Renewing a Language
a diskurso.com interview with ARC-awarded Cebuano painter Orley Ypon
Orley Ypon (left) talks to diskurso.com's Marcel Antonio (right) while AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea Gallery's Boy David (behind Ypon) talks to diskurso.com's Jojo Soria de Veyra (hidden behind Antonio)
text by Jojo Soria de Veyra
interview by de Veyra, Marcel Antonio, Simkin de Pio and Boy David
principal photography by de Pio
BETTER known to Orley Ypon's friends and foes as his Putik (Mud) series, the Art Renewal Center (ARC)-awarded artist's Ahon collection is now on display at the AltroMondo Arte Contemporanea gallery in Greenbelt 5. It opened to viewers' curiosity on October 23 and will stay on the gallery's walls till November 9.
The series, started by a painting entry to a Government Service Insurance System (GSIS)-sponsored contest, purportedly depicts the quagmire in our nation, particularly as this alludes to the mud of hopelessness and poverty from which the impoverished or the provincial are struggling to rise, or to the constancy of natural catastrophes in our CNN-covered time. This could also call attention to the mud-slinging inherent among struggling peers as well as to the slippery ground from which rising up in social stature is rendered almost impossible.
Ultimately, though, the show points to hope. For while in some pieces the struggling, naked male figures have faces that are either expressionless or almost despondent, other pieces already have smiling characters. These smiles point to where this collection is heading. The painter's show title, Bidlisiw, is Cebuano/Bisaya for "sunrays", in reference to rays of hope birthed by some of the figures' very smiles or by these figures' brotherliness and support for each other that seem to overwhelm any reading of competitiveness or crab mentality among them. In fact, one reading on these naked male characters romping in the mud even glorified the imagery as homoerotic representation, given that mud wrestling is erotica servicing salirophilic/mysophilic tendencies in the real world. Otherwise as representing a sort of Japanese festival, or some rainy outdoor music festival, perhaps.
"Often using no more than four pigments, namely ochre, alizarin, black, and white, Ypon also prefers his classical realism to border on Impressionism, at least in painterly terms, . . ."
The social realist take, by the artist's initial motives or by the politically-minded viewer, is defeated, then. Apart from the primacy of the smiles and the homoerotic mood alternating with holocaustic or even apocalyptic or Biblical readings, there is the overpowering value of the classical tradition itself where Ypon operates from as it pertains to the lighting and composition as well as palette of his influences comprising of Juan Luna, Diego Velázquez and Rembrandt. There is also the intense worth of the artist's craft, boasting of a zone of alla prima here and a city of glazing there.
Also, additional awe could be solicited from Ypon fans once they get hold of the knowledge that Ypon actually pays his models, cousins and neighbors, a staggering amount of dough that may reach up to ₱100,000 for just one canvas' narrative. In one canvas he employed up to 50 models, whose poses Ypon also directed like a film director who micro-manages his actors' poses. Ypon further composes on his canvas the photos that he took of his models' moments in the mud at the rice paddies before rice were planted there. He composes these photographs while painting them, without the aid of preliminary studies.
Ypon might also gain additional respect from the art community for his unabashed admission of alternately using a projector, usually during the initial stages of composition. Other artists, fearing that their figuration craft might be all they're valued for in the market, might hide or deny such a fact.
Often using no more than four pigments, namely ochre, alizarin, black, and white, Ypon also prefers his classical realism to border on Impressionism, at least in painterly terms, even if his "night" palette would be the opposite of Impressionists' "day" color preferences.
ANOTHER abstract facet of Ypon's art revolves around his happy interest in mud's own value as a sculptural form. Painter Marcel Antonio of diskurso.com even sees Ypon's mud elements as creating a landscape of their own, all in spite of the human figures' presence.
Meanwhile, even with his academic painting's social intents, Ypon's realism would avoid clichés of representation, e.g. those collaged political imagery in paintings that often win in local art contests and end up on the cover of the Yellow Pages. Perhaps this personal choice to harmonize all figures from his photos into one setting comes from a strong Romantic tendency, both for achieving the Romanticism in a scene (as in a Xue Jiye) and the Romanticism in every face within a Romantic sea of faces.
True, Ypon has twice won accolades from Fred Ross' Art Renewal Center, as we mentioned above. But while Ross' ARC has a nostalgia for classical realism with an opposition to modernism, Ypon's nostalgia is merely preferential and revivalist, with nary a disgust for modernist statements (for as long as these are statements distinct from posers' cluelessness). The thing that the ARC and Ypon have in common is clearly this: an impulse to renew an awesome language. [d]
an Ypon work not part of the "Ahon" series
the show's poster
Text © copyright 2015 by diskurso art magazine online.
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