Remembering Justin ‘Tiny’ Nuyda’s legacy in Philippine art

Published June 28, 2022, 9:03 AM

by John Legaspi

The late visual artist is regarded as one of the pillars of Filipino modern art

The Filipino art scene mourns at the passing of master visual artist Justin “Tiny” Nuyda. News about his demise was confirmed by his daughter Ayni Nuyda through a post on Facebook page “In Memoriam of Justin Nuyda.”

Justin ‘Tiny’ Nuyda

“Papa will not only remain with us forever through his art and the butterflies he described but also the memories and the stories we have shared with him are true testaments to a legacy that will live on,” she posted.

As we bid farewell to one of the pillars of Filipino modern art, let’s look back at Tiny’s colorful journey in the arts and the contributions and legacy he has left.

Master abstractionist

Art critics have often described Tiny’s art as poetic—and they were never wrong. His five-decade-long life in the arts was filled with delicate brushstrokes and striking colors making wonderlands come to life in portraits.

Born in 1944, his prolific career in the arts started at the University of the Santo Tomas where he took a fine arts degree. From there, he launched numerous exhibitions centering on abstractions. Among his well-known creations is his “Mindscape” series, depicting on the canvas the “landscapes of the mind.” His aurora-like images and art with celestial moods were seen in numerous showcases including “Masters of Modernism Series: Justin Nuyda (Mindscapes)” and “Search Mindscapes: Justin Nuyda and Eduardo Castrillo,” among others.

“I am a very spontaneous painter,” he said in a previous story by the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “The concept behind the artwork develops as I paint and then concludes when I lift the paintbrush away from the canvas… I paint as I go. I compose as I paint. My art process is rather simple. I build on my color palette before creating artwork and continue to build it as I progress.”

Founding the ‘Saturday Group of Artists’

Apart from his masterpieces, Tiny was also known as one of the founders of the Saturday Group of Artists. The artists’ organization was established in 1968 in Ermita, Manila. There, they held talks and art sessions and shared their passion for the craft. Through it, Tiny became friends with and learned from some of the best artists in the Philippines including National Artists H.R. Ocampo, Cesar Legaspi, and Alfredo Roces.

“It all started in 1968 when HR Ocampo bumped into writer Alfredo Roces in Ermita one Friday. Fond of banana split ice cream, he invited him for a snack at the Taza de Oro along UN Avenue. They both enjoyed the camaraderie that they agreed to meet with other artists the next Saturday in the same place and Saturdays thereon,” Tiny told Philvisualarts. “You can be a member if you attend twice. Younger artists mingled with older artists. Initially, there was no president. Ocampo was just the spokesman. Everybody, no matter, how young had a say. I was their pet being the youngest of the founding members.”

Passion for Philippine butterflies

Like many of his contemporaries, Tiny’s art was greatly influenced by nature. This was natural to him being one of the country’s top lepidopterists. His passion for the winged creatures started when he was young, collecting butterflies at the age of seven.

“I have described over a hundred species and subspecies,” he said. “This passion for jeweled insects and the terrain they thrive in has served as a major inspiration for my works over the past 50 years.”

He trained under the Colin Threadway, former head of Procter & Gamble, in identifying butterflies and moths in 1957, according to a post by Leon Gallery. With his knowledge, he then toured the Philippines searching for both indigenous and brand new species. In 1975, a new species of butterfly was discovered in Mt. Kitanlad in Bukidnon and was named after him.

Search Mindscape Foundation

On his 75th birthday, his daughter Ayni created the Search Mindscape Foundation. The non-profit organization aims to create avenues where artists can interact, collaborate, and engage in the Philippine art community.

Justin “Tiny” Nuyda’s memorial service is at Heritage Memorial Park, Taguig City, until today, June 28. Doors will be open from 10 a.m. onwards with a requiem mass happening at 7:30 p.m.. To know more about the service by visiting “In Memoriam of Justin Nuyda” on Facebook.

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