“One may call (printmaking) the wave of the future, the medium of the general public.”
The words are from art historian Purita Kalaw-Ladesma, writing in her 1974 book “The Struggle for Philippine Art,” at a time when printmaking was generally referred to as the graphic arts. She added:
“The graphic arts are a young medium in the Philippine. Because the materials are inexpensive and because one can print as many copies as one wishes (printmakers call this “a multiple original”), it has less appeal. However, through the years it has progressed from a mere hobby to an art form, and in the years to come it will surely gain in importance.”
She was right, with Manuel Rodriguez Sr., later known as the Father of Philippine Printmaking, leading the way.
The book was published six years after the Printmakers Association of the Philippines was founded. And the PAP—now known as the Association of Pinoyprintmakers (AP)—is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a large-scale exhibit at the Bulwagang Juan Luna (Main Gallery) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
The show, fetchingly titled “Tirada” (a strike, a decisive action), traces the history of the organization through the decades, through works by members and nonmembers, archives and photos. The exhibit, on until July 15, was launched recently at a press conference highlighted by a “walk-through,” in which leading as well as new printmakers stood before their works, explained the meticulous process of printmaking, and the background and the significance of the prints.
The show was curated by art critic Patrick Flores, and there are over 300 works in various mediums, some of them experimental.
AP president Benjie Cabrera showcased an etching with “sociopolitical content” and one could see some Katipunero in the background. Raul Isidro recalled that he lost almost all of the copies of his print “Kites” after martial law, after which he just decided to go around the country promoting the art form.
One of Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado’s works was inspired by the iconic song “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel. As for his dry point “Dutch Interior,” he created this by “going into a trance, almost like meditation, and channeling the spirits of all these masters (one of them Rembrandt). I channeled their creative vibrations.”
That was a fascinating revelation.
Rodolfo Samonte showed abstract serigraphs and it was Aviado who disclosed that Rufino Tamayo, the renowed Mexican artist, once came here and was most impressed by Samonte’s works. And in another “performance,” Aviado stepped on a box filled with sand. “That’s how avante-garde Filipinos are with regard to printmaking,” he declared.
It was actually a replica of Raymundo Albano’s 1974 “Step on the Sand and Make Footprints,” inspired by the landing on the moon. It won acclaim in a Tokyo international competition, and because of the footsteps it was considered a print!
Mars Bugaon, who showed his etchings and aquatints, said “print-makers are very involved in the process, from the image to the end, and so we have to be patient.” Henrielle Pagkalingawan showed lyrical monoprints inspired by morning (umaga), sunset (dapit-hapon) and night (gabi), as viewed from the AP studio-workshop in the CCP Complex.
Ambie Abaño, who works in woodcut, said “painters work alone in a studio but in printmaking you work with other printmakers in a studio, you are engaged with other artists, so it’s a beautiful experience.”
CCP vice president Chris B. Millado said the PAP, now AP “has nurtured several National Artists (some of their works are included in the show), has produced many printmakers and is also nurturing the next generation of printmakers.”
Curator Flores noted that “Tirada honors the achievements of printmakers of various persuasions and charts a course for the future of the art.” –CONTRIBUTED