To grow up in Tanay, Rizal, just like in its neighboring town of Angono, home to many of the country’s great artists, is to learn how to draw and paint its rustic beauty—modest houses under a mango tree; golden rice stalks dancing in the wind; bountiful fish frolicking on the pond.
Angelito “Jo” Florendo is a Tanay painter who’s probably a cut above many. As a young boy, he grew up amid oil paint, acrylic and aquarelle under the tutelage of Tanay painter Martin Catalos and watercolorist Jun Tiongco.
In 2003, art critic Manuel Duldulao discovered Florendo when he came to Tanay inviting young artists to show him their works. Hundreds came and spread their canvases on the floor.
Three were chosen: paintings of Antonio Daleon, Adler Llagas and Florendo. They became Duldulao’s protégés and their paintings included in one of the coffee-table books he published.
Florendo’s first one-man show, “Flowers in a Box,” was held in Heritage Art Center at SM Megamall. It was followed by “Colors of May” at A-Venue in Makati, which was praised as his best paintings of flowers in town.
His “Oil, Water, Color” exhibit at the Manila Ocean Park featured koi fish underwater and highlighted his intricate artistry as a homegrown painter.
One could almost smell the wild orchids, herbs and other plants of Baras, Rizal, even while avoiding the splash of water caused by the koi fish in his “Ripples and Scents” exhibit at Gourmet Farms in Silang, Cavite.
For the Chinese, two koi fishes symbolize a lucky couple, while seven splashing koi swimming toward a koi with a red spot on its head represent prosperity.
With Chinese symbolisms in mind, Florendo did not fail to visit a pet shop in a mall to observe the real fish.
Commissioned to paint a rooster on a rooftop, he carefully observed the fowl before he proceeded to work. He noted how it flipped its wings just before it crowed; how arrogant it could be in front of a hen. And it was a proud but caring father with its brood. All these characteristics he incorporated in the piece.
Love of nature did not prevent Florendo from creating works based on existing photographs. He did just that for his exhibit “Feeding the Doves” at the Heart Center Art Gallery in 2011.
He rendered in oil 20 pieces of art photography done by Orestes Monzon, a medical doctor by profession and an art photographer by avocation. It won for Florendo an award for the most unique exhibit of the year.
Of the experience, he said: “The photographs served as my inspiration to paint while giving my own interpretation of the scenes.”
The corresponding photographs were exhibited side by side with the paintings.
Florendo has created pieces in collaboration with other painters. The well-received exhibit, “Three-gether,” followed by “Four-ever,” saw him working with old colleagues Llagas and Daleon, as well as Rogelio Caringal, producing linked canvases.
A board director of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP), Florendo was former president of Ugnayan Filipino Arts Foundation. He also cofounded the artist group Unang Letra. He is a member of the Tanay Artist Group.
He had exhibited in Venezuela (2003) and in the United States, including New York and Washington, D.C., in 2006, and San Francisco in 2008.
For the Heart Month of February, he will be the featured artist at the Philippine Heart Center Art Gallery. His solo exhibit, “Hawak-Kamay,” which opens today, features 38 paintings to celebrate the 38th anniversary of the Heart Center.
The artworks, which dwell on the themes of Mother and Child and the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water, also depict feng-shui-inspired koi fish to usher in the Chinese Lunar New Year.
The author is senior vice president of Data Center Design Corporation and executive director of the Maningning Miclat Art Foundation, Inc., which is calling on young poets 28 years old and below to submit their entries to the 2013 Maningning Miclat Trilingual Poetry Competition.