MANILA -- Self-portraits are usually an artist's way of showcasing to the world how he “sees” himself or his image from his own point of view. It's usually just a simple portrait painted in the artist's signature style, like Frida Kahlo's numerous self-portraits or Vincent van Gogh's popular impressionist impression of himself or the highly expressive facial expression realistically self-captured by Gustave Courbet.
But what if the artist's works are mostly abstraction, how does he paint himself?
Visual artist cum photojournalist Pinggot Zulueta, known for his abstract works, recently painted his “self-portraits” the only way he can express it. Bold brush strokes in striking contrasting colors, collages of different magazine cutouts with acrylic overlay, and acrylic portraits with mixed media overlays.
His latest works resemble human faces but not exactly. The shape and form are present but the “faces” are mere complex abstraction of his thoughts and feelings.
“Yes, I consider these artworks as my self-portraits. Most of them were painted in gestural strokes to give mixed feelings of uncertainty upon arrival on my adopted land. The portraits are reflections of my emotional journey going back abroad and serve as my personal refuge,” Zulueta said during the launch of his seventh solo show “Ka.thar.sis”.
Each work is also titled with quotes from historical figures like William Shakespeare.
Showing until the end of December at The Saturday Group Gallery at the East Wing of Shangri-la Plaza in Manadulyong City, the exhibit is his latest show after returning to the Philippines from Australia just over a month ago.
Zulueta, who finished his Bachelor of Fine Arts Major in Painting from University of Santo Tomas, started as a cartoonist for a newspaper then becoming a photojournalist, capturing images for news and lifestyle sections of the Manila Bulletin for most of his career. In 2015, he published his solo coffeetable book, "Filipino Artists in their Studios."
“Ka.thar.sis” is a showcase of his emotional journey of alienation and loss of identity. Zulueta has been in and out of the country, living from one country to another with his family. He has lived in Cambodia and different parts of Australia.
For him, leaving the comfort zone of the Philippines has been a challenging journey. As a very passionate artist, settling in a foreign land is a difficult emotional undertaking and most of the time he loses his way. He turns to his canvas and brushes for some form of comfort and familiarity.
“The artworks also show my search of meaning and identity in a foreign land,” he said.
Zulueta's latest exhibit composed of 20 artworks is a reflection of his emotional state during his emigration. As a consolation, he gets to go home every now and then to do his passion, from photography to painting. This passion is what drives the artist forward, despite many roadblocks.
“Painting is comfort. Art is my refuge. It has helped me in difficult times and that's why I'm grateful that I can still do my passion. I'm also thankful to an art community that welcomes me every time I come back and embraces my creative expressions,” he said.