3 watercolor artists mount second group exhibit in pandemic

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Aug 03 2022 04:17 PM | Updated as of Aug 03 2022 04:18 PM

Watercolor artists (from left) Gerardo Jimenez, Alfred Galura and Rene Canlas with L'Arc en Ciel Gallery owner and exhibit curator Elaine Ongin Hermosa. Handout
Watercolor artists (from left) Gerardo Jimenez, Alfred Galura and Rene Canlas with L'Arc en Ciel Gallery owner and exhibit curator Elaine Ongin Hermosa. Handout

MANILA -- Watercolor is said to be the most difficult medium to master. 

Just ask Rene Canlas, Gerardo Jimenez and Alfred Galura, who are holding their second exhibit of works, “Romancing the Water: Episode II,” where they are out to prove anew their mastery in the watercolor medium.

“Unlike other medium I am used to, perhaps, watercolor is the most challenging, but practice always plays the key factor,” Canlas told ABS-CBN News. “Your love for the subject, knowing the right materials [pigments] and the surface [paper], plays a major role in the style and approaches.”

Many people share the opinion that watercolor is considered the most difficult medium because of its transparency. “I think each medium presents its own unique challenges,” Jimenez said.

“Marks that have been put on the paper cannot be erased, nor made lighter. To a certain extent then, mistakes or undesired strokes cannot be corrected anymore.

“At the same time, since the transparent properties of the medium make use of the whiteness of the paper for its light areas, watercolor has a striking luminosity that cannot be found in other medium.

“That is why I personally like watercolor. It captures light, atmosphere, mood on paper in a unique and beautiful way.”

The three artists had such a good time during their first exhibit, “Romancing the Water,” held in August 2020, that even at that time, they were already talking about another group show together.

“I personally felt that we had a good mix of different styles and subjects,” Jimenez said. “I admire my colleagues, Rene and Alfred, so I have always been excited about being in the same, major show with them.”

It was L’Arc en Ciel gallery owner Elaine Ongpin Herbosa, who grouped the artists together and encouraged them to hold their first exhibit.

Canlas met Herbosa in 2016 in one of the shows of L’Arc en Ciel at Ayala Art Space. “I introduced myself and showed my interest in joining their group,” he recalled. “That was the beginning. We then became friends and communicate often.

“During the reception of L’Arc en Ciel exhibit in Altromondo in 2019, Miss Elaine approached me with Alfred Galura and Gerardo Jimenez. She brought up the idea of a three-man show. A year after, the first ‘Romancing the Water’ was born.”

The idea for a show came from Herbosa, who brought her passion for art, as well as her long, rich experience in organizing art shows into making this idea a reality.

“Each of us met Elaine at different times,” Jimenez said. “Elaine had organized a number of exhibits already in the past for her atelier L’Arc en Ciel, with Alfred’s beautiful work. The three of us had met each other already in other watercolor organizations.”

 'Dampalit Boatman' (Malabon) by Alfred Galura 2021
"Dampalit Boatman" (Malabon) by Alfred Galura 2021

Galura initially met Herbosa’s artist-daughter, Mia, who became his colleague in an advertising agency in the ‘90s. “But we were separated,” he said. “I went to Riyadh, she went to New York. When Mia staged an exhibit at the Ayala Museum, I visited.
“I was too eager to see her works, especially her brush strokes. I could feel her strokes. I didn't know the one manning the exhibit was her mom. Elaine and I were acquainted and now, 15 years later, we still have a strong bond.” 

Herbosa is the curator anew of “Romancing the Water, Episode II,” that will showcase the latest work of the three artists.

“It was merely a joke if we could stage a second exhibit,” Galura shared. “Then, all of us agreed enthusiastically.”

“We were all friends already and that made it easier for us to work together for the first show in 2020 and for this second one,” Jimenez said. “The successful turnout of our first show together, I think, was the result of that nice combination of styles and subjects.

“I also personally make it a point to hold one major show per year, ever since I went full-time as a visual artist. This is my major show for this year.”

'Rest Assured' by Rene Canlas 2022
"Rest Assured" by Rene Canlas 2022

The first “Romancing the Water” was a “bold move” the artists staged amid the pandemic in 2020, but relatively successful.

“That exhibit was challenging when it was launched,” Canlas recalled. “Imagine showcasing it in a contemporary gallery like Altromondo? Thank God that we managed.

“We were thankful to Mr. Boy Remigio, the owner, for believing in the project. Given another chance, so life continues, as we say.”

The three artists regrouped anew for their second exhibit, “Romancing the Water, Episode II,” showcasing another milestone of their latest works that display their expertise and skill.

“The three of us are, first and foremost, watercolor artists, although we also create art in other mediums,” Jimenez pointed out.

“So I think that was at the back of Elaine’s mind when she thought of bringing us together in one exhibit, the idea of an all-watercolor show among three watercolor artists.”

That the three particularly opted for watercolor even if they are familiar with other media like acrylic, oil or pastel, is their common ground.

“Watercolor is my favorite medium of expression in painting,” Canlas admitted. “It is very handy although to many, it is the hardest. One needs only a small space to work in and [watercolor] is not toxic to health.”

 Gerardo Jimenez works on flowers for this second exhibit
Gerardo Jimenez works on flowers for this second exhibit

Jimenez had his initial doubts mounting the first “Romancing the Water” exhibit from the preparations alone.

“We each had doubts as to whether we would go through with it or not,” he revealed. “We each were experiencing our own challenges as the pandemic raged. Most of us were isolated and quite concerned for our and our families’ safety and security.

“But I remember very clearly, one day in July 2020, when Elaine gathered us together in a conference call and how we concluded that. We had everything to gain by going on with the show.

“At worse, we had new work whatever the result of our show was. More than anything else, we would not let this pandemic make us quit. So, we all agreed to push through with resolve. I am glad we did, because the show turned out quite well.”

Galura attested surviving in this pandemic is the most difficult time being a watercolor artist. “Our works are non-essentials compared to other businesses,” he said. 

Understandably, painting in the new normal has its challenges, too. Canlas wants to remain “healthy and strong; plan and re-focus,” so he can readily make any adjustment.

Doing art, particularly painting, helped Jimenez go through the difficulties of the past two and a half years.

“It was a form of therapy for me, a way to express, release the myriad of emotions I was having during this time,” he disclosed. “I don’t know what state of mind I would have had during this pandemic, if I was not painting.”

Being a full-time artist, it initially worried Jimenez that sales of his paintings would dip during the pandemic. It was important for his family, as well.

“What happened was that they actually increased,” he beamed. “I think having art in their homes was also a form of therapy, a way towards healing for many of those who purchased art.

“The isolation also gave me more time to practice my art. So, a blessing in disguise during this time was that I was able to grow in my art, both in terms of my skill and reflection on what I wanted to create, as well as financially.”

He lamented how many people view art as “non-essential.” Therefore, it is understandably not prioritized. Jimenez believes otherwise.

“Whether it was creating it, enjoying or collecting art, it is essential to us because we are human beings,” Jimenez said. “Maybe not in terms of material needs, but in matters of the spirit, the soul.

“Still part of the reality is that as an artist, I am not assured that my works will be bought, unlike in businesses that cater to basic needs that usually have a sure market demand.

“So as an artist, I have to be prepared, financially and emotionally for this uncertainty, continue to create even if I don’t know whether my next piece will sell or not, even as I try to find ways to be able to sell more of my paintings, for example, through exhibits like the one we will have starting August 6.”

“Romancing the Water: Episode II” runs from August 6 to September 3 at Altromondo Creative Space, 1159 Chino Roces Avenue, San Antonio Village, Makati City.