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… the sea And heaven rolled as one and from the two Came fresh transfigurings of freshest blue.

- Wallace Stevens -

From these evocative lines of Wallace Stevens, a painting is born! Grateful of the inspiration, Filipino painter Kenneth John Montegrande calls his art piece Transfigurings of Freshest Blue. And on the 15th of July 2019, this inspired work—together with another Montegrande piece, Perla del Mar de Oriente—found its new home at the Presidential Museum and Library (PML) in Malacañan Palace.

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Above Transfigurings of Freshest Blue (after Wallace Stevens). 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 48 x 60 in. The Presidential Museum and Library, Malacañan Palace.
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Above Perla del Mar de Oriente. 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 48 x 60 in. The Presidential Museum and Library, Malacañan Palace.

This significant “moving in” of art to a national palace and to the imagination of a potentially big audience, Filipino or otherwise, was celebrated by a formal turnover ceremony held at The Old Main Office, Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace Compound. The rite was officiated by Director Edgar Ryan S. Faustino (Head of PML), and witnessed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea (who stood on behalf of the President of the Republic of the Philippines).

Aside from being the youngest artist whose paintings form part of the Malacañan Palace art collection, Montegrande is one of the few youngblood Filipino painters with an international reputation. He’s the first Filipino and also the first Southeast artist whose work are housed in the prestigious collection of Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese tycoon and mega art collector who founded and currently directs the Contemporary Arts Foundation.

After his recent solo exhibition at Malacañan—A Glimpse of Montegrande (Selections from the David Jonathan Bayot Family Collection)—which was open for all Palace visitors to view (from July 15 to August 16, 2019), Montegrande is back to present his 9th solo exhibition. The upcoming show entitled Obsession will take place at the highly significant occasion of “the national art fair of the Philippines” which is officially known as ManilArt—a flagship art event project of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through its National Committee on Art Galleries (NCAG). The national event will open on October 9, 2019, 6:00 PM at the SMX Convention Center Aura (until October 13, 2019).

Read More: Arts and Cultural Events That You Must Not Miss This October

As an artist, Montegrande would say that his paintings are compelled by an inner (if not innate) obsession to create, express, and grow something on canvas or, in the words of Joan Miró— to “give birth to a world” and “reveal … something alive.” That inexplicable obsession to articulate the “indefinable” and to confer figure(s) on the intractable is surely a defining reason why Montegrande would often identify himself as an “abstract expressionist” (though he’s well aware of the perils of labels).

Like his fellow abstract expressionists—Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and even Per Kirkeby—Montegrande often translates his obsession into large-scale works, thinking that via such artistic magnitude, he could maximize the physical impact of his paintings on his viewers and invite the latter to think and feel more deeply about one’s Self in relation to all that comes with life and living.

In the upcoming exhibition at ManilArt, aficionados and fans of Montegrande’s art will find this batch of large-scale art translation no less than awe-inspiring. This group includes pieces which range from 36 by 36 inches to 60 by 48 inches.

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Above Strong Like A Rock. 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 48 x 48 in.

It’s indisputable that what makes Montegrande distinctive as an artist is his versatility in generic translations. While he’s fluent in the painterly language of abstraction—where through the syllables and phrases of colours and lines, he could conjure a dazzling array of figurations and speak a babel of discourses—he’s equally eloquent in the impressionist tongue(s)!

In this exhibition, viewers will be delighted to witness as well a stunning display of an interesting set of figurative paintings that are strongly landscape in feeling and impressionistic / abstract impressionistic in aesthetic orientation.

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Above Draw Me to Your Wonder (Series 2). 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 60 x 48 in.

The brilliance of Montegrande’s protean artistic disposition is equally evident in his handling of smaller-scale paintings. He’s able conjure quite an impressive set of representations with the same trembling sensitivity and ardent emotion that are characteristic of his large pieces.

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Above Untitled. 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 18 in.
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Above Moving Through Another Day. 2019. Acrylic on canvas. 12 x 18 in.

Beholders of Montegrande’s art—whether articulated in the language of abstraction or that of “impression”—all of them are sure to witness how the artist, with his rich, spontaneous and gestural brushstrokes, produce swathes, swirls, and sketches of somber as well as exuberant colours, layered over the canvas in an expressive manner. They could see in both genres of the artist’s work, how every slash of brush or palette knife, how the dripping and the sharp ridge of impasto carries with it a compulsion and obsession to create figures (in the broad sense of the term) in defiance of oppressive and meaningless void. As a result, one will find the built-up paint surface, oftentimes caked with the artist’s painterly “aggression” against the empty psychic space represented by the canvas, emerging to be an artistic expression with a personality that communicates.

Impressionism, abstract impressionism, expressionism, abstract expressionism; large or small-scale productions—the appearances of Montegrande’s paintings may differ. But all of them share the same invigorative ethos that is beautifully articulated by the poet-painter Henri Michaux: “Instead of one vision which excludes others, I would have liked to draw the moments, that side by side, go to make up a life … [t]o expose the inner phrase for people to see … I wanted to draw the consciousness of existence and the flow of time. As you would take your pulse.”


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On this significant occasion of ManilArt 2019, viewers of Montegrande’s art will find it heartening to feel for themselves in the nineteen artworks presented by the artist, the pulse of a vital obsession—to see the moments of life, to be drawn to them, and to draw them in turn, with much care, in the canvas of one’s being!

Feel the pulse of this vital Obsession with the art of Kenneth John Montegrande in ManilArt 2019, at Artes Ortes!*


*Artes Orientes is located at booth D8, SMX Convention Center (Aura).

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