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Native son’s touch: Pancho Piano’s ‘Hapros’

By Reuben Ramas Cañete
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:26:00 10/11/2009

Filed Under: Arts (general), Culture (general)

MANILA, Philippines ? To many insiders of the Philippine art world, the place-name of Bicol and the person of Pancho Piano are not only inseparable; they are integrally intertwined.

A native of Lagonoy, Camarines Sur, Pancho has established his artistic career and body of work primarily by mining the deep cultural vein of his Bicolano heritage.

Pancho has found a balance that places his figurative illustration alongside abstraction which emphasizes feeling and content rather than pure form, taking care to always follow the formalist motto of ?significant form? in composing and arranging his motifs, thus his figural paintings.

Dipped in rich coloristic sauce of cool-warm oppositions, they follow explicit conventions of composition honed by the classicist academy.

His embrace of abstraction is similarly conditioned in its stability to be transformed by the local experience of the artist. Thus, even though the themes and concepts of his abstracts can be linked with those of western painters, Pancho always deals with the subject of feeling allied with cultural context, which makes his abstracts uniquely Bicolano.

?Hapros,? his exhibit at Art Asia Gallery (until October 16), explores the richness and vitality of his abstract forms.

The Bicolano term referring to ?touch? or ?gesture,? ?Hapros? unites three of Pancho?s thematic series as a means of celebrating the common cultural bond formed by all Bicolanos: the reverence of the mother figure, symbolized by our Lady of Peñafrancia, whose feast day coincides with the exhibition, and to whom Pancho dedicates it.

?Hapros? is also Pancho?s way of presenting his considerable output as a Bicol-patronized modern artist (a considerable collection of his works can be seen at Avenue Plaza Hotel in Naga City) to his Manila audiences.

The ?Peñafrancia? series utilizes the feeling of viewers of the fluvial parade of Peñafrancia on Naga River, where rowers on long bancas surround the leading barge carrying the Virgin like a fleet of warriors, while celebrants carry long vertical bamboo poles festooned with decorations.

The primacy of the Virgin as ?the giver of light? also dictates the centerline as the source of illumination, throwing beams of light up and to the side to quell the darker colors gathering to the side.

The ?Haliya? series conceptually continues this motif, from Pancho?s adaptation of the Bicolano tale of the Moon Goddess who is also the source of light and fertility glowing brightly in the lower center of the warmly lit composition.

Finally, there is the ?Mayon? series, which updates the tragic story of Magayon, whose love for Ulap is immortalized in the tempestuous, ever-moody volcano wrapped in late-afternoon clouds; and to which Pancho instinctively responds with a vigorous contrast between gestural stroke and flung dots, atmospheric ambivalence and dramatic coloration.

?Hapros? unites general themes of empowered womanhood, local tradition and fertility, which constantly reinvigorate Bicolano culture and society to persevere and triumph over adversity, without losing their humanity and creativity.

?Hapros? also catalogues the successful adaptation of abstraction to local cultural motifs and iconography by a metropolitan-trained artist.

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