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Painter Dominic Rubio’s Maynila

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2009 5:56 am    Post subject: Painter Dominic Rubio’s Maynila Reply with quote

Painter Dominic Rubio’s Maynila


By Reuben Ramas Cañete
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:29:00 08/02/2009

Filed Under: Arts and Culture and Entertainment, Painting

MANILA, Philippines – Nostalgia has become a magnet for many an artist viewing Manila’s colonial imagery as a source of cultural diversity and a model for current aesthetic transformation. Dominic Rubio, a Paete, Laguna-based painter, is one such artist.

In his new series “Maynila” (on view at Art Center, SM Megamall, Aug. 6-18; or tel. 7239253, 7239418), Rubio’s 40 paintings elicit that feeling of visual longing and comfort one also sees in much of contemporary Asian art that revolves around the romantic story of the Oriental city: the Singapore of Somerset Maugham, or the Hong Kong and Shanghai of prewar pulp novellas.

Nineteenth-century Manila, which is far older than those cities, had its own epic chronicler in the person of no less than José Rizal, who in his two novels depicts with wistful prose the costumes, habits and mind-set of the colonial natives struggling to get by, or flourishing under international trade.

This chronicle of that storied colonial city found wistful expression in a more recent writer, National Artist Nick Joaquin, who wrote as much about its post-war fall as he revelled in its colonial glory days.

Rubio’s own painterly interpretation, however, is based not on a photographic reproduction of imagery, but in a conscious and calculated transformation of the colonial image that refuses the bonds of Western imperialism.

In other words, Rubio showcases the cultural variety and diversity of the urban denizens of “Old Asia,” a catchphrase that concentrates on the strength of native life touched by colonial mores, but not subject to the servitude of its masters.

In Rubio’s paintings, the mixed-blood citizens strolling about casually in the colonial landscape hold their heads high, which are literally raised on tall, stick-like necks to emphasize native pride rather than subjection.

Instead of political tension, what is highlighted is the lush visuality of colonial dress manners and “people types” best described as contemporary versions of the 19th-century tipos de pais, paintings that documented the various “kinds of people” that lived in the colony, and were popular collector’s items among international traders of the time.

Thus, women go about dressed in the elegant and visually stunning ensemble of beige terno blouses, striped indigo tapis skirts, and ankle-length pleated undergowns.

The men are dressed according to their profession or social status: camisas and short cotton trousers for Chinese mestizos; embroidered barongs, top hats, canes, and silk trousers for the native gobernadorcillos and hidalgos; or rolled-up camisas, trousers, and wide-brim hats for the paisantes and farmers.

Rubio’s use of these “people type” motif in his paintings is an attempt to re-link the notion of national pride to its pre-modern roots, while at the same time showing such an identity was not contingent on just one race or social type.
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