By Margot Baterina
Twenty-seven oil and watercolor paintings and pastel drawings
make up the collection which painter Sym (for Sofronio Y. Mendoza)
has for his 5th one-man art exhibit now on view at the ABC Gallery
on Harrison Plaza. The art show continues till November 17.
The works portray a variety of subjects common to a representational
painter like Sym who has always painted in this manner since he
first made the Manila scene in 1969 with an initial one-man show.
Thus one sees the usual fare in this show: landscapes, skyscrapes,
riverscapes, house interiors, market scenes, nudes and portraits
of mothers and children. Although the paintings are simple projections
of what he sees I life and nature and its
man-made surroundings, Sym's works, however, posses superimposed
levels of visual meanings relevant to the Filipino's cultural
values and experiences. A potent use of color, which he developed
through the years in art school and under the tutelage of the
Cebuano master Martino Abellana, has enabled Sym to create an
"authentic Filipino quality" in his work as one critic-painter
once said of him. Aside from color as an outstanding element of
his works, Sym's impressionistic touch to the compositions transforms
colors, lines and forms into meaningful designs so that a viewer
can relate himself to the works at once. Other realistic-impressionist
painters who work with the same medium and subjects like him create
works with a more European than Philippine atmosphere.
His colors in verdant greens, radiant yellow and sunshine orange
are often viewed as "Filipino" in contrast to the muted,
classical colors of the masters. Any exuberance of light filters
through the lines and forms of his compositions thus achieving
for the artist the luminosity that is always present in nature-in
the Philippine setting.
A repetition of subject in most of the present works certainly
reminds the viewer of Sym's past collections. It was he and his
fellow painters of the Dimasalang Group, for instance, who started
painting house facades and street scenes in small canvases. (The
painter's group's name is an inspiration from the street corner
painting shop where the artists-painters and writers who painted-met
Sym's facades and streets are still incorporated in a number
of the present works but the addition of his "gate series"
is indeed a new subject. Far removed from the small street corners
of Dimasalang, Sym now paints his new surroundings in the vast
and open fields of Novaliches in Quezon City. The rustic landscapes
of the new location offer him all the colors and light he needs
for his paintings. Thus at various hours of the day, the gate
of his new house becomes a
fascinating subject each time the sun changes its position.
The gabi plant, clusters of bananas and papayas growing wild
around his house are part of the interesting subjects that he
captures on congas. The effect of light on various hues of greens
on these plants has afforded the artist a better color sense in
order to render his works closer to nature.
Oftentimes referred to as "the father of Dimasalang Group,"
Sym has not, however, completely dissociated himself from his
fellow artists. He still devotes part of his time to go on location
painting with them: back to Dimasalang on weekdays for familiar
street scenes, in a hotel's top floor for a view of the Pasig
river on other days to some old Binondo house for its interiors
In his portraits-mostly mother-and-child series and nudes, Sym
maintains a commitment to details and specifics of his models.
He strives for the likeness of his models, as that of his pregnant
wife, capturing not only the anatomy in pastel but the expression
an movements as well. Will Sym limit himself to representational
painting considering the trend of many local artists toward the
abstract-expressionism? Time is the only factor that will determine
the transition says the Cebuano artist. In the meantime, he strives
to make a personal artistic commitment come true: painting for
the man in the street and not for the exclusive delights and taste
of the art elite (if such a group now exists.)