience interpretation, of course, may or may not always jive with what he felt while creating it.
“Of course, the challenges to a painter are always about whether you see what you felt; you’re trying to say something; you’re trying to express what you saw, what sentiments it evoked in you.
Hindi mo pa ba nakikita? Hindi ka titigil hanggang di mo nakikita yun (You don’t see it? You won’t stop until you see it). Because if you don’t see it, neither will your audience,” he said.
What one feels is crucial in the creative process, particularly in such a theme as nature.
“I started with nature paintings in my early 20s. They were so inspired that I got very good reviews. You really don’t know what inspires you and that’s instinctive. And then, of course, you will use your experience, what you have learned about using paints, your knowledge of composition to be able to come up with what sets your sentiments and your instinct. Hindi ka titigil until you’re happy kaya kung minsan sobra-sobra, patong-patong na. And I saw that it posed a lot of challenges and satisfaction on my part to come up with a painting that is inspired from what I saw,” he added.
As part of Alliance Francaise de Manille’s centennial celebrations (2020), Cosio’s large-scale nature paintings will be up at the AFM Gallery until 22 February.