A. Imao 1971
A few months ago, an art student from the University of the East
School of Music and Art, Sym had his first one-man show at the
National Library. At the opening of his art show some people were
wondering who Sym was. Sym is his encronym for Sofronio Y. Mendoza.
Sym however is not new in the art scene, for he is the winner
of 12 prized and numerous citations for his paintings. His works
are among the possessions of many local prominent art collectors
and patrons of art and has won several first prizes in art competitions.
In fact, it was in 1967 when he won the 1st prize in the prestigious
annual Shell Art Competition. Even before such recognition he
was already an established artist in his own right, for he is
not only prolific but he is one of the most productive young artists
of today, considered as one of the top representational artist
of this country. He has a mission to accomplish according to him
and this ambition has kept him well as a representative artist.
He wants to continue to paint genre and portraits in the tradition
of Fernando Amorsolo who happens to be his idol. He believes that
by continuing to portray Philippine life and scene, he can truly
help preserve the artistic cultural identity of this country.
It is in the field of representational art that he feels he could
best promote the love for Philippine tradition.
Contrary to impressions, Sym also goes for the so-called "avant
garde" of modern art. This author has seen his lessons as
the U.E School of Music and Arts. It is easy for him to shift
to modernistic design, but then he prefers realism or impressionism.
"An artist," he says, "must be sincere in his works.
One does not paint only for the sake of following the so-called
artistic trend or fad. However," he further explains "artist
are free to experiment and find out for himself what style suits
Sym admires the works of other will known Filipino artists like
Vicente Mananzala, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Mauro Malang-Santos,
Carlos Francisco, Fabian Dela Rosa, Carlos Valino and Maguel Galvez.
It was at the gallery of Miguel G. Galvez where he first exhibited
his paintings in Manila, here, Sym attracted the attention of
Aguilar Cruz who actually discovered him as a talented artist.
Sym was born in 1934 in Cebu City. His early influence in representational
painting came from the famous Cebuano painter, Martino Avellana,
dubbed as the Amorsolo of the Visayas. Avellana even provide him
with a one-year free private tutorship. He attended the Colegio
de San Jose at Cebu City and through the years he has been a self-supporting
student until he decided to some to Manila to find his fortune.
Having matured early in life because of the many financial difficulties
he encountered, he nevertheless enrolled at the U.S.T College
of Fine Arts for two years, but later transferred to the U.E School
of Fine Arts where the time element was more convenient for him
considering his busy schedule of trying to be an artist as well
as trying hard to eek out for his life. He surmounted all these
difficulties. But he recalled he had only a few clothes on his
back. It must have been this -up background that has sustained
him today and has lead him to the appreciation of the simple things
he portrays in his paintings. Julie Yap Daza of the Daily Mirror
Magazine in her column "Medium Rare" describes his works
as "familiar, homey and sentimental." He chooses landscape,
seascapes, cityscape and the interiors of home in the countryside
and suburbia - the green expanse of the "Tanawin" in
Novaliches, the gleaming traffic light of " Takipsilim sa
Dimasalang." What ever it is he paints, Sym does it with
the strength of sincerity.
He is one painter who has not gone abroad to learn how to paint,
and he probably will never need to, but it is precisely the warmth
and homey-ness, the nostalgia and the love of Philippine things,
not to say the provincialism and the loving naivettee of his expression
that makes him such a sought-after among the artists and writers
To top it all, Sym is his own frame maker, In his shop in Dimasalang,
he carves out his own frames of unpolished wood, a quality which
gives his paintings that certain old feeling. Rody Y. Ragodon
of the Sunday Times Magazine in his pictorial "The Hand Meets
the Eye" has this comment: " Many Filipino connoisseurs
of art would consider Mendoza's style as conservative. But Mendoza's
work must gain acceptance in the present milieu of modern art.
Representational and non-objective must develop side by side in
our present society."
Indeed, the nationalism is eminent in all his paintings. He has
the nationalistic spirit of Amorsolo and Carlos "Botong"
Francisco. E will not be surprised if Sym's struggle will be rewarded
with equal success like his idols. Sym dresses simple and humbly.
He understands his works well and coupled to this are his even
greater capacity and empathy towards his associated and fellow
artists. He works hard with a rabid dedication. He is calm, patient,
and very far from the so called temperamental artist.
At his studio in 1430 Dela Fuente, Dimasalang, he spends most
of his time painting and making designs for his-home-made frames.
He is married to the former Elena P. Villanueva, daughter of
his former benefactor. He has two children: Symele - 1 ½
yrs old and Vilmen -2 months old. His wife and children are his
greatest inspiration in life. Thus, is the portrait of Sym, one
of our country's most promising and outstanding young artists
in the making.