This third in my series of retrospective exhibits marking 50 years in the Philippine art scene is a very personal one. The first in May 2017 at Archivo 1984 Gallery was subtitled WORK ON PAPER, and showed fine prints, charcoal pencil sketches, pen-and-ink and pastel drawings, photographs and watercolors, from 1967 to the present. The second in November at Avellana Art Gallery was called SPECIMENS: The Early Abstractions. Featuring paintings in acrylic on canvas and lacquer and aluminum on wood painted in the 1970’s to 1980’s, I referred to it as “show-and-tell for adults. The rationale was to exhibit what damage can happen to works that, unluckily, do not have a 24/7 temperature-controlled large enclosed space to store them in. Then my agent Albert Avellana invited the artist and expert conservator June Poticar Dalisay to the exhibit and she told me the paintings could be saved. I was ecstatic. The only fly in the ointment is that June wants me to do the job myself, inch by painful inch, because she says the person who can do it best is the one who painted the original. This will take years, of course, but it is doable. Thank you, Beng!
Although I am known as a visual artist, my background is actually theater. This should not be surprising because my father, National Artist for Film and Theater Lamberto V. Avellana, and my mother, National Artist for Theater Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana, founded in 1939, along with some equally young and equally stagestruck friends, the Barangay Theatre Guild. There was no National Theater at the time and they were determined to establish it. By the time I was 7, I was appearing on radio, then stage and television. My mother enrolled me in piano and ballet. At home, we were surrounded by books on the performing arts, fiction, non-fiction, reference books, and a lot of music, from Schumann to Shearing. There were always rehearsals and meetings with cast and crew, actors, musicians, the whole lot. It was like a home study course in Humanities 101, only more fun. My mother always used to say, “Once the magic of the theater touches you, you are enchanted forever.” She was absolutely right, of course, since I am still under its spell.
I like to think that my upbringing, experiences onstage and off, what I have done, the people I have known, everything I have read, seen, studied, watched or listened to have taught me, inspired me, have made me think what I think, paint what I paint, sing what I sing, have made me who I am. I separated the chaff from the grain, of course, and getting to where I am now has not been easy on body, soul, and spirit. But as I said during the first of these retrospectives, the journey has been at once wondrous, nerve-wracking, fulfilling, exhausting, amazing, gut-wrenching… and I would absolutely do it all over again!
I M IVI
Manila, January 2018