Rare Sansó abstracts celebrate freedom
The late ’60s is often called the Psychedelic Era, when philosophical explorations by thinkers like Timothy Leary and Alan Watts celebrated the emerging chemical-influenced culture as a means of expanding the mind’s consciousness.
It was a time of questioning the old, shaking up institutions, and ushering in the new. It was a metaphysical zeitgeist that was juxtaposed with the hippie communes, anti-Vietnam War protests, and youth-led activist revolts like the Paris student uprising of May 1968, which was the model of our own First Quarter Storm.
In the field of art, Peter Max with his strong explosive use of colors, as was Andy Warhol and Pop Art, was the milieu of the day.
It was this social and cultural ferment in the French capital that compelled Juvenal Sansó, at the time still a struggling painter and printmaker, but already making a name for himself in a different arena, the field of textile design.
He was doing designs for such fashion houses as Bianchini-Ferrer, Balenciaga and Synergy, exploring brilliantly hued and highly abstracted color composition studies.
After doing a successful collection for Balenciaga, Sansó decided it was time for him to go back to his main avocation: visual arts. He decided to take up his brushes again and, using various techniques, oils, additives and chemicals, he began painting the first of his abstract series.
Done on tiny squares of Kodak Ektachrome slides via a series of self-discovered techniques, the results of these miniature abstracts remind one of melting color filters floating over a white backlit liquid, and then frozen in place with added daubs of paint.
Done between 1967 and 1974, this remarkable series of slide-size studies would then be filed away in Sansó’s Paris studio, untouched until he decided to close the studio and return most of his things to the Philippines a little less than a decade ago.
Although he closed his main studio in Paris, he kept a villa in Malaga, Spain, the birthplace of Picasso. There he would spend his summers and a good portion of his time whenever he was not in Manila.
Situated along Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) with a generous view of the azure waters of the Mediterranean sea, this studio he used in converting these kaleidoscopic artworks on slides into 20” x 28” canvas works.
The result is exhibited in “Sansó Abstract,” ongoing at the atrium of The Podium along ADB Avenue.
The exhibit showcases 26 of these rare abstracts that celebrate the ever-inventive and original nature of Sansó’s artistic persona.
The Malaga abstracts capture Sansó in a crucial aesthetic period of the late 1960s, when artistic success was contrasted by personal financial insecurity, and the coinciding social-political chaos gripping the French (and later, Philippine) republics.
After earning his just pay with the fashion-house textile-pattern designs, Sansó finally had enough financial autonomy to revert to his genuine artistic love of the time: the increasing fascination with gestural abstraction.
Feeling that he needed a freer and less structured way of art-making, he did away with the regulated geometry and highly repetitive structures of his textile paintings in favor of bold, dramatic strokes that relied on unpredictability and randomness to produce uniquely composed pieces.
What is most remarkable was that he initially executed these abstract designs on slides of no more than three square inches—veritable miniatures that must have required unprecedented concentration and delicate technique to achieve.
Whatever his technical method, the resulting easel-size works are wonderful to behold. The Málaga Series dispenses with intricately orchestrated compositions, resulting in free play and a stark vibrancy that is remarkably refreshing for an 80-year-old artist. “With my abstract work on slides, I decided to do away with the geometrical and repetitive patterns. I just let the colors and the shapes define the emotive impact of what I wanted to express,” he says.
“Sansó Abstract” is presented by Galerie Joaquin Podium with Galerie Stephanie. Call tel. 6347954 and 7091488; visit www.galeriejoaquin.com and www.galeriestephanie.com.
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