The Well-Appointed Masterpiece of H.R. Ocampo
- 10 September 2023
National Artist Hernando R. Ocampo is considered to be one of the three significant figures of Philippine Neo-Realism, alongside National Artists Vicente Manannsala and Cesar Legaspi. He was a self-taught artist, having been discouraged from his creative tendencies as a child. Ocampo ventured into various domains, including law, commerce, politics, and advertising, prior to eventually embracing art. Like a true artist, he kept his foray into poetry and writing alive, engaging in wordplay and persisting in crafting verses even during his tenure as a painter. His ideas became words visualized as forms and colors on his canvases.
Prior to his exploration of organic forms and innovative color theories – experimenting with their combinations – Ocampo underwent phases that traced the evolution of his artistic journey. The period encompassing the creation of the artwork on offer marked a ‘transitional’ phase–spanning from the 1940s when his figurative abstractions conveyed somber themes that reflect the shadows of personal trauma inflicted by the War, to the 1960s, during which he produced some of his most iconic pieces.
Untitled (1956) is characterized by Ocampo’s burgeoning interest in non-objective painting. His depictions of figures and natural elements during this seminal period underwent a process of simplification, as he attempted to present works that intentionally lacked discernible subject matter or emotions. His focus shifted towards exploring the interplay of shapes, colors, values, textures, and lines within a spatial context, rather than merely capturing a photographic likeness of the natural world.
Through the fusion of hues, tonal values, and textures, Ocampo sought to achieve a sense of cohesion and design that mirrored the qualities seen in his Mask series. Ocampo was inspired by the man and animal hybrid visuals of African masks, their supernatural representations, and symbolisms in identity. The richly textured and pointillist impastos in earth-tone hues of this series would define his career in the 1950s and are clearly reflected in this untitled piece. This work also showcases the artist’s progression towards his “mutant” aesthetic and the harmonized, jigsaw puzzle-like biomorphic compositions that would come to define his later oeuvres.
*H.R. Ocampo’s masterpiece displayed at Salcedo Auctions’ gallery. At the foreground are works by Ramon Orlina: (left) ‘Free Spirit’ (right) ‘Untitled (Torso)’; and an ivory carved in the figure of a head. Check these pieces at ‘The Well-Appointed Life’ online catalogue. *
This masterpiece has been in the collection of the illustrious Guevara family of San Juan City for decades. The patriarch Domingo M. Guevara was a self-made Filipino tycoon who had brought the Philippine economy to a crucial threshold towards industrialization in the 1960s and 1970s. He pioneered manufacturing television, radios, and other appliances in the country under the ‘Radiowealth’ brand, and was also the first full-fledged auto manufacturer in the Philippines, having the franchise to assemble Volkswagen cars. He also created the first Filipino designed and fabricated vehicle called the ‘Sakbayan’ in the late 1960s.
Domingo Guevara is credited for creating the first Filipino car called ‘Sakbayan’ (center) and also locally manufactured televisions and other appliances under the ‘Radiowealth’ brand.
The Guevara Enterprises (later the Guevent Group) today is engaged in manufacturing, electronics, communications, agri-industrial development, transportation and financing, and has also expanded into real estate development,information and mobile communication technology, gaming, medical services, hospitality services, insurance, and green technology.
As paragons of Filipino progress and ingenuity, it can be rightfully said that the virtues of National Artist Hernando R. Ocampo and the Guevara family come together in this well-appointed masterpiece of the most sterling provenance.
The Well-Appointed Life live and online auction takes place on 16 September 2023 at 2PM. Preview runs from Thursday September 8 to Friday September 15 at the Salcedo Auctions, NEX Tower 6786 Ayala Avenue, Makati City. The gallery is open on Tuesdays to Fridays, 9AM-6PM and Saturdays, 9AM-4PM.