Introduction and Interview Gabrielle de la Cruz
Images Metrobank Art & Design Excellence and Raymundo Ador III
Part of the advocacies of the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence program is to remind Filipino artists of their role in creatively recording and documenting Philippine history. Self-taught artist Raymundo Ador III took this role to heart. His painting entitled ‘Dalawang Libo’t Dalawangpu at Hanggang Kailan?’ garnered the 2022 MADE Grand Award under the Watermedia on Paper category, it being his personal expression of what a mundane afternoon looks like under COVID-19 quarantine in the Philippines.
What follows is Kanto’s exchange with the artist himself, where he bares the emotions that enabled his winning piece, his thoughts and process on using watercolor as a medium, and his personal and artistic aspirations moving forward.
Hello, Raymundo! Can you tell us why you decided to join MADE? What do you think is the importance of joining competitions such as this?
I’ve been wanting to join MADE ever since, I just never really got the chance until now. It has long been a dream of mine to experience the journey of becoming a participant in one of the most prestigious art competitions in the Philippines.
I believe that competitions like MADE serve as fuel to light the fire of passion in the hearts of artists, especially here in our country where there are plenty of amazing talents. These competitions bring out the best in our tradition and culture by celebrating the beauty of our art.
Can you tell us about your process as an artist? What are your first steps?
I usually start by developing a concept. Once that is in place, I look for a reference photo. If a reference photo is not available, I create one on my own. I conduct a photoshoot where I pay attention to all the details — the subject, the composition of each element, the light, and even the blend of colors.
I then study how I can relay the completed reference image into watercolor. I create studies or thumbnail sketches to determine the Pantone that I will make use of. It is only when I am satisfied with the studies that I begin to work on actual paper.
Congratulations again on bagging the MADE Grand Award under the Watermedia on Paper category! ‘Dalawáng Libó’t Dalawángpu at Hanggang Kailan?’ is such an emotional piece. How does this artwork speak to and of you as an individual?
‘Dalawáng Libó’t Dalawángpu at Hanggang Kailan??’ is my way of coping up with depression caused by the pandemic. It is a self-portrait that narrates the agony of waiting and asking how and when this pandemic will end, the fear and threat that the coronavirus carries, and how it badly affects the lives of everyone.
While the piece initially acknowledges and presents the grave sorrow brought by the pandemic, I want people to look closer and see how it serves as a reminder that wherever life exists, hope lives.
Let’s briefly dissect your artwork: Talk to us about the elements in place. Why did you choose these in particular, aside from wanting to highlight isolation and downtime during the pandemic?
I chose different symbols to emphasize the message of my piece. I treated a skull, which usually symbolizes death and darkness, as a representation of life and rebirth. The green coronaviruses characterize the situations brought by the pandemic: the different sicknesses and dangers that come with the virus, livelihoods, jobs, social life, and even loved ones lost, and how the entire world seemed to be at pause. The tallies on the wall are close to them to illustrate the countless nights and days of uncertainty, translating the agony of waiting.
The neatly organized paintbrushes and art materials at the back convey that I am ready to paint again and am past my idle days, signifying new beginnings and second chances. The paintbrushes exist to remind me of my capabilities as an artist and how art is my strength and weapon amidst suffering.
Lastly, the light passing through the small opening of the door means hope. I highlighted this symbol because it carries the message of the piece — that a single strand of hope can change everything and that faith can move mountains.
Your winning piece is particularly relevant given the current state of the world. Generally, what is it that you want your craft and work to contribute to ongoing conversations in Philippine art?
Whenever I visit The National Museum, I am saddened to see that there are only a few watercolor artworks. Probably not even 2% of the entire collection is in watercolor. I want to empower watercolor as an art medium.
Since a majority of my works are portraiture and figures, I also want to emphasize how important it is to use and master artistic basics such as human anatomy, proportion, proper use of light and shadow, and composition.
Art is limitless and there are multiple evolving ways of exploration, but I personally want to encourage artists to practice traditional art. I believe and have seen how learning a stable and depth foundation along with fundamentals in drawing allows new things and new discoveries to emerge.
What are your hopes for watercolor as an art medium here in the Philippines? Where do you think it’s currently headed?
I would say that watercolor is quite underrated as an art medium here in the Philippines. One of my advocacies as an artist is to introduce watercolor further, so I conduct workshops and demonstrations in line with this.
I fell in love with watercolor the moment I started using it. The challenging characteristic of this medium and how it plays differently every time it is used makes it powerful. It is its fragility and unpredictable results that make it enticing. I hope that we can make it more visible in the art industry. •
Gabrielle de la Cruz started writing about architecture and design in 2019. She previously wrote for BluPrint magazine and was trained under the leadership of then editor-in-chief Judith Torres and previous creative director Patrick Kasingsing. Read more of her work here and follow her on Instagram @gabbie.delacruz.