Of positivity and Cebuano cubism

SOME 39 years after his graduation from the University of the Philippines - Cebu Fine Arts Program, Celso Duazo Pepito has gone back to his alma mater for a retrospective exhibit of his career as an artist. For this exhibit, Pepito has 59 paintings on display. Some of these are from his own collection and some, from collectors who willingly lent their paintings for the show—a few of them dating back to the earlier days of Pepito’s career.

This exhibit, explains its curator, professor Jay Nathan T. Jore, is an attempt “to deconstruct [Pepito’s] art by looking back at important moments that brought him to the forefronts of Cebuano cubism.”

“By bringing together Celso Pepito’s earlier works, we hope to meet along the alleys of the gallery the young Celso and see the many layers of expressions running through his paintings. From his earlier love affair with the picturesque sublimity of nature to his explorations and distortions of the human figure, we hope to unravel the pieces and fragments that form the monumentality of his now celebrated cubist aesthetics,” Jore said.

“As art historical in its framework, the exhibition hopes to contribute to the much-needed study and urgent theorizing of Cebuano art and the various stylistic tendencies that coopts its growth or ungrowth. By looking at Celso Pepito’s journey in art making, we hope to inspire art students and young artists today, to cadence through their own productive paths with persevering enthusiasm, always attentive to the ever fluxing condition of art: always becoming, rarely arriving.”

Pepito started his career as an impressionist-realist painter as he was influenced by his mentor, the late Martino Abellana. In 1994, encouraged by Tito Cuevas and Edgar Mojares, he shifted to cubism which, he explained, answered his search for attaining his own artistic expression with which he said he “can inject my idealism as an artist, as a father, as a Christian and as a citizen.”

This was also the time he started to use acrylic paints as his main medium for “its tendency to dry faster.”

“I could also explore on different textures and other techniques that I found difficult to attain with other art media.”

With Pepito’s recent works, one always finds an octagon inserted in the painting, aside from his signature. He explained that the octagon is actually the sun reduced to cubic terms and it is to signify his “belief in positive development.”

“If the sun continues to have its sunrise and sunset, we as individuals will only do our best from smaller to bigger things. We’ll always have that opportunity to be productive and to find fulfillment in our aspirations in life.”

His main message for this exhibit: ”Motivate my viewers to aspire for the best in everything they do and to contribute something to the betterment of society by giving good—and valid example—that is to love God, love our family and by loving our country. By loving God, we automatically love our family, and by loving our family, we contribute to the strength of our country. More than improving their crafts, I hope to see the new generation of artists of Cebu to find their artistic direction and make art as a factor in nation-building. I look forward to seeing them create art not only for money but hopefully also to motivate their viewers to contribute to positive idealism.”

“Balik Tanaw,” the exhibit, is displayed on the second floor of the UP Cebu Fine Arts building and will run till the end of January.


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