Art, Music, and Soul: In Conversation with Abstract Expressionist Edwin Wilwayco
"Jazz Interlude #6", Edwin Wilwayco, 2021, 36 x 48 inches, acrylic on canvas
"Nocture Interlude #19", Edwin Wilwayco, 2021, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas
"Jazz Interlude #16", Edwin Wilwayco, 2021, 36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas
Esteemed institution in the Philippine visual arts scene, Galerie Joaquin has been in relentless pursuit to promote modern and contemporary artists since 2002. Not only did it launch the careers of renowned painters like Dominic Rubio, it also mounted major exhibitions of Filipino masters like Arturo Luz, Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, Juvenal Sanso, and Abdulmari Imao Sr, among many others. From its home in San Juan, Metro Manila, Galerie Joaquin has since expanded to several branches located at UP Town Center in Quezon City, The Podium in Ortigas Center, and at the Upper Ground Floor of One Bonifacio High Street Mall in BGC, Taguig, which just opened last November 21.
Being the home of some notable Filipino artists from the modern period, Galerie Joaquin mounts the latest works of reputable abstract expressionist Edwin Wilwayco. Entitled "Jazz/Nocturne Interludes", the exhibition features works that are uniquely different from Wilwayco's signature bold and vibrant hues but still true to his artistic identity of evocative musical pieces.
Wilwayco has been active in the local arts scene since the '70s. His first works include "The Flag Series" and "The Jeepney Fantasia Series" which catapulted him on the international stage as one of the leading innovators in Philippine art. Having studied later in the United Kingdom, the artist also gained international recognition by mounting exhibitions in Europe, USA, and Singapore.
The famed artist has been known for his dynamic brush strokes and juxtaposition of textures. This is because he listens to classical music while painting and it is one of his primary inspirations for his masterpieces. He even mounted an exhibition of works in homage to the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.
For the pieces for the "Jazz/Nocturne Interludes," Wilwayco pays tribute to a different muse, that is jazz, particularly Dave Bruebeck Quartet's "Take Five". The artist told Tatler that when he went to New York last July, he was listening to jazz music most of the time; but it was because of listening to the said song that he was inspired to produce new pieces that significantly deviate from his usual colour palette and instead showcase black, white, and muted earth tones.
"By concentrating with jazz, I just thought that it was appropriate for me to limit my colour palette to black and white or a little bit of ochre or sienna," Wilwayco said. He shared further that with the help of her daughter, he arranged a new playlist that includes other well-known jazz artists like McCoy Tyner, Andre Pavin, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis, Nathan East, Pat Metheney, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, and Chick Cores. For five months, he has worked for this particular series.
Wilwayco explained his creative process, and being a very spiritual person, he always begins with a prayer before starting on his canvas. "Prayer is what sustains me and enables me to create," he said. "For me the importance of prayer is, I do not have to wait for an inspiration or for a muse to speak for me." This is followed by listening to the music, taking cues from the rhythm of the song for his brushstrokes. "The beat of the music also helps my hand. Sometimes I am on a sweeping stroke but when the music shifts to a staccato, I try to follow," he shared. "I am not afraid if it disrupts [my plan with] the painting."
Wilwayco's passion for music started when he was young; as a child, the artist was exposed to the songs of the legendary British rock band The Beatles. He shared that his audiophile father influenced him to have similar passion in music. Up until now, the sound of the cranking of the gramophone and Harry Belafonte's 1956 song "Banana Boat Song" are stuck in his head. Through the years, he has accumulated quite an eclectic collection of vinyls and CDs of musicians and artists from varying genres such as pop, rock, jazz, Broadway, classical even reggae and trance, disco, and heavy metal music.
However, the artist clarified that when he paints, he listens to instrumental music because songs with vocals distract him when making art.
Wilwayco said that with songs having limited running time as compared to what is required when he is painting a particular work, he treats the experience as more of a collaboration with fellow artists behind each song and refers to the significant properties of musical sound and paint.
"I always see the connection when I hear the melodies and it run through my hands, soul, eyes . . . I imagine many things," he said, trying to verbalise his somewhat mystical experience whenever he creates masterpieces one after the other. "I thank to God that I look at music as an endless handle to every creation I have done and will do in the future."
Despite having experienced financial struggles during his early years as a budding artist: like being able to sell just one painting out of his plethora of avant-garde works, resulting him to loan from a bank a significant amount of money just to produce catalogs for his next exhibition, not to mention stopping from painting for about three years due to having felt discouraged; Wilwayco continued to pursue his passion (thanks to his professor, the late art critic Rod Paras-Perez) and see the significant roles of music and art in his life. That pivotal moment in his life keeps him humbly grounded and motivates him to keep going and trusting in himself and the people who believe in him.
Galerie Joaquin's managing director and founder Jack Teotico, who is also one of the country's prolific art collectors and critic, explained that Wilwayco's abstract is "very rhythmic, which is evident in the cascading patterns you would find being executed with substance." According to Teotico, what he likes about Wilwayco's works is that the inspiration is evident in his painting albeit abstract.
Paintings, especially the abstract ones, are very subjective as reiterated by Teotico. For one, the artist himself shared in the exhibition notes that he sees the pieces as "liquid sensations that move the mind into a place of relaxed awareness, in waves of feeling without an exact destination, and endpoint beyond words". Teotico meanwhile sees the iconic skyscrapers of New York in the paintings.
Wilwayco's pieces for the "Jazz/Nocturne Interludes" are truly one-of-its-kind when compared to his previous works, even to the "Magnificat Opus 2" exhibition that he just opened at the Leon Gallery last September. One would see here, "a symphony of textures and tones, variations of movement, flow and contrast . . . a myriad of deliberate or subdued, laborious strokes, that for all we know could have been transposed from the sound of a piano, a saxophone or a trombone . . ." as stated in the exhibition notes. Compelling as always, Wilwayco's works captivates the viewers' attention and emotions to a state of sublimity.
Teotico said that these works are best experienced when seen physically. Being aware of the current state of the Philippine art scene amidst the ongoing pandemic, he expressed his happiness that there has been a continued appreciation towards art from enthusiasts through social media and other virtual means. However, with Galerie Joaquin's opening in BGC and soon in Rockwell, Makati as well, Teotico wishes that more artephiles would come and appreciate art in person again.
"I look forward to the day that more people would come and visit galleries and museums to see art in person, of course, with safety precautions taken," Teotico added. "There's nothing greater than breathing in the artworks and being captivated by it while admiring it with their own eyes."
"I am lucky to say that I am blessed during the pandemic because I am holed up in my studio for the longest time," said Wilwayco as the experience of the past year propelled him to focus on making art, listening to good music, and spending more time with his family. Teotico reiterated this by adding that indeed, many artists today have been more creative with their works as seen in the previous art fairs and exhibitions that were held online and onsite.
Teotico said that seeing Wilwayco's works brings the viewer on a journey. "One of the most important characteristics for me of a great artist is that his works will hit you emotionally and make an impact," Teotico said and he attested this to the works of Wilwayco in every exhibit that he has mounted. "Edwin's works will bring you to a place of music, tranquillity, like you're in a jazz bar and enjoying the beautiful melodies and harmonies," he explained.
"Edwin Wilwayco: Jazz/Nocturne Interlude" is the very first exhibit on view at the newest Galerie Joaquin at One Bonifacio High Street Mall. A private artist reception will be happening on December 1, 2021, at 5pm. For more information, contact +632917 534 3942 or email email@example.com.
- ImagesGalerie Joaquin