Classical Art in Her Headspace: A Conversation with Stephanie Honrado
- 8 May 2021
It’s a chilly morning in Florence when Stephanie Honrado steps out of class and settles into a streetside cafe for an intimate interview over video call. As she prepares her makeshift set-up— phone, earphones, and a wireless charger, the sounds of a city just beginning its day fill the virtual room.
Honrado, whose first solo exhibition with Salcedo Private View, “Come Stai? (How are you?)”, sold out in June of 2020, continues to study and work from her apartment in Florence. She hasn’t been able to visit Manila in over a year, which is just one of the extra challenges she’s overcome as an artist participating in the Salcedo Private View exhibition ‘Headspace’ as part of Art Fair Philippines.
Honrado shares that these works of art are tangible proof of the hard work and passion that go into her pursuit to refine her artistry.
Double-masked and all bundled up, she begins with a quick catch-up about the state of the pandemic in the Tuscan city. “We just got out of lockdown again. This lockdown lasted for three or so weeks over Easter, same as the Philippines. Now, cafes and bistros, which are part of the very fabric of Florentine life, are open again. Though, of course, everyone has to stay in outdoor dining areas. Kids are going back to school, I’ve returned to the Academy as well, life goes on, as they say.”
There is a calmness to Honrado’s nature, almost as if her years of experience in navigating the tumultuous corporate world have prepared her for this newly discovered artist’s life abroad. A palpable feeling of excitement overcomes the artist as she talks about her work and her newfound home.
When asked about why she chose to study a very classical style of painting, she says plainly, “Because I simply enjoyed the classic style. The classical style was always what I could relate to and the fact that it’s a structured method makes it more achievable, in a sense. It made me feel that I could do this.” She adds, “It’s good to have a very solid set of skills to aid in whatever art I decide to make in the future.”
Choosing the artist’s path has, in many ways, been a long time coming for Honrado. She recalls having “an early appreciation for beautiful things” as a child. Although, she shares, “I was never really good at art [subjects] in school. In Work Education [classes], when asked to do stitching or aprons, I never finished it. But my parents liked having beautiful things in our home and my father was into crafts himself.”
“Eventually, when I got into college, my mother convinced me to go into Fine Arts in UP— even if I had no background. I was in Fine Arts for 2 years. My classmates were all very good and I guess I got intimidated so I thought ‘Anyway I like Math and all my friends are into Math, I’ll just do that.’ So, I went into Finance and that’s what I did for 28 years.”
Why did you come back to art?
It began with a museum visit in Singapore. “In 2012, I saw a Musee d’Orsay exhibit which featured works of Van Gogh and you know, I thought I should just try. I did art while balancing my full-time job as a banker.” For nearly a decade, Honrado nursed her passion for art, all while addressing the demands of a competitive career in Finance.
*”In 2019, I was faced with a tough decision— art or banking? Needless to say, I chose art and never looked back, it helped that my parents were supportive of my decision too.”*
Since then, she has been spending her days at the Angel Academy of Art in fair Firenze. In class, she studies the techniques of Old Masters and the intricacies of the French Atelier style of painting. Her Maestros guide the way as she learns to sketch live models and still-life scenes for 8-10 hours daily. Honrado exudes the undeniable energy of a person who is truly following her bliss.
When asked if she planned to veer away from the classical style in the foreseeable future, she replied, “At this point I see myself, staying in the classical school of painting. There’s just so much to learn! I don’t think I’ll come to the end of my life and feel like I’ve had enough of it.”
The future of the Philippine art scene
Over the course of the hour long conversation, Honrado touched upon two elements of art that she feels are the most integral to her work— design and light.
Design and composition is very important because those are the elements through which you can express beauty.
In Vivaldi’s Spring, she used the concept of design to construct her own reality without straying too far away from the subject matter. “That painting happened because someone asked me to make a floral painting. But I did not want to veer away from painting from life. Each flower was still painted from life then I introduced the concept of design.” She continues, “I learned from my maestro that design is what makes the painting– you can edit, see the beauty of what is before you and transcribe it to the canvas without making it abstract or different.”
The artist shares a work in progress photo of her artwork.’
Honrado’s mastery of light is unique, especially when situated within the context of Philippine art history. Unlike Amorsolo, she doesn’t fixate on the way light plays with landscapes and portraits of the idyll. Instead, she uses light, and sometimes the lack thereof, as a means to highlight the delicate features in her work— to emphasize the beauty she associates closely with the classical style of painting. She states, “There’s something very spiritual in observing how light falls on objects.”
Her grasp of this technique is very much Western in application, but it’s the way she infuses that practice upon her canvases that makes her work distinctly Filipino. For Honrado, there’s something transfixing about the continual allure of classical painting in this fast-paced modern world. She affixes a timelessness and universality to the classic style— “it never gets old.”
“In the Philippines, I noticed that not a lot of artists practice classical Western art, so I thought of offering something different. I really believe in the classical style and I feel it would be nice to have that voice in the Philippine art scene— that anyone can have access to it if they should be so interested.”
In comparison to the art from Come Stai, Stephanie’s works for ‘Headspace’ are bolder and more assertive—reflective of confidence the artist gained through her unfolding journey; certain that after all this time, she’s finally walking the path that she had long dreamt of embarking upon.
Honrado refers to her body of work as the “visual manuscripts” of her life, ”where each piece shows where I am in the journey and the joy I feel about being able to do this— I do not take it for granted, not everybody gets to do what they want to do.”
“One becomes very vulnerable living life as an artist— as a banker there was so much structure and certainty. But, I really wanted to do art and I was ready to build my life around it, so I jumped.” She has certainly landed on both feet from her grand leap of faith, living and thriving in the “La Grande Belleza” of Italy.
The exhibition, ‘Headspace: Recent Works by Ricky Ambagan, Stephanie Honrado, and John Paul Duray’, runs from Thursday, 6 May to Saturday, 15 May 2021 at the Salcedo Auctions showroom located in NEX Tower, Ayala Avenue. To view the online catalogue and the virtual gallery, simply click here.