“Remember that a painting – before it is a battle horse, a nude model, or some anecdote – is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order.” That classic declaration came from the French painter Maurice Denis, perhaps an unintentioned riposte to a viewer who ridiculed the great French master Matisse’s portrait of a woman with green hair. Matisse himself was capable of defending his work, retorting: “Madam, that is not a woman. That is a painting.” The issue between illusion and reality and, more importantly, the viewer’s expectation from a work of art, is highlighted in the recent works of Realist painter Orley Ypon, presented by Galerie Roberto in his solo show, “The Allure of Illusion.” The same issue of course brings us back to the Renaissance notion of perspective as the instrument to open a “fourth wall.” Defined as “the conceptual barrier between any fictional work and its viewers or readers.” Thus, the obsession to create an illusion of reality has led to painting appropriating or disguising itself as a photograph, which is, to most viewers, evidentiary proof of reality.
Orley Ypon, a master Realist, is only too aware that viewers always have high expectations when viewing artworks in a gallery.
(They might as well quote the famous Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev who commanded: Etonne-moi! Astonish me!) For the skill and
talent of Orley Ypon, astonishing his audience – as well as competition jury – is par for the course. Regard merely the string of achievements tucked under his belt: First Prize in the 2001 AAP National Competition;
2001 – and 2004! – Grand Prize winner in the Petron National Competition; Second Prize in the 2008 GSIS Painting (where Ypon first
showed his now iconic “taong putik” subject in a work titled Ahon); Grand Prize winner in the 2011 Amorsolo National Competition; Grand Prize winner in the Figurative Category of the 2012 Art Renewal Center International; Salon; Grand Prize winner in the 2009 International Artist magazine’s competition. And like icing on the cake: the 2011 Dangal ng Ani Award from the National Commission for Cultuyre4 and the Arts (NCCA). The allure of such awards have, fortunately, not gotten into the head of the artist. While regularly exhibiting in Manila, is based in Toledo City in Cebu, and there Ypon established the Aroma Art Atelier, which, through apprenticeship in his studio, assists young Cebuano artists in improving their craft. The name of the group comes from the plant called aroma, which flourishes in the surrounding region – almost symbolic of the Cebuano artists’ equally burgeoning talent for Realism. Already the Arona Artists have had several exhibitions in Metro Manila galleries, steadily gaining for themselves their own measure of recognition and, as befits the group’s name, the sweet smell of success.
Reflective of the Times
In “The Allure of Illusion,” Ypon brings back his “Ahon” series, as a response to the tremendous acclaim and popularity of the subject. Aside from the descriptive phrase ’taong putik,”“The Mud Men,” is another one, typical of the irrepressible Filipino audience habit to humorously christen things. But of course, these works are Ypon’s seriously considered reflection on the reality of Filipino existence. The
field of mud is a searing metaphor. A horde of our countrymen languishing and struggling to escape from this mucky quagmire of filth
is a hellish vision, indicated by the atmospheric blaze of fire. The title
“Ahon” – is a command for Filipinos to rise from our national vices: sloth, indifference, apathy, self-centeredness, a tepid patriotism, a reprehensible short memory that never learns from history, condemning us to repeat it. That Orley Ypon now resurrects the “Ahon” works is reflective of the times.