Francis Nacion and Melissa Yeung Yap collaborate on ‘Nature’s Hymns’

Published March 16, 2021, 2:41 PM

by Terrence Repelente

Differences in style didn’t stop them from being voices of nature

The idea of a healing and a resetting ecosystem, resulting mainly from pandemic measures and restrictions, was the primary inspiration behind the exhibition “Nature’s Hymns.” The show, presented by Galerie Francesca, is a collaboration between Francis Nacion and Melissa Yeung Yap, who are two stylistically distinct artists, but whose themes blend perfectly or, one could say, naturally. 

Nacion is recognized for his intricate and multifaceted sgraffito works, which consist of patterns scraped on wet oil paint, exposing a beautiful contrast beneath. More than just a statement about his sophisticated artistic process, these seemingly complex and aggressive patterns are surprisingly done to conjure pictures that depict themes of calmness and peace. 

 “Gusto ko lang magpasaya ng tao, mapangiti sila tuwing makikita nila ang works ko (I just want to make people happy, make them smile every time they see my works),” he said. “In the works, life is peaceful, there is a sense of joy in the surrounding, and problems are nonexistent.” 

In one of the paintings that are part of the exhibition, Nacion depicts a pair of half-faced angels, gliding over a field of flowers. The work, with its colors and elements, gives off a feeling of spiritual bounty and paradise. Furthermore, majority of Nacion’s works include images or figures of women. According to him, this stems from his closeness with his mother. “It’s an expression of how proud I am of my mother, sa kasipagan niya (her hard work),” he said. “It is also a way to honor all of the women in my life, lalung-lalo na ang asawa ko (most especially my wife), a way to kind of empower them.” 

Yeaung Yap also creates art to empower. Her artmaking doubles as a megaphone to highlight a wide range of advocacies centering on Philippine indigenous culture. In the past, she has utilized art as therapy to help the children of Marawi to cope with post-war trauma. 

Yeaung Yap’s love for traditional and local Filipino material is evident throughout her repertoire, which includes works that champion indigenous handwoven fabrics such as hinabol of the Higaonon of Bukiddnon, inabel by the Tinguian of Abra, and t’nalak of the T’boli. In the exhibition, she presents a masterful integration of these indigenous patterns and weaves with contemporary technique and modern flair.

“I have always been interested in anthropology and our Filipino heritage, and I’m extra fascinated with our pre-colonial history and indigenous roots,” she said. “As I got to visit indigenous communities and got to know more about the people behind the weaves, I also found the desire to help promote their artisanry and livelihood, using my art as a platform.”

On one side, a desire for tranquility and prosperity. On the other, a cry for existence and significance.

According to Yeaung Yap, these visits, along with deep anthropological research on different indigenous communities, gave her inspiration and an entirely new appreciation on Philippine culture. With this, her art became a means to give thanks to the many indigenous peoples who welcomed her into their communities. “Aside from the Philippines, I also lived in various countries and immersed with different cultural groups around the world,” she said. “This gave me an idea to present our indigenous patterns in a modern way.”

Goddess by Francis Nacion

As a whole, “Nature’s Hymns” does not just simply hum about the generic subject of nature. It is a solemn chant, a rallying anthem that sings of realizations and reflections amid a historical pandemic. On one side, a desire for tranquility and prosperity. On the other, a cry for existence and significance.

“Nature’s Hymns,” presented by Galerie Francesca, will run from March 17 to March 28 at the at the Megamall Art Center;