Pinoy artist promotes native art in Chicago


Posted at Mar 05 2008 05:54 AM | Updated as of Mar 05 2008 01:54 PM

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An ancient Filipino art form is gaining admirers in Chicago thanks to a Fil-Am artist with the Elmhurst Art Museum who presented "Kut-kut - lost art of the Philippines" to an enthusiastic standing room crowd of artists, curators and art enthusiasts in Elmhurst, Illinois, last Thursday, February 21, 2008.

Artist Fred DeAsis, who shook up the Chicago art world with a controversial painting last year, wants to popularize the exotic art form based on early century techniques -- sgraffito, encaustic, layering and local tribal inscriptions. The merging of these ancient styles produces a unique artwork characterized by delicate swirling interwoven lines, multi-layered texture and an illusion of three-dimensional space.

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"We were so excited to have a prominent Asian-American artist presented to our art community such a rare, exotic artwork and technique specially from a distant country.," said Elmhurst Artist Guild committee member Adrienne Jaruzek.

DeAsis presented and discussed the kut-kut technique which is based on "Sgraffito," an ancient art technique where a coat of paint is left to dry on a panel and another coat of a different color is painted on top of the first layer after which the artist uses a knife or pointed stick to scratch out a design, leaving behind an image in the color of the first coat of paint.

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He further explained that the kut-kut technique can also be likened to encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, as it involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added.

Each of DeAsis' creations begins with clear emulsion treated panel and then requires countless hours of repetitive paint and medium application, drying, scraping, layering and composing to produce the desired artwork. Through the years, he developed the use of other art materials to produced better artwork without sacrificing the original ancient technique and style. Most kut-kut art pieces are done on wood to support the continuous layering and composing of materials including shellac, lacquer, artist glass and fine sand.

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" I use Cartesian grids, fractals, Fibonacci and Golden Section to determine object position in space, " said DeAsis, a recipient of the 2006 Fil-Am TV Hall of Fame Award and 2007 Asian American Hall of Fame in the field of arts and culture.

DeAsis has studios ( in Chicago, Arlington Heights and New York. He has a Fine Arts Gallery in Arlington Heights, which houses over 300 of his artworks.

In 2006 he was appointed arts commissioner of Arlington Heights, Illinois. He is one of the very few Asian Americans to be appointed to that level in America.

DeAsis is currently the executive director of Asian American Arts and Cultural Foundation, a board director of Philippine American Cultural Foundation, and the chairman of "Kut-kut – the Lost Art of the Philippines" a traveling art exhibit project to promote the rich culture and history of the Philippines via public art exhibits. A nationwide art exhibit tour is planned for 2009 and an international tour is planned for 2010.

"Art is my passion and compulsion. My mission is to revive the lost art and present to the public the beauty and rich history of the ancient art from the Philippines. These all is for art, culture, and humanity. This is my way of giving-back to the Philippines."

DeAsis is writing a book about the ancient Asian arts and culture. To view more of his artwork, visit his website at