Monday, March 23, 2009

THE CHALLENGE ] The blank canvas

Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz is never terrified of the blank canvas. After more than three decades of being a visual artist, dabbling on graphic design, editorial cartooning and painting, the guy remains a full-time creative mind. It’s all about looking at the everyday things in a non-everyday way. He shows us, for example, during his lecture last Saturday at the Slab Gallery in Pasong Tamo Extension, a couple of images from a Western graphic artist: a tall concrete office building that looks like a multi-layered peanut butter sandwich, and then a church entrance that has rendered itself to be an elaborately designed sundae cone. “Isn’t this a way to look at these everyday things when you’re caught in the traffic and you’re just hungry and dying from the heat?”

Several months back, he found himself in such a situation, not so much as hungry, merely piqued, by an image he saw from the Quezon Avenue station of the MRT, of a golf course above a driving range. He saw a lady whose job is putting a golf ball on the spot for golfers to hit. From there was born the centrepiece painting in his most recent exhibit billed “Bukod Tanging Pag-ibig,” an homage to Fernando Amorsolo. The piece, called “Mga Dalagang Bukid,” juxtaposes the classic terno-wearing Amorsolo women in a golf course carrying not baskets of fruits but a pail of white balls. There are always things that strike us, he says, and we keep them in our memory banks, “pulling things from storage” in the opportune time.

He is also not afraid of deadlines. “The misery of the pressure cooker can be a good thing,” says this veteran of putting out several illustrations a day when he used to work as a cartoonist for the newspapers. He says the only way to deal with it is to simply do the job, one’s personal style will almost always show no matter how short the time in which the work was accomplished. What terrifies him is “how to run the machine,” to be able to make exhaustive use of the tools technology has made available for him now, “a machine that is complete” as opposed to the “incomplete” ones in his younger years. Still, he keeps at it, and is avoiding the temptation of “retirement depression.” He reminds his friends who have succumbed to it that it is a silly state, especially when, as he puts it, “You’re so much younger than the planet and it hasn’t retired yet.”

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