National Artist Ang Kiukok's works on display at The Peninsula Manila

Published September 6, 2021, 11:07 AM

by John Legaspi

“Why not? Open your eyes. Look around you. So much anger, sorrow, ugliness. And also madness.”

That is what Ang Kiukok said when he was asked why he often opted to feature disturbing images in his portraits. His Cubist-like works have depicted images of rabid dogs, screaming figures, crucifixion, and other abstract elements, which confused many of his critics.

What these paintings show are more than just an artist’s vision. These are reflections of the turbulent socio-political times of the 1970s and 1980s, the peak of Ang Kiukok’s career. These gruesome art, sometimes dubbed “ugly” by critics, propelled him to take his place as a National Artist for Visual Arts of the Philippines in 2001, four years before his unfortunate demise.

But prior to becoming a commercial success and producing masterpieces admired by the world, this Davao-born painter first showcased his artistic abilities through portraits hung in the suites of one of Manila’s premier hotels, The Peninsula Manila. And the works he produced are far from the dark images he painted later on in his career.

Restoring Ang Kiukok’s works (Photo from The Peninsula Manila)

“Early in the life of The Peninsula Manila, we commissioned a young painter from Davao by the name of Ang Kiukok, to paint 20 scenes from the Philippines to hang in our suites,” the hotel says.

According to the hotel, it had all of 20 works in tempera restored in 2019. After years repairing, the artworks are now on display in the hotel’s The Gallery Club for guests to marvel at and get inspired.

Launched in 2019, The Gallery Club is a lounge that is all about luxury, from the food it serves to the music and art that guests can enjoy. Apart from Ang Kiukok’s works, the 72 sq. m. space houses other masterpieces such as the “Sunburst” sculpture by National Artist Napoleon “Billy” Abueva, artworks by cartoonist and National Artist Larry Alcala, and prints by photographer Francisco Guerrero.