Thursday, September 08, 2016

161. Notes on Celeste Lecaroz's Portraits: 2. Spontaneous Realism

The first time I thought this project of large colorful canvas portraits by Celeste was worth a serious second look was when she painted Fr. Roque Ferriols, S. J., the well-loved professor of philosophy from Ateneo. The portrait captured that classic Fr. Roque stare who was my teacher back in the 90s. Known for his temper and tireless drive, coupled with his mastery of Plato, St. Augustine, and Teilhard de Chardin, he'd look at you at certain occasions as if saying, "I expect you to have done the right thing." which in those days meant studying and thinking; and you would melt, if you didn't. Yet, Celeste bathed Fr Roque's portrait in colored lights, and the effect is magical, if not, mystical. This is good art. What makes it so? It starts with this massive four feet by four feet canvas which is an imposing size for an artwork. It summons attention. Then, the under coloring on which the face is painted acts as the base where all the action happens.  The strokes, varied in size and twisting and turning here and there, seem isolated from one another at close range, and appear to be spontaneously assembled. But the mind assimilates these elements and recognizes the sum of all parts. Then, the seer notices the colors that seem to have no logical reference to reality save for shades and its values which are correponded with color.  But the mind is tricked into imagining that these colors are different lights beaming  at the subject. The effect is out of the ordinary. Of course, if you do this painting on some guy from the street, it might not have that same cathartic effect on the seer. But to someone who has known Fr. Roque Ferriols, S. J., especially during the crucial years of college education, this portrait is loaded with meaning. This is real as it can be -- Fr. Roque Ferriols, everything he has written and said, everything he stood and fought for -- in a beautiful picture. I told myself, I just gotta have this on my wall. 

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