By Dexter R. Matilla
For the Philippine Daily Inquirer
ABSTRACTIONIST Lao Lianben’s painting, “Elements of Light,” fetched for P 1.7 million during an auction at The Podium in Ortigas, to benefit the National Book Store Foundation.
The opening bid was P320,000 for the 4 ft x 3 ft work. It reached the P1-million mark in no time, with two men trying to outbid each other for the very minimalist black-and-white work.
Auctioneer Leo Garcia, humanities dean at Ateneo de Manila University, pounded his hammer to cheers from the crowd as the painting went to the bidder who wished to remain unidentified.
Equally anonymous was the artist himself, who, perhaps in keeping with the ambiguity of his works, chose to blend on the sidelines and even expressed his intentions not to be interviewed.
The NBS Foundation’s main projects are Project Aral, which gathers school supplies for students during the back to school season; Project Aklat, which gathers books for schools during the Christmas season; and Buklat Aklat, which provides schools with “leave-behind” libraries or tours schools with “mobile” libraries.
Coinciding with the auction is the launch of Lao’s first book, “No Past No Present,” featuring a collection of small works spanning a decade.
In writing about Lao, art critic and writer of the book Cid Reyes said that one could not impose any preconceived notions about the artist’s works.
“You really just need to listen to the works,” Reyes said. “If you listen spiritually and let the painting talk to you, if you commune with it and listen to what it is trying to say, then it starts to tell you what it’s all about. And the critic must come in with his own equipment and write in a way that is true to the work.”
Photographer Neal Oshima said that since the colors of Lianben’s works were subtle, it was important for him to make sure that the texture would still come out.
“No Past No Present” is published by Blanc Art Gallery and Tien Wah Press. Book design is by Aman Santos. It is available in selected NBS and Powerbooks branches for P3,950.