In art as in life – Manila Bulletin

Reaping blessings breathed life into his brushstrokes

Anita Magsaysay-Ho (1914-2012) was that rare person whose art reflected her life perfectly. The grace and quiet dignity brushed onto the canvas, the mottled rocks, the seductive craftsmanship, the colors of the jewels and, most characteristically, the agile characters who work hard but play effortlessly rekindling memories of childhood and, as as the expatriate wife of a shipping tycoon, experiences her beloved homeland, celebrating the very essence and spirit of the Filipino woman.

What’s fascinating about the artist is that there really hasn’t been a decline in public interest in his work, continually capturing interest and, in fact, garnering the desires of aficionados. most demanding art in the country – and indeed in the region – with his masterful talent. balance between technical bravery and a distinctive compositional style that always conveys serenity.

A 2002 photograph of Anita Magsaysay-Ho amid bright yellow flowers taken by Rupert Jacinto.

As one of the leading figures in the development of modern art in the Philippines and the only woman to belong to the avant-garde of the “Modern Thirteen”, Magsaysay-Ho’s career has earned her many accolades. , the most impressive of which was winning first and second prizes at the annual Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) competitions in the 1950s and 1960s.

I firmly believe – and it would not be an exaggeration to say it – that beyond the idea that her leitmotif is an embodiment of her own strength and calm resilience as a wife, mother and artist, it is the contented fullness of life’s blessings that the artist herself has enjoyed (and in fact channeled into her works) that viewers are fascinated and subtly drawn to.

“Women fishing”, 1971, mixed media on board

It is to this “harvest of blessings” that I refer, which is perfectly reflected in an impressive work that I currently have the pure joy of living: “Women Fishing” painted in 1971, its massive size and its superb understated jewel tones capturing the eye as I imagine viewers immersing themselves in its stylistic inkblots. Seemingly scattered at random, these delicate details influenced by Chinese calligraphy, formed rocks, vegetation and driftwood in the artist’s mind. Disparate elements woven together like the baskets held by the subjects, uniting five women dressed in the artist’s signature style of dress – a blouse, rug and white bandanas – as they happily lose themselves fishing along a golden shore.

This same auspicious aura pervades a rare and unusual addition to Magsaysay-Ho’s body of work, a mosaic crafted in semi-precious stones and hardwood licensed and executed in collaboration with local artisans. Anyone familiar with the artist’s earlier pieces, particularly his egg temperas, is aware of his affinity for decisive angular lines with distended figures and bold strokes that have a sense of rhythm. “Untitled (Women with Baskets and Fishes)” features those same formal distortions, this time carefully composed and meticulously crafted.

‘Untitled (Women with Baskets and Fish)’, Filipino jade and wood mosaic

Of note in both the painting and the mosaic are the subtle changes in the position of the subjects. While this later and later work shows the fishing women in the center, the larger work instead has the women arranged at the periphery, and yet positioned in such a way that they encircle the central space, the positions of the figures together forming a tight and silent turn. Installed in their intimate universe, working in silence with baskets and nets, the women of Magsaysay-Ho with closed eyelids and upturned smiles soar blissfully into a dreamlike idyll.

Strangers can perhaps be left in awe, marveling and curiously gazing at these enigmatic scenes. But for those of us who, like the artist, understand what it means to live your best life and abide in your own truth, Anita Magsaysay-Ho’s works speak volumes about the good things that are worth living. be pursued, and what gives our sense of existence.


For your comments and art questions, please email me at [email protected]

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