Artist Dominic Rubio turns 50 doing what he does best

Published December 24, 2020, 11:24 AM

by MB Lifestyle

Rubio celebrates a golden milestone by staying true to his love for everything Filipino

By Dexter R. Matilla

Even when he was joining art competitions as a student, Dominic Rubio already knew the feeling of a sold out show. He may not always win first prize but he almost always ends up going home with a cheque instead, having sold his painting after.

That was only the beginning, apparently, as Rubio, a University of Santo Tomas Fine Arts alumnus, would go and sell out shows here and abroad. Most recent of which, just before the nationwide enhanced community quarantine, was his “Mondial” show at The Peninsula Manila.

FINER DETAILS Dominic Rubio adding a mustache on a self-portrait, which also features his wife Vivian

This year is Rubio’s 50th birthday and while the pandemic may have put a pause on life as we know it, the prolific artist continued to create and even found new ways to evolve. Rubio, of course, is known for his depiction of Filipino characters set in Old Manila, in traditional Filipiniana, and their large heads and elongated necks.

Rubio says that it’s simply because Filipinos should be proud of their heritage.

That is very telling of Rubio’s character, a man whose humble beginnings included collecting pig-feed and being bullied by friends, classmates, and even one of his teachers, who said that the would-be artist would not be allowed to graduate for always being late.

Ayoko na mag-aral nung high school,” Rubio said. 

But an opportune moment came when a friend of his, who would be joining a quiz bee, brought him along to Manila. Rubio then learned of an art competition by Philway Corporation and Collier’s Encyclopedia at the World Trade Center and with the money lent to him by his friend, he bought art materials and joined. 

Rubio won second place behind Ronald Ventura.

Kaya nung high school magkakilala na kami niyan,” Rubio says. 

His school didn’t have a choice but to allow him to graduate and he was even given a plaque. 

Rubio would go on to do even greater things after college and after brief stops working at the Pearl Farm in Davao and exploring Mindanao where he learned about the Mandaya, Tiboli, Bilaans, and Badjaos, returned to Manila. Here, Filipiniana fashion fascinated him after reading a book by National Artist Pitoy Moreno, an early indication of what his works would eventually evolve into as he continued to find his own style.

A chance meeting with Galerie Joaquin’s Jack Teotico gave him an opportunity to gauge exactly how his works are perceived in the very competitive art industry in the country. 

While the show was relatively successful, Rubio felt something was still missing and remembers praying to God, asking for help. He even considered being an ice-carver instead, revealing that sculpture was truly his first love back in Paete.

Rubio’s fascination with Filipiniana stayed at the back of his mind and he would start developing his characters that he said, actually had fatter but still elongated necks. After a series of experimentation, the characters became what they are today and the rest as they say is history.

When Galerie Joaquin Singapore opened with his show in 2006, it was as expected, sold out. 

Rubio would survive a heart attack in 2014 and recalls telling God that he is not yet ready to leave. While it took him some time to get his groove back, Rubio kept receiving inquiries about his works as collectors, he says, went “panic-buying”.

In 2016, Rubio’s mural at the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. was unveiled, fulfilling one of his lifelong dreams of having a mural somewhere significant. The 8×27 work, again depicting his long-necked characters, shows key events in the Philippines-US relations.

‘Golden Milestone’ 

Rubio celebrates his 50th birthday, 25th year in the art scene, and 20th year with Galerie Joaquin this Dec. 27 at the Luxury Lane East Wing of Shangri-La Plaza. 

The aptly named “Golden Milestone” will introduce his signature works highlighted with gold leaf paint as well as brass sculptures featuring his characters based on the themes of Old Manila, Plantation Life, and the Filipino-Chinese community.

Rubio, it seems, is a firm believe in the power of prayer. As he looks back on his journey so far, Rubio credits the support of his wife Vivian and believes his unwavering thirst to create and the lessons in humility he learned along the way, and his constant conversations with God helped him achieve more than he ever dreamt of.

And that, indeed, is something worth celebrating