Salcedo Stories

MY FRIEND, ANG: The Finer Pursuit of National Artist Ang Kiukok’s ‘Mother and Child’

MY FRIEND, ANG: The Finer Pursuit of National Artist Ang Kiukok’s ‘Mother and Child’

  • 18 June 2021

“The smell of fresh oil paint is so closely associated with that painting…I owned it for 30 years and it’s a piece that has moved with me from home to home…” a long-time art collector, who prefers to remain anonymous, shares as he reminisces about Ang Kiukok’s 1991 Kiukok ‘Mother And Child,’ one of the highlights of Salcedo Auctions’ upcoming ‘Finer Pursuits’ auction on Saturday, 26 June.

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Photo of National Artist Ang Kiukok being hosted by the private collector at his family residence, circa early 1990s. Photo courtesy the private collector.

The collector’s interest in the fascinating world of Philippine art began when he was a student at the Ateneo de Manila University, where he first took an art appreciation course under renowned critic and curator, Professor Emmaunuel ‘Eric’ Torres. In the midst of the twice-weekly lectures and debates, he learned about the works of the masters— from the idyllic landscapes of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo to the groundbreaking canvases of the modernists such as National Artists J. Elizalde Navarro, H.R Ocampo, and of course, Ang Kiukok. Back in 1991, the burgeoning collector was a self-described “angsty young man,” who was particularly drawn to the works of the latter. He shares that the artist’s intense brush strokes and typically somber color palette deeply resonated with him. In fact, he even reached out to Ang himself, letting him know that he was studying Philippine art and was interested in sharing a conversation with the artist.

To his surprise, Ang agreed and invited him to his former home and studio in the Scout area of Quezon City. The rest, as they say, is art collecting history— the visit turned into a decades-long friendship filled with good conversations about philosophy, art, and life. Many meals and drinks were shared in the master’s humble home, where his studio was but a quaint extension of the abode, just large enough for the artist to spend his days working on his paintings.

Months after that fateful first conversation, the same collector would commission a painting from his idol-turned friend— “I gave no specifications whatsoever, I didn’t tell him anything!” he recalls. The moment remains vivid in his memory— of seeing the freshly painted canvas, still wet and just completed, leaning on its side in Ang’s living room.

ANG KIUKOK, ‘Mother and Child’, 1991, Oil on canvas

“To be honest,” he begins, “when I first saw the painting I was disappointed— and not because it isn’t beautiful, but because, as I said, I was more into Kiukok’s ‘darker’ works at that time.” The painting in question was a reimagined take on the classic motif of the mother and child— a far-cry from figurative expressionist’s “usual” work, which was often characterized by the gritty unease his canvases invoked, along with the brutally blunt lines of his cubist technique.

Examples of Kiukok’s ‘darker’ paintings from past sales. L: ANG KIUKOK, ‘Dogs’, 1976, Oil on canvas from the ‘Important Philippine Art’ auction, March 2014 R: ANG KIUKOK, ‘Dogs’, 2000, Oil on canvas from ‘The Well-Appointed Life: Important Philippine Art’ auction, September 2016

This work, in comparison, has a quiet grace. A bright blue background holds the figure of a mother cradling her child close to her bosom. “Over the years, the painting grew on me more and more, definitely since it holds sentimental value for me personally— it reminds me of that time in my life when I first began collecting. It was my first Kiukok— and a commissioned piece at that— and it reminds me of my friendship with Ang,” the collector states.

When considering why it was that Ang felt it appropriate to create a painting so strikingly different from his usual body of work, the collector could only guess. The early nineties, when the painting was commissioned, marked a transitory period for the artist. He began veering away from the portrayals of angst and slowly ventured into softer color palettes and serene subject matter.

“I didn’t see him in his [earlier] works of art the more I got to know him,” comments the collector. It would seem that the works that he fell in love with – the ones that were ‘darker’ and ‘disquieting,’ did not actually reflect the soft-spoken personality of the artist he was slowly getting to know. Receiving the painting from his artist-friend only served to drive that realization home. Ang Kiukok’s ‘Mother and Child’ may have been a memento of the collector’s personal time and friendship with the artist, but it now also points to an important and exciting juncture in the National Artist’s career, when his personal outlook and expressive temperament were transforming and, as a consequence, so was his art.

A look at some of the highlights of the upcoming auction

Ang Kiukok’s ‘Mother and Child’ is going under the gavel at the upcoming Salcedo Auctions ‘Finer Pursuits: Philippine Art & Rare Collectibles’ auction, which takes place live & online on Saturday, 26 June 2021. Click here to view the catalogue, register to bid, and view the virtual gallery.