Pardo’s Thought Bubbles on Art
- 1 April 2022
It would be hard to place Pardo “Bubbles” de Leon’s body of work within an artistic construct, which suits the artist just fine.
The legendary UP Fine Arts professor Roberto Chabet had a profound influence on her creative philosophy. “Sir Chabet tapped the uniqueness in each of his students,” she says. “He gave us the confidence to follow our instincts in art making, to see how diverse the range of his students’ art works are.”
In effect, Chabet gave his students license to explore and exploit all artistic possibilities, which de Leon proceeded to do with flair and courage. In the years after her Fine Arts studies, the artist has painted in the manner of the old masters, delved in abstraction, and even created hybrids from different genres.
At Salcedo Auctions’ Art Fair Philippines 2022 exhibition, titled “Transcendence,” a sampling of de Leon’s range is on show, “a mishmash of paintings from different years,” says the artist. “So they span over three decades,” de Leon explains, “that’s how old I am, LOL!”
A current work titled “White Poppy/Young Girl” nods to a well-established fixation with poppies, which de Leon admits “was already among my favorite flowers as a young girl.” That infatuation deepened many years later when de Leon, together with her fiance, went on a hiking trip on the Thailand side of the Golden Triangle. “I did find myself surrounded by fields of poppies. At night, old men would knock on huts, pipes in hand, offering ‘medicine’ (raw opium that they harvested themselves) to travelers.”
De Leon did in fact take on the old man’s offer, describing the subsequent experience as “bongga, kasi unadulterated [yung opium].” She continues : “Ang sarap ng tama. Para kang nanaginip, magandang panaginip … lumulutang ka sa panaginip. Those were my first tastes during that 5-day trek, and I never had it again after. Buti na lang malayo ako sa Golden Triangle.”
From 2021, de Leon’s “Sili” series represents a dalliance with still life. On why she chose the subject, the artist (who doesn’t like talking about her art, or herself for that matter) says “I actually can’t eat spicy food … I have a very low tolerance for heat.” “So the honest answer is: I don’t know.” Nevertheless, the artist Dex Fernandez was drawn to the pieces because “ang ganda ng color composition.”
Apart from poppies, frogs also recur in de Leon’s canvasses, a colony of which populates a triptych from 2011. It appears whimsical, except for the title, “Bardo of Dreams,” that suggests otherwise. “Malalim ang spirituality ni Bubbles,” artist Agnes Arellano shares. Bardo in Buddhism refers to a transitional state between death and rebirth, implied in the depiction of frogs in the various stages of their life cycle.
One piece dominates Salcedo Auctions’ gallery wall: De Leon’s massive 6 x 9 feet “White Poppies,” which was part of the valedictory show curated by Chabet preceding Pinaglabanan Gallery’s closure. Dated 1989, it was created a year after de Leon received the CCP 13 Artists Award. Though the title suggests the artist’s favorite poppy blossom, de Leon’s subject is practically indeterminate, and the strokes appear less dense compared to her later works.
“ I think we are all a bit restless within,” de Leon says to explain the thematic and stylistic variance of her works, “and it shows.” “Or we fear being static,” she adds.
While she actively explores various genres, de Leon steers clear of trends. “I cannot get into trends because my work is instinctive/intuitive,” she explains. “When the new wave of artists came along, heavy into hyperrealism, photo realism, I stopped in my tracks and almost quit painting. Then I realized that my work has never been about perfect technique, as I don’t have the patience for it, and I don’t need to compete with a camera.”
Apart from de Leon, JP Duray and Lito Carating are featured in “Trancendence,” Salcedo ongoing exhibition for Art Fair Philippines 2022. To view the online catalogue and the virtual gallery, simply click here.