During thepast decades, regional art practitioners have been marginalized.
While Philippine art continues to be a unique form of artistic expression, the creative industry has its focus on the capital city, which is Manila, appealing to the patrons with a vast spectrum of discriminating taste and preferences as well as art practitioners living in the metropolis.
In the last few years, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Committee on Visual Arts which is headed by renowned artist Nemesio “Nemiranda” Miranda has extended its reach beyond Metro Manila.
“In every Filipino, there lies an artist within. By providing venue for the regional artists, we make art relevant to the community, showcasing how it can influence the lives and outlook of the Filipino community through craft making and community murals,” says artist Nemiranda.
This year, the committee on visual arts brought the Philippine Visual Arts Festival to the south of the archipelago, to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur. Numerous upcoming and veteran visual artists gathered at the Dao Provincial Center to share insights, discuss relevant issues and celebrate the icons of their craft.
“The festival aims to awaken the sleeping hearts of artist’s in every participant, audience and Filipino who would join and witness the activities. We want to educate, re-educate and further train indigenous youth and struggling artists with skills and sensibilities for professional growth,” says Nemiranda.
Among the activities during the festival included an on-the-spot painting contest, where the artists put their interpretation and understanding of peace on canvas, quite a relevant theme because of the war issues in Mindanao where Pagadian is located.
Visual arts have slowly becoming more and more pragmatic, while maintaining its aesthetics. Political-themed artworks are mounted alongside symbolic abstraction, satisfying both the artist and the public who are both clamoring for the alleviation of substandard economy. Crucifix and Bible-themed masterpieces are exhibited next to Sarimanok and Islam-inspired paintings.
“Art is a great unifier. It acts as a diplomatic tool to bridge the religious, political and social differences among the Filipino people. It becomes a constructive dialogue between art communities throughout the archipelago,” says the Filipino artist who hails from Angono, Rizal.
And it is definitely the time for the Mindanao artists to take the spotlight and have a conversation with the rest of the country. Only few people know that there is a thriving art industry in the Mindanao region.
When people think about Mindanao art, the first thing that comes to mind is the Sarimanok, the mythical bird of the Maranao indigenous group. A symbol of the Maranao art in Mindanao, the Sarimanok is derived from the legendary Itotoro, a bird that serves as the medium to the spirit world. It is said that when the Sarimanok stops to crow, Judgement Day would come at once.
But Mindanaoan art gives much more. “There are some artists from Mindanao who went to me and told me that we, Manila-based artists, are lucky because we have all the art materials. In Manila, they said, we have an abundant supply of art materials: all the paint colors, brushes that come in different shapes, and canvasses in various sizes,” says Nemiranda.
He continued: “But what they think is their weakness is actually their strength. They use the barks of the trees or different flowers to create their own colors. They gather found objects and experiment with them. What they do is create artworks using what is commonly available to them. In the process, they create arts which amaze us, the Manila artists. We can’t create artworks like those because whatever materials they use can only be found in their area.”
So, what would be the trend in the art industry in the next years? Nemiranda shares: “More and more artists are going back to nature and landmarks, recreating and reinventing scenery and portraiture with the styles they are equipped with.”