Prior to the date of presentation, I would like to share to my readers a brief discussion that summatively presents our artists and their art:
Panayanon society is a pluralistic society in transition. As such, Panay art which reflects its culture and sentiments, mirrors such characteristic. In Fred Rigg’s explanation, such condition in a community is better understood using the prismatic model. The theory, based on the principle of light, asserts an insightful analogy: light as it arrives from a source like the sun is fused. All of the visible wave lengths are present, but they are combined into the single color white. Once separated, the individual colors appear as in the hues of a rainbow. One way by which light can be refracted into its separate colors is to use a prism. To Riggs, the white light represented the fused structures of a traditional society. The rainbow represents the diffracted (or refracted) structures of an industrialized society. Inside the prism is society in transition. "The prismatic situation is neither traditional nor modern, but it contains novel elements generated by the juxtaposition of old and new social structures." This contradicts the "escalator model" of modernization, which assumes that the prismatic characteristics would quickly disappear as societies are moving towards progress. To understand societies and their leadership better, one has to understand the particular features of that situation. In an attempt to better understand the art of Panay, it is important to note that the white and the refracted lights in the prismatic model hold true in a continuously developing artistic tradition in a flux. The white light represents the influences of old masters like Fabian de la Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo and the other classicists as they celebrate life’s ambiance especially of the rural milieu or perhaps document significant landmarks and festivals; while the refracted light is the semblance of the modern and post-modern energies in art making with the leading lights of modernism: Victorio Edades, Carlos “Botong” Francisco and Galo Ocampo and the foreign counterpart Constantin Brancusi, as well as the persuasions of current Filipino icons Gabriel Barredo and Charlie Co among others.
The white and refracted lights can never be divorced as both are fused in Panayanon artistic tradition. Parallel to the analogy of a transitional society where art finds its milieu, a better understanding of the development of artistic tradition cannot use the linear model which assumes the disappearance of the classic approaches among artists as a result of the morphing fusion of the early, modern and avant-garde movements. The traditional persuasions are still used as society does not stop the demand to romanticize and document culture in a more literal yet stylized ways.
The civilization in transition has both elements shown in the traditional and modern society. Implied to this are dissensus and poly-normativism seen as those observed in the structures, lifestyles and issues in the urban and rural contexts. In the urban setting, challenges of alienation, waste disposal and more dehumanized existence have been observed, although varying in intensity depending on the city concerned. Challenges in the rural areas have always been on the lack of infrastructure and social services, poverty and slow social mobility. The mixture of agricultural and industrial lifestyles also persists. Sentiments, therefore, vary as seen in Alex Ordoyo, Jose Dureza and Edgar Gonzales in one cluster vis-à-vis Allain Hablo, Martin Genodepa, Gary Custodio, Edmar Colo, PG Zoluaga and Angelo Duarte in another.
The art scene is another delimiting force to consider. Compared to Davao, Bacolod and Cebu, Panayanon artists find less political support while their unity is less evident through the years. Rarely have institutions been diligent and philanthropic–minded in supporting the development of the artists or in documenting the local heritage as implicated by the absence of this research despite the presence of competitive visual artists who are well-respected among the cultural community. This could have been addressed for the Constitution mandates that “the State shall foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expressions (Article IV section 14 and 15).”
Cognizant of the Constitutional mandate, the “right to culture” based on the universal declaration of human rights by the United Nations makes the participation to visual arts a basic human right where participation should not be taken only as a luxurious option in the mindset of the typecast stinginess among the community members. On this premise, the agents of change—the policy-makers, artists, educators, cultural workers, government agencies, the private sector, and the non-government organizations-- have more reason to give more respect and understanding for the creative forces of society.
The formalist elements of the Panay artistic tradition undeniably borrow foreign approaches such as the use of canvas in a rectangular or square presentation, impressionism, expressionism, minimalism and use of acrylic or oil. The leading Panay artists, however, do not deny their preferences forming their identities such as the use of rust pigments in some of the works of Edmar Colmo, soil in Allain Hablo’s, indigenous and found objects in Angelo Duarte’s, coral stones drifted in beaches for Martin Genodepa, and drawing and painting combination using vinyl in Edgar Gonzales’ works. Philippine art that uses the Western tradition does not lose its being Filipino according to Benesa (2009). The argument on what makes art Filipino is settled because the artist and the culture presented are of the country. The same is true with Panay artistic tradition reflecting foreign influences in one way or another yet retaining a Panay and individual identity through the artist’s creating a unique expression in the context of culture.
The backgrounds of the leading artists in Panay make one aware that eight out of nine are self-taught artists and only Gary Custodio has a fine arts course to back up his art making. Being self-taught is an advantage for it gives the artists more freedom to innovate their approaches in medium and presentation. Their expressions freely flow from the pure creative springs without the “taming” forces or perhaps delimiting standards set by academe. Without such academic training, they still manage to be at the top, even defying many who are “formally trained.” The leading artists’ early inclinations in childhood pushed them to pursue their artistic career with passion. They have fought well the battle for survival.
A semiotic analysis of the works of the leading Panay artists reveals a diversity of themes, emotions, media, styles, influences and outstanding features which fits the earlier-mentioned prismatic model. This diversity shows that even with some contextual similarities, the works of the artists have different messages, personalities and sources of inspiration. They can be viewed in a horizon of meaning implying a range of significations that the works accommodate yet the analyses strived to a more stable and consensual interpretations. What is common among the artists is the strength of resolve to present their true voices.
The Panay artistic tradition is not about the dominance of artistic elements, themes, emotions, media, styles, influences and outstanding features but rather a presentation of Panay communal life, beliefs, moral virtues, and personality. In some cases, it is about man’s universal desire for a continuous engagement with the elements of nature which he needs to preserve.
Where the pragmatic and materialistic values prevail in cities with less dignifying forces of modernization, many of the leading Panay artists take the role of the seer prophesying the impending doom of decline and decay or simply engage the viewers with inoffensive narratives of humankind exploiting nature. Where local heritage, festivals and aspects of rural culture bring sentimental and light-hearted appreciation, a few of the leading artists prefer to romanticize or give tribute to them through impressionism as a natural reaction.
The leading lights of Panay visual arts are mostly avant garde of their respective media and approaches; they are adventurers sailing in a rough sea. They are mostly offshoots of the modern and post-modern movements and their works invite accolades for their scintillating excellence -- like exquisite sails in the famous Paraw Regatta—that tell about self-consciousness, or consciousness of the self in the sea of assimilating identities. This self makes sense of time and space, a knowledge that plays out in the context of a marked presence. Panay artists in this study share this disposition.