RICKY AMBAGAN LOVES crowded places. All his life, he has lived in such milieu. Like an obsessed chronicler, he frequents places where multitude gathers—Quiapo, Pasig, Tondo, Divisoria.
“More than the numbers, however, what matters most is the process of transforming oneself into being part of the many.” In this way, he is able to meticulously document the massing of people and grasp the interplay of what is real and symbolic.
Such interplay is evident in Ambagan’s 26 works that feature Baguio and the Cordillera region in his show, “Mga Langgam sa Baguio,” ongoing in Galerie Anna at SM Megamall.
Overpopulation and failed urban planning may have unduly blemished the face of the city but, like a lovely mountain lass, Baguio’s charm remains despite the harshness of overdevelopment.
Ambagan’s task is to capture on his canvas the faces and phases of Baguio during its loveliest—in the early summer. His signature style of distortion might as well be the best way of reflecting the reality of historical distortions the city and its people were exposed to.
“Baguio and communities like Sagada and Mayuyao have always been in my mind. They keep me grounded and in touch with our precolonial soul,” Ambagan says.
Distortion, he adds, depends on how he sees the image. Conscious of how he paints, Ambagan wants his pieces thick, dirty and rough as seen in “Wen Manang,” “May Pag-asa” and “Suke” 2, where his sense of perspective pervades.
At close range, one can only see layers of paint on top of each other. As one steps back, one sees a better view of the scene.
True to his intention, Ambagan’s work uplifts and documents the lives of the common folk: the vegetable vendors; the guys who rent out bicycles for P100 per hour. They all come vividly alive on Ambagan’s canvases.
“Mga Langgam sa Baguio” runs until June 27.
Also on display at Galerie Anna are the latest works of Cebu native Orley Ypon.
Ypon's Awakening Series II
His love for art began early when he would do portraits of himself and of his loved ones. Ypon left Cebu province at 17, after a few semesters of Architecture at Cebu Institute of Technology, with the hope of making a mark in Manila.
A series of jobs as an export handicraft artist led him all over the country from Pampanga, Paete, Laguna, and Davao. He eventually returned to Cebu to study at the UP College of Fine Arts before leaving school to become a full-time artist.
The 37-year-old artist has achieved much since his young years. A constant finalist in painting exhibitions in the Visayas and Metro Manila, Orley gained attention when he won the first prize in the Art Association of the Philippines’ National On-the-Spot Painting Competition in 2001.
In the same year, he made his mark at the Art Petron National Painting Competition, bagging the grand prize in 2001 for “Ober-Ober.” He won again the grand prize in the same competition in 2004 for “Pamaling,” earning him the honor of being the first Hall-of-Famer of Art Petron.
In 2008, he won second prize in the GSIS Painting Competition for his piece “Ahon,” considered by peers and critics to be a breakthrough creation for its adherence to traditional technique while showing depth and variety in the artists’ choice of subject and composition. It showed an evocative nature previously unseen in his earlier work.
His current creations manifest the artist developing his objectives into themes that convey social issues, the human condition, and further expanding into new dimensions of his art.
His latest achievement is winning the grand prize in International Artist Magazine’s International Painting Competition in the People and Figures Division for 2009. His piece “The Seekers” was featured in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of the magazine.