Third Time’s the Harm
Being a Kankanaey based in ethereal Buguias in Benguet, award winning artist Julmard Vicente wakes up to cool clime, foggy mist, and smell of pines to the sight of lush vegetation and wild flowers all around him. In more than a decade of art practice, Vicente has always sought art as a refuge as it has been an effective way in coping up with his insecurities, anxieties, and vicissitudes of life. This has made his creative a conduct becoming as it remains his solitary vocation to this day.
When Vicente started conceptualizing for this exhibition same time last year, as if by circumstance, Taal Volcano erupted and caused chaos all throughout the country. For ten days, the fortuitous event killed 39 people and affected most people living as far as Ilocos Region to as far-flung as Central Visayas--displacing folks from nearby towns in Batangas near Taal Lake. Everyone was at a standstill leaving Vicente in stalemate and in extreme anxiety--doubly checking on his inherent artistic realities.
By March due to the dire circumstances beyond our control, the ongoing coronavirus became full blown pandemic world-wide. It placed the entire country on various stages of community quarantines by the national government—even instructing everyone to wear an obligatory mask when going out and in dealing with one another.
There were times when Vicente would have sleepless nights, put on his mask on his face, and walk up to his studio only to perch in front of his stretched white canvases. He would blankly stare on them for hours and just be with his paint tubes and brushes. Amidst temporary work stoppage and optional work from home scheme Vicente went on with his intensive creative foray. This is what the exhibition Ikatlong Pahid unravels at the Galerie Anna.
As people got infected, some the virus even caught on them, and artists who are the most sensitive of beings were not spared. Not only the burgeoning art scene but the way art-making adjusted with the new normal brought about by the ongoing pandemic. As months went by, eliciting a new found solitude, in Life in Quarantine Vicente reprises his acquired survival instincts. Even waxing sentimentality, he unravels his learnings as we all struggle to survive and opted to be safe in these trying desperate times.
Put Your Masks On is more of a marching order than requested instruction. As the lockdown months wore off, Vicente would learn about a friend or a relative who got infected by the coronavirus. A forceful piece—a visual shout out--this painting provides the viewer the necessary reminder of the criticality of the matter at the height of saturation point. It has an in-your-face aesthetic as Vicente unloads suffocating frustrations of his breathless burden by eschewing on people fixated on materialist concerns.
In Lockdown, one is led to a bare essence when things are scaled down in starkly simple terms and needs. We are what we can leave without. Vicente presents his image to its barest minimum—it’s just his subject and the cathartic concern as represented by the wrapped around plastic.
Vicente first painted the plastic enveloped around the body in a girl symbolizing of student prostitution to pay for her school’s matriculation. This representation of poverty of the spirit and slavery of the flesh won in a national painting contest of a major bank. Time and again, Vicente will depict transparency as a visual metaphor in many other forms of oppressions.
For Vicente, however when there is art there is always life. He still sees the positive in a predicament as evident in Roll with the Changes where the abstraction of light finds its way to get us out of the perilous quagmire.
In All Things Grow in Love shows Vicente as a romantic as he sees the evolution of life sprouting from the pile of trash. Vicente is at his aesthetic prowess as he excruciatingly illustrates one’s convoluted emotions wrapped around in hyperrealist plastic.
As melancholy seeps in, Vicente leaves the viewer with If Tomorrow Never Comes. It paves the road to those who want to look at the bright side and see the dawn of the future. For Vicente, what is Pilipino is his personhood or his pagkatao. Unless you know who you are or what your faith has become of you. In Unwell, his realism exudes as much as contemplative in the way he painted these pieces.
Being a certified Igorot, Vicente testifies that as we do not have a word for art because our indigenous expressions are reflective and everything we do is interconnected and there is no distinction between art and life, the way folks do. He achieves this unity in Ikatlong Pahid.
More than a graphic device, Vicente incorporates contemporary visual style using old school aesthetics. His themes revolve around identity and memory, the response is visual. Vicente attempts to reclaim the personal in the political in our own terms and even eventual redemption. His thesis is that we still have retained much of our ancestor way of life, that we are capable of imagination. We just needed to acknowledge our own bodies before we turn to dust.
Currently, Vicente’s skillful brushwork in figurative art shapes, various categories of expressions like movement and gesture which evoke particular emotions and psyche. His Plastic Series, Water Series, and Butterfly Sereis lend such curiosities and indeed make powerful depictions of internal states. Physicaliity and tactility of these hyperrealistic works are made interesting in the play of the organic nature of flesh.
Vicente is an artist who does not impose immediate meanings to his work but allows his audiences to freely interpret and digest his work and make sense of it, which in turn completes his creative acts. Though his works embrace its own sense of suggestions, intently, he wants his oeuvres to induce conversations and shape multiple meanings among its viewers.
As a practice, Vicente does not formulate on a theme or subjects; his works are driven by intuition and pure aesthetic moments of things that interests him. As he is moved by certain mundane observations, he recreates and re-imagines his visions and repertory of ideas in a very uncomplicated manner but with diligent technicality and commitment.
Vicente hails from Buguias, Benguet and finished his art degree at the University of the East in Caloocan. He has been actively involved in the local art scene and has received recognitions for his works, among them the Grand Prize at the Seventh Art Petron in 2007 and winning the third place in the 2011 Metrobank Art and Design Excellence. He was recently featured in Juxtpoz Magazine and Hypbest.