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By Dexter R. Matilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:27:00 04/12/2009

Filed Under: Arts (general), Painting

MANILA, Philippines - Following the much-hailed return exhibit of her mother Betsy Westendorp recently, Spanish-Filipina artist Carmen Westendorp-Brias takes her turn on the spotlight as she returns to the country where she spent the first 12 years of her life.

“Mother and Daughter” is the joint exhibition of Betsy and Carmen, which opens on April 14, 6:30 p.m., at the ArtistSpace gallery of Ayala Museum.

“I can describe Carmen as a very interesting artist,” Betsy says. “She is imaginative, apparently naïve, but strong and powerful. She has created a world of her own. She is both different and genuine, finding new ways to express her feelings, always looking for new subjects, for new techniques.

“She is a ‘wild’ painter and does not follow a specific formula. Whatever she paints, you can recognize it is hers and of nobody else. That is very important in an artist.”

Both Betsy and Carmen trace their creative ancestry to the Dutch painter Betsy Westendorp-Osieck (1880-1968). But while Carmen says her mother is more Dutch—more disciplined and organized, efficiency personified—she is more Filipino at heart.

Political form

Her works include her depiction of the monkey-eating eagle; a nipa hut on a coconut grove; a large painting featuring the jeepney with the words of John Lennon’s “Imagine” written on the windshield. She laments that the jeepneys are no longer as colorful and creative as they used to be.

In what can be considered as her most political form of expression, she painted a Muslim girl wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “Love,” seated on top of a mother-of-pearl baul (trunk) after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Much of Carmen’s other works involve the collaboration of several elements—whether in the materials she uses or the subjects she chooses to paint. One work has what seems to be a couple on a (flying) carpet, and as they enjoy the music they create, some unidentified flying objects hover above in a seemingly rhythmic manner.

Recently she has been experimenting with Paraloid, a non-yellowing acrylic polymer used for consolidating wall paintings, to create texture and a sense of movement in her art.

As for Betsy’s work, she has chosen one painting that means the most to her for the exhibit.

“It is the portrait of my beloved grandson Ian and his mother, my eldest daughter Isabel,” Betsy says. “I based it on a photograph that I took of them in 1985. Ian was the only child of Isabel and died two years ago at the age of 26 due to meningococcal sepsis. He meant so much to me. I painted this portrait after his death and I have given it the title, ‘Happy Times.’”

The place to be

She says she has decided to give Carmen as much space since she had just finished her exhibit and some of the paintings are still on display at the Gateway Mall.

Carmen started painting at an early age and her works as painter, mixed media artist and sculptor have all been exhibited throughout Spain. Her first solo show was at the Sotogrande in Cadiz in 1992. She studied painting restoration at Artes
Aplicadas a la Restauracion de Madrid.

At home, where she lives with her 14-year-old daughter Karla, she runs a sculpture school.

For Carmen, painting is her form of expression and she believes “art is important for everbody.” She’s hoping her return to the Philippines would inspire her to do more art pieces, as she has a very positive outlook on the country’s potential.
“This [Philippines] could be a very nice place,” she says. “In fact, this could even be the place to be.”

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