A BOOK entitled "Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness" written by Willard Spiegelman once taught me that to be able to fully appreciate a visual work of art like a painting, you must stand a few steps in front of it, motionless, lingering your eyes onto every detail of the art.
Spiegelman said it’s the only way you will be able to somehow understand or attempt to grasp the meaning behind the bright pastel colors, the shadows behind the focal point, and the curves and lines made by the artist.
This is what I think a high school kid from Davao City National High School did while at the opening of the 5th solo exhibit of the local artist Elenita “Boots” Dumlao at Museo Dabawenyo on February 21 called "Complexed Simplicities".
The high schooler had his right hand on his chin as if he was thinking and was unfazed by all the noises on the background made by his all too excited schoolmates.
I looked at the painting he was pondering upon. At first glance, the subjects looked like whales surging up the surface of the water and up into the sky. It was very interesting really. Just like almost all the paintings in the exhibit, Dumlao used bright and tropical colors to transform what she conceives in mind into a visual masterpiece.
Using these colors, the paintings look alive and stunning, confusing and thought-provoking in the best way. A painter, digital artist, writer, and performer, Dumlao’s art pieces are anchored on issues involving Land, Life, and Respect.
“I always want to remember the good things that are happening rather than the bad things. Kita mo ‘yang environmental images na ‘yan? They still represent my life,” she said.
On the opening of her exhibit, I noticed something strange about her displays. She didn’t put labels or titles for each painting. I asked her why so and the way she responded was equally beautiful as her motive is. She said the blank piece of paper where the title is supposed to be was deliberately done to avoid putting limits to the wide interpretation that an audience can muster.
The artist guests and the students who were there on the first day of the exhibit were given the freedom to interpret the paintings based on how they personally understand and not based on a title set before them. That kind of liberty granted to the audience by a great artist is rare.
Although she also said on the second day of her exhibit until its last day on March 23, she will be finally be putting up the titles of the paintings.
“I have found a very unique style of my own to express myself. Each of my work is an expression of how I feel about the real world, and what I think about it. Each contains my mind, heart, and soul,” she said.
This proud Dabawenya artist won the first place for the Digital New Media Art competition at the International Exhibition of Women Painters in 2012. Her masterpiece Cradle’s Lullaby beat all the other 263 entries from different parts of the world.
Also, her artwork Lookalikes was acknowledged as the digital winner of the International Visual Artist Challenge.
I looked again at the painting with subjects that seemed to be whales surging up the surface of the water. The “whales” were blue, purple, orange, and even green. There were white dots on them suggesting the water on them that glistened in the sunlight.
And then I remembered how this solo exhibit is called. Complexed Simplicities. They could be whales. They could be not.
The entirety of Dumlao’s collection showcased in that exhibit can be compared to those whale-looking subjects surging up the surface celebrating life just how the artist claimed to be doing in her artworks.