Instituto Cervantes director’s not-so-farewell exhibit

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Instituto Cervantes director’s not-so-farewell exhibit
Instituto Cervantes director’s not-so-farewell exhibit

On his second term as director of the Instituto Cervantes in Manila, Javier Galvan solidified the Philippines’ position as one of the top five countries with the largest Spanish language course enrollment in the school’s global network. A cultural steward, he leveraged the 2021 Quincentennial of Christianity in the Philippines by organizing online talks with international historical experts and the National Historical Commission. As an architect specializing in conservation, Galvan also published his doctoral dissertation, “Heritage Churches of the Cagayan River Basin.”

An artist in his own right, Dr. Galvan’s second solo exhibit at Leon Gallery International, titled “Not So Abstract,” opens May 2. This serves as one of his many artistic farewells before he transfers to Sweden this September.

Fifteen works draw their titles from literature, music, cinema and landscapes. Both style and themes are partially inspired by the late Spanish painter Betsy Westendorp, with whom Galvan had collaborative sessions. Further inspiration comes from Mark Rothko.

For example, while dabbing yellow onto veils of white clouds against a navy blue sky, a blast of Coldplay’s “Yellow” on the radio sparked the title for that very painting. Titled “Four Seasons,” Galvan’s series of four large paintings are partially influenced by Westendorp’s misty abstractions and distilled colors, though the artist maintains they hold no connection to Vivaldi’s renowned concertos of the same name. The final installment, “Four Seasons IV,” pays tribute to Piet Mondrian’s use of lines and primary colors in his compositions.

Instituto Cervantes director’s not-so-farewell exhibit
Dr. Javier Galvan

Past love

A boating trip to Batangas with friends turned turbulent when a storm struck. This experience echoes in “Abstraccion de una puesta de sol en Batangas,” wherein a blaze of orange and yellow slices through layers of dense, smoke-like clouds and tossing waters.

Galvan ventures beyond the literal, drawing inspiration from his time in Morocco in “Mehtoub I” and “Mehtoub II” (mehtoub meaning “destiny” in Arabic)

Echoes of a past romance linger in this collection. Like a recurring theme in his past photography exhibit, his Spanish muse, “Ana,” reappears. Galvan’s recent visit to Westendorp’s studio, facilitated by the late painter’s family, rekindled a spark. Working on a stained canvas, he covered the spots with layers of bold red, a symbolic wellspring of life. The brush strokes melded into an abstraction: a womb. To contrast this raw emotion, Galvan unearthed a half-naked torso from his archive, its sensuality became a counterpoint to the primal energy of the red sphere. “Et Dieu Créa La Femme” (And God Created Woman), a title echoing a 1956 French film, symbolized an artistic rebirth.

While finishing his term in the Philippines, Galvan is set to open the Instituto Cervantes in Bangkok, collaborating with the University of Chulalongkorn. Negotiations are also ongoing to establish a branch in Ho Chi Minh City.

Galvan’s literary pursuits continue alongside his cultural diplomatic work. His research on Manila’s urban history, “Urban Revolution of Manila,” is in progress with Vibal Publishing. He also has plans for another book based on his trips to churches in Batanes, Bataan, Manila, Laguna, and Bicol.

“My connection with the Philippines began in 1993,” Galvan says, “and it will endure even after my temporary return to Europe.”—CONTRIBUTED 

“Not So Abstract” will run from May 2 to May 16 at Leon Gallery International, Corinthian Plaza, Paseo de Roxas, Makati City.

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