Through the Peep Hole by José John Santos III (b. 1970)
Culture Art

Couples therapy: These works from the León auction explore love and marriage

A handful of select works in the upcoming León auction teeter on the edge of autobiography
J. SANTAMARIA | Sep 16 2020

Art advisers say that works closest to the artists’ hearts — and that tell highly personal stories — are often the most beautiful and the most valuable.

A handful of select works teeter on the edge of autobiography in the upcoming León Gallery Magnificent September Auction 2020, scheduled for this Saturday, September 19, 2020, beginning at 2 pm. This much-awaited sale is co-presented by ANCX.ph, ABS-CBN News Channel’s lifestyle site for the urban man.

The first of these is a highly personal work by Jose John Santos III, entitled Through the Peep Hole. It gives the viewer a deeper look into the relationship between a man and a woman as husband and wife. The man’s face is shielded in a blank mask; his head protected by a crash helmet. He has his shod feet planted on a large box boldly marked “Fragile.” The female is barefoot and indifferent. 

The title is equally interesting as a peephole enables one to view something “behind a closed door.” It is a fascinating piece from a famously introverted artist. It’s also believed to be a portrait of the couple—of John and Pam Yan Santos—says Jaime Ponce de Leon of Leon Gallery. Dr. Steve Lim, collector and founder of the group Art Rocks, a friend of the couple, is wont to believe. He says it captures quite nicely the personalities of John and Pam: he is playful while she’s mostly dedma. (Listen to more stories behind the paintings in the ANCX Forum’s Magnificent Auction Chase starting September 17, 7PM, on the ANCX Facebook page.) 

106 Mushroom Building by Pam Yan Santos (b. 1974). Signed and dated 2010 (lower right) acrylic, collage, graphite and serigraph on canvas, 60” x 48” (152 cm x 122 cm)

From his wife, Pam Yan- Santos is a monumental if wry work called Mushroom Building. It is a visual representation of rapid urbanization — or does this intriguing piece refer to the dreams and intentions that grow as fast as mushrooms. This acclaimed visual artist’s novel and layered depiction on this reality makes viewers think about the meaning of change, and all kinds of it.

Another of the exciting narratives is a large-scale triptych by acclaimed Filipino artist collective Sanggawa. The group was formed by renowned artists Elmer Borlongan, Karen Flores, Mark Justiniani, Joy Mallari, and Federico Sievert in 1994, established out of another famous political art collective since the 1980s, the Salingpusa. All studied fine arts in the University of the Philippines, except for Sievert who took his fine arts degree at the University of Sto. Tomas.

163 Balud Kag Daguob (Waves of Thunder) (Triptych) by Karen Flores, Elmer Borlongan, Joy Mallari, and Federico Slevert. Signed and dated 1996 (lower right), oil on canvas, 66” x 39” (167 cm x 99 cm) each

Sanggawa, albeit a short-lived group, created detailed and timeless figurative paintings and breathtaking murals, mostly in oil. Political themes are combined with Philippine myths and legends, and their works are sought after here and abroad.

Balud Kag Daguob, which means “Waves of Thunder”, is a symbol-laden representation of the popular Visayan myth on Captan, the god of the winds of the earth, and Maguayen, the beautiful goddess who ruled over the winds of the sea. Each panel feature the two forces of great abilities uniting into equal power.

It’s interesting to speculate how this painting documents the ebb and flow of each artist’s relationship with the others, some more romantic than the rest.

27 Balancing Act by Mark Justiniani (b.1966). Signed and dated 1997 (lower right) oil on canvas, 48” x 34” (122 cm x 86 cm)

Then there’s Mark Justiniani — who looms even more significant after his triumphant Venice Biennale exhibition. He is represented by Untitled (Balancing Act). He is actually represented by a total of four works in the Magnificent September Auction but this is perhaps the most revealing. It is an intimate portrait of the push-and-pull of family life, featuring women, children, mothers-in-law, and other tense emotional competitions. The viewer is moved to ask: Is this drawn from Justiniani’s own experiences? 

This piece also plays with the concepts of time and space as well as of balance, or the lack of it. Justiniani’s masterful synthesis of social realist and magic realist techniques has made the auction darling a defining voice in the art scene. Infusing humor in his works that serve as social commentaries set him apart from other social realists.

116 View of Mariquina by Juan Luna (1857-1899). ca. 1895 signed (lower right), oil on canvas, 16 1/2” x 21 1/2” (42 cm x 55 cm)

 Of course, nothing can be more romantically raw than Juan Luna’s own passionate crime against his wife, the heiress Paz Pardo de Tavera. View of Mariquina was painted as Luna sought refuge after a bruising arrest and trial in France over the tragic fracas. It is an intense brooding landscape straight out of Wuthering Heights. This masterpiece, incidentally, once belonged to a splendidly happy, bon vivant couple, Wili and Doreen Fernandez who were inseparable.

View the online catalog as well as register to bid now at www.leon-gallery.com. For inquiries, call (02) 8856-2781 or send an email at [email protected].