The Phoenix Spirit of Ross Capili rises from his “Veiled Earth”
By Cid Reyes
“I Rise in Flame, Cried the Phoenix” is the title of a one-act play by the celebrated American playwright Tennessee Williams. It is an imaginary depiction of the last moments of the British novelist D. H. Lawrence, who was himself a Sunday painter. Cried the literary phoenix: “I had to have color. I painted the way that I wrote.”
The stunning header sweeps like wildfire through the mind upon awareness of Ross Capili’s current solo exhibition at Galerie Anna, titled “Veiled Earth.” The metaphor is not gratuitous cliché for it nails the very spiritual anguish and psychic depression of the spirit that assaulted the artist. Capili adverts to the many miseries of the previous year: the terrifying Covid-19 pandemic, nature’s wrath manifested by the Taal Volcano explosion, the succession of typhoons, the year-long quarantine and lockdown, the social isolation, and, more painfully, the demise of friends and loved ones.
In particular, Capili was devastated by the fire that gutted the family’s ancestral house in Tondo, Manila at a time of what was supposed to be a season of celebration: December 23,2020.
In this lamentable fire, Capili lost several relatives but, by the mercy of God, the lives of his beloved 86-year old mother and his brother’s family were spared.
From that tragedy, Ross Capili’s spirit rose from the ashes of his firm resolve and strength of will. As in everything in his life, Art has always been the saving grace, the redemption, the regeneration of his spiritual life. Capili’ artistic resurgence is the show “Veiled Earth”, distinguished by the deeply symbolic metallic sphere that accentuates his latest abstractions.
The circular shape is representative of the sun, the moon, the planet earth which is in dire need of deliverance from the evil virus that continues to threaten the survival of all humanity. Capili’s works may be suffused with the emotional suffering of the artist but they are tinctured by a positive outlook, an optimistic character, a hopeful response coming to the fore. To be sure, the gestural marks that are the foundational background of these works seem inarguably flame-like, so visibly blazing in such as works as Magenta Afternoon, Tranquil Horizon, and Red Moon Rising.
As an artist, Ross Capili’s sensibility has always veered towards gestural abstraction, accustomed as he is to the movement of his hand wielding the brush. But concurrent with this act of automatism, where he often hits his stride, one senses in the consequent upheaval of pigment on the canvas surface Capili’s disciplined sense of design and composition, where he asserts an order and harmony in direct confrontation with the immediacy and the potential disorder of his energetic brushstrokes.
By turns tantalizing and traumatic, the show includes and displays – like a cicatriz, a healed scar of a previous wound – a 3ft x 3 ft painting early painting by Capili, which was rescued from the fire. Burned to a blackened crisp, the painting, as it were, rose in flame to assert its triumphant existence. So, too, in full display is Ross Capili’s unvanquished phoenix spirit.
Rosscapili in his signed works, is a 62-years old Filipino artist with paintings, sculptures, photography and digital art to his name. His works are collected and commissioned widely here and abroad.
He held his first group exhibit in 1976 at the Silangan Art Gallery and his first solo exhibit in 1981 at the City Gallery. Since then, he has mounted over 30 solo art exhibitions in Manila as well as in Paris and the United States and participated in more than 40 group exhibitions in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Indonesia and Korea.
His most recent exhibitions were #PaletteDiaries held at Secret Fresh Gallery and a year-ender at Conrad Manila’s Gallery C last October 2019. In July 2020, Galerie Anna presented Rosscapili’s latest solo exhibition “The World Needs More Poetry, Music and Pretty Pictures”.
In 1974, as a 3rd year high school student, he landed Second Place in his first art competition at the Rotary Club of Manila, besting even college students and professors. Since then, he has garnered more than 59 awards and distinctions including First Prize in the 1975 Philippine Motors Association Poster Competition, First Prize in the 1976 BSP National Council Drawing Contest, First Prize in 1978 TUP Annual Art Competition, Second Prize in 1979 UST Annual On-the-Spot Inter University Art Competition, Juror’s Choice in the 1994 Philip Morris Asian Art Awards, the Pamana ng Lahi Award in San Francisco, USA (2001), the 2008 PATA Gold Award for Travel Photo Journalism in Hyderabad, India, and the 2009 Ani ng Dangal NCCA Office of the President Award.
Rosscapili’s works have been featured in various coffee table books, including Filipino Artists In Their Studios, 21st Century Filipino Artists, Art Collector’s Guidebook, Art Philippines and the recently launched Solaire: The Art + Design Collection. A Rosscapili Coffee Table Book is in the horizon, targeted to be launched in October 2023.