To fully appreciate an art piece, like a painting, involves two moments: viewing, that is, of seeing; and realizing, that is, of becoming enlightened by what our eyes have seen.
The first moment is easy. It is taking in from the curious eyes of a child shapes, images, colors – the whole visual feast, including tone and texture – which Alcoseba presents in each painting.
The second is a a bit more complex. What our eyes have perceived will first be processed in our minds according to its limited as well as limiting categories; and only then will our realization, as it were, take shape and get articulated. And still according to the limits of our language.
To make sense of Alcoseba’s latest works is to view with two sets of eyes: through the eyes of a child and through the mind of a philosopher.
Yes, Virginia, the painter-artist has become painter-philosopher.
I have known Alcoseba since I was in my twenties. Back then he was already a master in his own craft – “El Gato” (1978), Christie’s, Singapore; “Promise of Salvation” (2008) and “The Last Supper” (2008), both from the private collection of lawyer Mon Esguerra; and “Sto. Nino Basilica” (2010) from the private collection of Cebuano lawyer Jun Montuerto, and many more.
Which is why I was surprised to see his latest works. The Alcoseba craftsmanship is there… but what a world of difference! If in the past the subjects of his paintings appear fixed, now they seem to be in motion. If in the past his works demonstrate a slice of life, now they show slices of life. If in the past, his pieces may be likened to a 3-dimensional photograph, now they approximate digital, cinematic movement.
In an earlier painting, a local scene of a woman on the bridge looking towards a meadow, we recognize the artist’s impressionistic bent. As an old article about him said, ”bold streaks of overlapping colors leaving little spaces for light to refract, the excellence of this technique can only be handled by a master of effortless dexterity in managing tonal values”.
However, in one of his latest creations, “The Longest Stretch,” we no longer see a “still” impressionist’s work. What we are seeing is a painter “on the move.” He is “stretching” his body (look at his legs), through a period of time (look at the sun and the half moon), through different levels of success (look at the stairs), in order to finish his work/s and, hopefully, to reach the wished-for success in life. We can even discern a circular and, hence, perpetual motion in the whole painting.
An then in his Fiesta series, there is a work with a priest looking left and right at the street procession moving along. As a viewer, it’s as if we are absorbed in the painting, too, as our eyes pan from side to side.
Yes, I am intrigued just as I am excited about the newness in Alcoseba’s artworks.
Why the change, Tony?
Ram, I think that I have come to perfect my craft as somebody doing watercolor paintings. Now, I would like to engage in more challenging creative possibilities that analytical cubism and geometric abstractionism offer.
Why is that?
Well, aside from the fact that I am aging (laughs), I have come to realize that, indeed, life is best viewed from different perspectives and, since this is so, as a painter, I am challenged to offer works that show what I would like to call “heightened realism.” Not the kind of heightened realism you see in HD photographs. But heightened realism that is a fruit of an appreciation of reality from different points-of-view. That is, still realism but “heightened” by the “simultaneity” of the experience being painted on the canvas. Just like that Priest in the “Prusisyon” nga galingi-lingi.
In my earlier paintings, you see, you will notice that I seem to have frozen a scene, an event, and captured it on canvas. In my latest works, however, you will find that I no longer do so. Instead, I allow the paintings to suggest motion, to suggest time as flowing.
In other words, in my own humble way, I would like to offer my viewers, a new way of seeing.
You begin to sound like a philosopher, Tony.
Well, it must be some kind of wisdom which age bestows to a painter who wishes to capture life and its many aspects on canvas. Like, in “The Long Stretch,” for example, I now enjoy viewing life in fragments, one fragment distinct from the others but fluid in its flow towards the next fragment and further enriching the whole experience of Life.
Indeed, Life is a long stretch – with a thousand of fragmented stretches contributing towards, if not producing, what can be called a long stretch to success.
Any artist in mind when you thought of this refreshing change?
I do not claim to be like Picasso in terms of expertise but, like him, as a painter, as I have said earlier, the use of “single perspective” in painting no longer suffices nor gives me fulfillment. A person, a movement, an event is never still – it is continually moving, with the movement depending on the point of view of the viewer.
Can these works be called “abstractions”?
They look like abstractions, but as you can still see, the painter and other images in “The Longest Stretch,” as well as the priest and other images in “Prusisyon,” the works remain, to a great extent, representational. Hence, heightened realism, as I have said above.
In food I can easily deconstruct a dish, that is, break apart its elements traditionally combined and perhaps create something new even better ever unique from the original. But in painting, Alcoseba’s abstractions are the opposite; its fragmented multitude of viewpoints come together giving the seer a moving magical kind of sensuous musing.