Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Images Arte Bettina (Celeste Lecaroz)
Hello Celeste! Care to share what you’ve sketched or painted lately?
I just finished work on my latest show, “Seasons of Grace.” Hope you can all come and visit!
We last had your provocative Amorsolo derivatives grace our e-pages, and now you have on show a series dedicated to birds, inspired by a newfound hobby gained from the pandemic lockdowns: bird-watching. What made birds the perfect conduit to communicate the message you wanted to convey for your new show? How did you decide which bird species to depict?
Nature and the birds in my backyard are what captured my heart during the pandemic lockdowns. I couldn’t paint as much and there were no activities held by art groups during the period. At the same time, the city was so much quieter than it used to be. I was, safe to say, awakened to the sound of the surroundings: it was mostly the bird calls and songs that reached my ears from our new home in Loyola Heights, which had visibly more trees where the birds often perched right outside our bedroom balcony.
I became a bird watcher and then a bird photographer in those months and was able to observe their migratory behavior along with each species’ unique behavior vis-a-vis other birds. The birds’ behaviors are attuned to the seasons of the earth, and that’s my take for this new show: if we are to deeply understand our role on this planet, we must not forget to turn to the seasons to be reminded of the equilibrium we are called to seek as custodians of the earth. Birds are my chosen conduit because no matter what, they embrace the seasons: they fly north when it’s spring there, and they fly south when it’s time to flee the cold, with the certainty that they will be called back.
When I was a teenager, we learned a song in our church choir that goes:
Don’t worry about your life
What you are to eat or to drink
Don’t worry about your own body or how to clothe it
Life is worth more than the food you eat
You are worth more than your clothes
The birds of the air do not gather in barns and yet God feeds them
And you, aren’t you worth more than the birds in the air?
While you have mastered the art of realism (with a dash of spontaneity) on canvas, what would you say are the challenges in rendering these avian creatures in paint? What quality of birds did you relish depicting in paint? What quality was the hardest to illustrate?
Challenges? Running out of pigments. The war in Europe constricted the local supply, especially since my brand is imported from abroad.
For the quality I enjoy depicting, that would have to be the swift almost majestic movements of their wings! I don’t have wings so when I swim it is when I’m in the water that I mimic this grand gesture.
As for the quality hardest to illustrate…perhaps their talons because it’s the part of them I’m averse to looking at. Talons and claws remind me of sharp objects which I associate with violence or horror.
You have introduced a new element to your oeuvre: furniture. What convinced you to integrate your artwork into furniture pieces?
The need to explore three-dimensional spaces to express art, even though I still paint on canvas. Mounting them on wood frames is actually the first step to going full 3D for me.
It is interesting to see the juxtaposition of art and usable design such as furniture, together in that their concerns and crux for existence greatly differ. Was this juxtaposition intended?
Yes. I subscribe to philosopher and art critic Arthur Danto’s understanding in his “Transfiguration of the Commonplace”. Applying art this way (painting mounted on furniture) elevates a functional object into an art piece. Warhol turned soap boxes into art. Why not chairs?
One reading of your usage of birds for the show is to evoke this expression of wanting to be free or finally be uncaged after a period of captivity, which was our situation for nearly two years during the lockdowns. But no longer, as we see from the birds in flight in your latest collection of work. Like the avian creatures that fly with abandon in your work, where do you see yourself headed as an artist in this new chapter the world is emerging from? What mediums, concepts, and stories do you feel a need to explore and experiment with?
My passion for birds in the wild stems from how I find their presence precious; through them, we can gauge how responsibly we humans are living as custodians of the earth. From the skies, I am now discovering underwater forces. I began my diving classes several months ago and once I can address my equalization problems due to sinusitis then most likely I’ll be exploring that part of the earth, with an artist’s eye.
I am always open to whatever direction the cosmos would point me towards. •
Editor’s note: What follows is an edited press release from Arte Bettina
Visual artist Celeste Lecaroz’s latest show is inspired by bird watching
Celeste Lecaroz, the visual artist behind the spontaneous realism portrait of Kobe Bryant and the celebrated derivative Repetitio Fernando Amorsolo paintings, has a new show that runs from December 10-26, 2022, at Arte Bettina (Level 3 of Greenbelt 5, Makati City). Entitled “Seasons of Grace,” the exhibit showcases paintings and furniture with images inspired by bird watching—a hobby that Lecaroz started during the lockdowns in 2020.
Gazing at birds has given Celeste opportunities to reflect on the pandemic. The artist elaborates, “Just as the environment goes through seasons, people undergo the same experience. If times are tough at the moment, these will pass. We will transition to a new season…” She adds, “We’ve been so holed up in our dwellings, we’ve forgotten the lessons nature teaches us. Nature, including us, is built to move on.”
For more information about Celeste Lecaroz, follow @celeste_lecaroz on Instagram. For more information about “Seasons of Grace,” contact Arte Bettina at email@example.com or at 09171150504. Seasons of Grace is on show from 10-20 December 2022 at ArtistSpace Ayala Museum Annex, open daily from 11 AM – 8 PM. Admission is free.