Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Emong Borlongan 20 years retrospective exhibit

with Emong and Plet at the opening, his self portrait behind
What a show! Congratulations Emong on your first twenty years retrospective "In City and Country (1992-2012)" at  the Ayala Museum.

44 paintings, each has a story to tell. If you sit down with him, he'll tell you the story and inspiration behind each painting.  For instance, the 1992 'Birheng Walang Dambana'  (Virgin without an altar) is about his friend whose girlfriend ditched him for a rich guy. He found an apt title from Victor Wood's song of the same title.

The 1994 painting "Lumang Litrato" which has never been exhibited before, is about a newly widowed elderly man whom he met and shared with him that he misses his wife.

Birheng Walang Dambana, 1992
Lumang Littrato (1994)
Emong's tatay with his  eacher 
The title of the show "In City and Country"  best describes the source of inspiration of his works - basically, the people that surround him and the hustle and bustle of his milieu. I was able to witness his genius [and also Plet's] from 1998 to 2002 when they were still living in the City, in Nueve de Pebrero in Mandaluyong where he grew up; and from 2002 to now, in Zambales, in the farm of Plet's family.

He said in an interview about his art "The human figure continues to be the focus of my works. The sound and fury of Manila street scenes have been the fitting accompaniment to the figures that graced my works throughout the years."

Self portrati in ID Picture (1995)  
Driver's Lounge (2011)

San Miguel Fluvial Parade (2010)
Of his life in Zambales, he said "I paint in a studio in the middle of a mango farm surrounded by the sound of a sometimes wailing sea and the chirping of the birds. My immediate environment within the home and in the outskirts of the farm presents an engaging scenario of various characters that I have mingled with. Not to mention my exposure to all my brother-in-law's pupils...There are religious rituals that give pomp and circumstance to the practice of the faith. And of course, there is the sea, a character in itself, that is sometimes disconcerting when my wife worries about "imagined tsumanis in her head" but is a refreshing blue field of delight on hot summer days."

Time flies by so fast. I remember meeting Emong for the first time in 1996. I was watching the concert of the Bolipata brothers in Sta. Ana Park and Plet introduced him to me. I was actually wondering what she was doing in Manila. The last time I saw her, she was happily studying at The Arts Student League and helping out as a paralegal in New York. She said she waiting for her US working visa.

the painting that started it all, Gabay (1994)
The following year in April, Plet was still in town. She invited me to CASA San Miguel, the arts center her brother Coke built in their farm, to join the 2nd Pundaquit Earth Day Festival. Both she and Emong were commissioned by Coke to do a mural. Both were holed up in Zambales as artists-in-residence. Plet's mural was to grace the entrance foyer while Emong's 13 x 18 feet mural was the centerpiece of the Ramon Corpus Concert Hall.

I can't forget that weekend. That Friday evening before heading out to Zambales, Plet was in tears because the star of the festival had an emergency and backed out. That meant, CASA didn't have a folk-rock concert to cap the festival. We found out that Joey Ayala was having a concert in Ayala and rushed to him. Plet, usually shy, gathered her wits and all thick-skinned, walked up to Joey after his performance. He must have sympathized with Plet who was still in tears because the next day, he showed up with his band in CASA.

So, the festival was a success... and the rest is history as the saying goes. By the way, Plet did get her visa, nonetheless stayed on. Of their first meeting, Emong said -

Emong's "In City and Country" exhibit will be on view until April 6, 2014. Don't miss it!

N.B. here's a painting of one of our dinners in Nueve de Pebrero (not exhibited, owner: Arthur).

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