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Four Your Eyes Only

(Article published in the Aug 6, 2008 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

        No, it is not a misspelling of the common preposition.  Nor is it the warning label  atop a confidential, top secret report.  It is, instead, the unifying name of the collection of various painting sytles now on a month long exhibit at the Top of the Citi at the 34th Floor of the Citibank Tower on Paseo de Roxas in Makati City.  The works of art will be up there until the 30th of August.

Put together by art curator, Malu de Guzman, the exposition at the Top of the Citi proclaims to all patches of life and love, pristine and pure as seen with the eyes of four very creative artists, Mark Cruz, Ovido Espiritu, Jr., Alex de Jesus, and Leonardo Uy.  Their talents bloomed and are nourished and nurtured by University of the East’s College of Fine Arts, a fountain of creativity since its founding in the 80s. 

Three paintings of young Mark Gerald B. Cruz, artfully put together, bring out the magical from something that we take for granted everyday, our clothes hanging altogether in our dressing closets.  The names each work, however, highlight the different function that clothes on hangers do for us. “Without you I’m nothing” stresses how for many that “clothes make the man.”; why clothes are “Weapons of choice” is self-evident to the power dresser; and “My hiding place” is a double entendre of sorts, initially depicting a nook where one can in fact hide, but, more subtly, suggesting how clothes could obscure one’s persona.  Two others, “Past eight Tuesday morning” and “Wear your heart out”, are rightly set apart from the three.  Both depict ordinariness punctuated by surprise.


Mark Cruz’s background explains in part the way he communicates himself through his painting. Cruz went to San Carlos Seminary where he received his Bachelor of Arts in the classics, majoring in Philosophy and then to the University of the East for his Bachelor of Fine Arts with painting as his major.  He was semi-finalist in the 2006 Maningning Miclat Foundation Art Contest, finalist in K Spray-Stencil Art Contest in 2006 and in 2007 both in October AAP-ECCA Abstract Art Competition and the Shell National Students Art Competition one month later.  He took the seventh place in Discover Nature’s Bounty Painting Competition in the same year.

          Drinking from the same well, though thirty or so years earlier than Mark Cruz, was Ovido F. Espiritu, Jr.  Jun Espiritu has got both pedigree and performance, and they show in the engaging style through which arched lines depict his subjects.  His aunt was a Fine Arts Graduate of UP and his father after retiring from the air force was a big game hunter from whom the young Espiritu learned taxidermy.  There is no mistaking the community in “Sunday at the Park,” the “Forest Nymphs,” the “Family”, and “Farm Women.”  And the interplay of solitude and togetherness is seen in the “Madonna of the Bamboo,”, the “Flowers”, the “Guitar” and the “Golden Harvest.”

        No wonder that Jun Espiritu is asked to judge in various artistic competitions, is commissioned by foreign scientists, and is asked to lead his peers, as when he served in 1989 as President of the Angono Artists Association of which he was a founding member.

Alex de Jesus’ paintings are group into two.  The first reflects his fascination for man and music and the instruments of the craft; the second shows his concern for nature and exudes his advocacy addressing all of us to care for it.  The first three “Serenade 1,” “Serenade 2” and “Serenade 3” show a woman gently plucking a string instrument, focusing one’s attention to the human source from whom flows the impulse of creation.  At the periphery, though, one sees hints of the environment with which such initiative blends.  What were in the sidelines come to front and center in the second group composed of “Butterflies’ Haven”, “God’s Gift” and “Tribute to the Master.” All three give full expression to his call to protect the environment. 

Creativity, is nothing if not an outpouring of one’s self and De Jesus embodies this rock bottom sense in his other profession.    In addition to painting, he also teaches at the faculty of the UE College of Fine Arts.

Teacher too at the College of Fine Arts of the University of the East, in fact one of its pioneers, is

         Leonardo Uy.  His seniority, in insight much more than in years, shows in his work.  His vendor paintings, the “Fish vendor”, the “Market vendor”, the “Mango vendor”, and “Orchid vendor”, show, particularly from the expression of the subjects’ eyes, the melancholy mix of need to push and want to pull that one feels when one has to keep the body whole to part for a price what is of value to the soul.  Childlike faith and simple hope, on the other hand, are found in “Flowers for Sto. Niño” and “Woman with orchids.” 

But my personal favorite is Uy’s “Guitar Woman.”  In resplendent garb of Lenten lavender, the woman has her arms in full control of her guitar that rests on her bosom, head purposeful and focused, her whole self exuding with the confidence that in her plucking and strumming, Easter is aborning.