“Pagdakila sa Nakalipas na mga Mga Obra Maestra” at Galerie Roberto

By CID REYES

French painter Edouard Manet paid homage to a painting by the Renaissance artist Raphael. Picasso made numerous versions of the works of fellow countryman Diego Velasquez and the French Romantic painter Delacroix. Van Gogh’s famous “Starry Night” was inspired by the Japanese printmaker Hokusai’s “The Great Wave.” American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein reworked Picasso, Van Gogh, and Mondrian.

In the historical tradition of artists paying tribute to the Masters, Galerie Roberto presents “Pagdakila sa Nakalipas na mga Obra Maestra” (A Tribute to the Masters). The show was conceived by the Portrait Artists Society of the Philippines (PASPI), Cebu and Manila Chapter, headed by Maestro Romulo Galicano.

Indeed, the precedent for this show is PASPI’s “Homage to Miro” exhibited some years before the pandemic. Each member chose a particular Miro painting to which he will pay tribute, but with the unique instruction that the PASPI member will include his or her own self-portrait within the resulting painting. The rich harvest of works gathered was memorialized in a coffee-table book.

From that exhibition, the PASPI members learned significant lessons, each one discovering insights about the nature of paying tribute to a master’s work. Basic of course is that mere replication of another artist’s work is not by itself an act of homage. In fact, if the work is not yet in the public domain, the act of copying and signing one’s name to the new work – without giving credit to the original artist – is in fact an act of plagiarism.

A genuine homage work is actually an act of collaboration. It is thus imperative that the artist must recast the original work, contextualizing it within his own original concept. This is best illustrated by Picasso’s reworking of Velasquez’s ”Las Meninas” which clearly bears the style, technique, and look of a “Picasso.” There is no doubt that Picasso only used the Velasquez image as a point of origin. The same can be said of the homage works of Van Gogh and Roy Lichtenstein.

…and, for that matter, of the works of Galicano and Cadid in this current show. To illustrate: Galicano transposed Monet’s and Coignard’s French scenery into a Filipino farm setting. The new works  have the look of a “Galicano,” complete with his now trademark vertical zip-lines. On the other hand, Cadid alluded to 17th century Dutch still lifes, notably those with a dead fowl hanging overhead. However, the spill of local produce on a kitchen table-  from the unripe green papaya, the malunggay leaves, the sayote, bawang and luya and the scattered old Philippine dyaryos – all attest to the artist’s original recasting of a Dutch still life, effectively making it a “Cadid.”

More of such freshly unexpected “Homage” works are in store for the viewer in the “Pagdakila” show at Galerie Roberto.