Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Raymond Legaspi 'Does the Tango' at Ayala Museum March 25 Exhibit: Ten questions to the Artist and his Art

Raymond Legaspi 'Does the Tango' is a one-man-show slated for the Ayala Museum from March 25 to April 7 of 2008, his third one-man show and the second in Ayala Museum. This is very fast progress for one who had dedicated 20 years of his professional life as a multi-awarded advertising creative director and has just very recently returned to his hometown and to his art. Travel with me as I interviewed him just before his Ayala Museum exhibit opening and not only to preview the arwork but to know the Artist up close:

1. What got you started in doing Art?

I have been an artist ever since I could remember. If only I could still find my school text books it would always be with drawings in it. But in college I took up fine arts and majored in advertising in UST. After that, I trained in Seattle in graphic design, illustration and photo retouching. Then nearly 20 years I worked as an Art and Creative Director for 3 multinational Ad agencies in Manila. In those years, painting after work or during weekends was a therapy from the hectic life of advertising. Art in advertising involves countless drawings, conceptualization, designing, rejections, fights, presentations and involves 20-30 people in a very limited time. So in the last quarter of 2006 I retired in advertising and moved to Bacolod City (Negros Occidental)and just paint.

2. Who do you consider your mentors or inspiration in the Art world past and present?
Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso. The present would be Chinese artists Yue Mi Jun and Zhang Xiao Gang.

3. What materials do you use for your paintings?
Mostly i use oil on canvas though for small pieces I use pen, acrylic and ink on paper.

4. Who is Raymond Legaspi when he is not painting?
House keeper and a little bit of farming. Climbed Kanlaon twice last year and another major deep forest climb here in Mt. Marapara. But if not for a very long drive I would rather be in the coastal beaches south of Sipalay and Cauayan.

5. What is a typical day in the life of Raymond Legaspi?
I paint everyday. Since I work at home, actual painting starts as early as 6 am till noon. But in between I force myself to have breaks for tea and move around the house doing non-creative things like checking emails, play with the dogs or do a quick errand.

I would continue right after lunch and could end around 3 or 4 pm with the same breaks. If I still feel creative I would do some sketches for possible visual ideas for future works. But I visualize ideas right after I wake up in bed in the morning. I think the ideas are more clearer during that time.

I don't paint at night even If I wanted to. Because insects fly into my wet painting!!! They are attracted to and fly around my working lamps. So in some nights I would go unwind with some artist friends, painters and in the performance arts and discuss how to save the world.

6. If given the chance, which celebrity would you like to paint and in what setting would you use?
Once I thought it would be nice to paint our senators in colorful dasters and peacefully sleeping in a session equipped with their microphones on.

7. Your art takes a sharp glimpse of moments in life; what is the reason for that passion?
Before I seriously started painting 4 years ago and with the dream of going back to Silay City (in Negros) for good, it was the moment where I was searching for my art I thought I should paint the feeling of me already in the Silay setting. But I wondered who would be interesting? And the women in dasters (dress similar to Hawaiian Mumu) came to life. Our mothers, lolas, and titas, in their colorful dasters and their contented and laid back life must be visualized.

The Tango series are the 70's memories of the small community dances and house dance parties we attended in Silay and Bacolod, as well as the purok dances in the farms.

8. How long could a typical idea become an artwork for you?
Sometimes it just flashes in the middle of a movie, TV news, driving or a conversation over dinner. So It would be good if I dont forget it and visualize it on paper. I collect this flashes on my sketchbook for future work. Maybe I already know what I(emotion in the art) want and all it needs is a visual.

But if it's something that needs a message like if its for a competition then it is a longer process of research and inspiration. It could take days, then the flashes would come. Sometimes I would need to do something non creative like go to the farm or walk around Bacolod central market, ha ha!

9. How would you describe your type of art?
Actually I don't know. But last year at my Ayala Museum show an old woman told me that my work is Naif. At first I thought she was insulting me as a naive person. But there is a actually a Naive or Naif Art movement. Whew!

So I will leave it to critics to define what kind of artist I am. I just paint what I feel.

10. Do you consider yourself a modern Amorsolo? Why or why not?
Sorry I only know a little about Amorsolo. I only saw a few of his paintings and all of them are great. Why not a modern Amorsolo? I tend to avoid realism. When I was in UST, all we did was painting realistic art and I find it less creative.

Raymond Legaspi Does the Tango is a visual arts exhibition of twenty works that romanticize the Filipino lifestyle of a happy existence, all within the milieu of the dance of free love. Coming from the Daster series with its siesta mood, Raymond Legaspi now elevates his work to another level of movement as his canvas comes alive with the ebullience and passionate intimacy of the tango, a number of frames providing classic instrumentation with the Argentinean bandoneon. The garments of the characters still carries the images that provide a richer insight into the personalities depicted in the space, a distinctive execution technique that the artist favors.

The characters in a Raymond Legaspi canvas tend to be healthy of body yet proportionally smaller of head, a marked influence coming from the Chinese way of equating heaviness with prosperity and the size of the head with contentment. The interesting part is that though they come from all walks of life, they all celebrate their own versions of happiness, an emotion Legaspi singularly pursues. He is not afraid to experiment with his colors and gravitates towards the hues that other artists tend to avoid. His fluid brush stroke is intentionally bared using a wet on wet technique that provides a freshness that is very much painting-like as opposed to being realistic. He has tasked himself to document the images of life that tell of stories that pass all too quickly.

By Jay Fermin