Building bridges with paintbrushes

Published October 23, 2019, 4:23 PM

by Diwa C. Guinigundo



Diwa C. Guinigundo

Diwa C. Guinigundo

Before my retirement from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in July 2019, I sat at the BSP Cultural Properties Acquisition Advisory Committee and chaired the BSP Artworks and Painting for 15 years.

These were designations I so enjoyed. They were uplifting respite from the demands of monetary policy.

These Committees, along with the BSP Corporate Affairs Office, oversaw the publication of coffee table books on the BSP gold collection that predates Magellan; and the writing of books and catalogues on its painting and ancient pottery collections.

BSP’s artworks, along with its rich numismatic collection should definitely make us proud as a people. When people are conscious of their colorful and heroic past, one secures half of the recipe for national progress.

A seminal idea 
It was during my chairmanship of these Committees that I proposed an exchange of Chinese and Filipino artists to establish stronger ties between our countries to Bank of China Philippines’ Deng Jun.

Why China?
China supports its large collection of talents whether in sports, sciences or in the arts. In the sidelines of the several fund raising exercises in Hong Kong in October 2018 and China in March 2019 with the National Government, we had the rare opportunity to meet a number of national artists of China. We were amazed to see how China supportsits world famous and even promising painters and sculptors. The team visited in between investors meetings artists’ villages and studios of great Chinese artists.

In particular, we visited the Hong Kong studio of Kuku Chai who is also known as Bukuk, a very important and multitalented painter and calligrapher who gifted me and National Treasurer Leah de Leon with huge signed hand fans and some of her bestselling art books.

We believe that art transcends national borders, as Manny Baldemor once remarked. A painter’s brush can easily build bridges rather than walls between China and the Philippines. This is something worth considering especially in the light of some issues building up between the two countries.

Our seminal idea came to pass when Bank of China and our very own Metropolitan Museum of Manila led by our good friend Tina Colayco succeeded in organizing the visit of five Chinese artists to Manila last September 22-26, 2019. No less than Governor Ben Diokno and Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez graced the opening at the Met.

Chinese hospitality
The Chinese excel in hospitality. In our own visits to China many, many times, we had the good fortune of being shown great spots in Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Kunming, Suzho, Guangdong and many other areas, before and after Deng.

China is a fountain of incredible spots including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terra Cotta soldiers, the pristine waters and panda of Chengdu.

China is a panorama of engineering marvels of miles and miles of concrete and skyscrapers, valleys and mountains of almost perfectly aligned trees and plants. Vast villages of farmers have been transformed into industrial zones and expensive condominiums one can only see in New York, Frankfurt, Milan and London. But China always ends up so many times bigger and so much brighter, with almost contrived proportions.

In the Manila leg, our Chinese artist friends were brought for a few days of joint artistic pursuits and fun in Palawan.

In harmony with nature
As we write this column, we are participating in the Chinese leg of what is now the Philippine-Chinese Art and Cultural Exchange Program or more appropriately “In Harmony with Nature” in Liling and Shenzhen.
This is the theme of the exchange. Art will be advanced by both Chinese and Filipino painters by looking at the same subject of nature even as their brushes and imagination would produce different results on their canvasses; and in Liling, on ceramic plates and bowls.

Who are doing the exhibits?
On the Chinese side, they have ZhixinCai, Bukuk Chai, Jie Ding, Ping Hao and She Liu. Three of them, Zhixin, Jie and Ping are all national first class artists of China who won various awards and whose fame extends beyond the Mainland. Bukuk’smasterpieces in painting, calligraphy and ceramic arts are auctioned by Christie’s. She is the President of the School of Fine Art of Nanjing Normal University and a prize winner in China and in the global arena.

The Philippines is proud to be represented by Manuel Baldemor, Norberto Carating, Rico Lascano, Johnamar Salvosa and Phyllis Zaballero, all multi-awarded artists whose artworks now hang in various museums and art galleries around the world. Manny is an institution by himself while Norberto, Rico and Phyllis are nationally acclaimed painters and teachers of art. Johna presides over the Watercolor Society of the Philippines.

It is not easy to be with this distinguished group of artists. In between endless debates on climate change and politics, interesting stories about some personalities, about martial law and the artists’ dilemma and endless rounds of moutai and red wine, the artists had to produce several artworks for the exhibits both in Liling yesterday and in Shenzhen this Saturday. They produced a couple of paintings each on their new medium of ceramic plates.I have all the admiration for our Filipino artists who could deliver with aplomb even on very tight deadlines.

The next agenda is very clear. After the mutual visit, this initial effort should be advanced to involve more artists and more academic institutions. Other banks and corporates will do well to support art and culture in various forms. John Maynard Keynes once said that economists and for me, public servants, for that matter, “must contemplate the particular in terms of the general, and touch abstract and concrete in the same flight of thought. He must study the present in the light of the past for the purposes of the future.” I get the impression that Keynes also suggested that integrity must be upheld and to do that one should be “as aloof and incorruptible as an artist.”

Art is always a winner. It forces us to find our soul and preserve our freedom. And because of this dynamics, it sells. Democratizing access to various art forms could therefore be very liberating.