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[Photo of Painting]Roberto M.A. Robles showcased shades and shapes of his hometown Batangas in his recent solo exhibit at Galleria Duemila.

Breaking rules isn’t much of a problem in the art world. Artists can pretty much choose what they want to express and they have complete control over their medium of choice.

Sometimes, breaking away from classic techniques produces refreshing pieces of artwork.
Filipino painter and sculptor Roberto M.A. Robles did just that during his recent exhibit called Felipinas The Chan’s Rooster’s Threshold. Felipinas showcased more than a dozen paintings and mixed media pieces inspired by the artist’s ancestral land Tuy, Batangas.

Surprisingly, there were no sweeping landscapes, nipa huts and cockfights common in Filipino paintings. Robles is not interested in formalities so his lines were spontaneous and less academic. What were shown instead were streaks of gold and green that dominated his acrylics on canvas. These colors represented the radiance of morning light and were meant to provide a calming effect on people long oppressed by Manila’s seemingly omnipresent noise and heat.

Southern roots

Apart from the art pieces, the exhibit title itself also has Batangueňo roots, so to speak.

The artist adopts the 16th century Spanish word “Felipinas” to describe the landscape surrounding his studio roughly two hours south of Manila. It was also a subtle tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the province.

The Chinese word “Chan,” meanwhile, takes its roots from Buddhism. It is more popularly known to the Japanese and to the rest of the world as Zen, which the artist has been practicing for over a decade now.

The “rooster” in the title simply refers to the common farm animal that seems to scratch the soil constantly.

Robles alludes this activity to the unearthing of history, as artifacts and pot fragments have been retrieved in Batangas.

Robles interpreted Batangas terra cotta in a mixed media art piece called “The Chan’s Rooster’s Threshold 2.” It’s a small, bamboo ladder structure that holds a mass-produced Chinese bowl painted with a rooster. According to Robles, it showed the fragile connection of land and its history.

Another standout was a small photograph titled “Felipinas.” Encased in a golden-hued frame no more than eight-inches in length and nine-inches in height, the picture showed a landscape blurred almost beyond recognition. This, according to the artist, symbolized a place full of memories special to him. Its lack of clarity, he explained, worked in the same way the thin washes on his other paintings evoked the spirit of Batangas, which he fondly called his provincial garden.

Artist’s Profile

Roberto Marcelo Afable Robles graduated from the University of the East (UE) School of Music and Fine Arts Manila in 1980 and became a faculty member of the UE College of Fine Arts shortly after. In 1990, he went to Japan and stayed there for five years, completing his Master’s of Fine Arts Major in Sculpture from the University of Tsukuba in 1995.

He came back to Manila and became the dean of the UE College of Fine Arts from 1995 to 1997. From 1998 to 2001, he taught at the University of the Philippines Department of Studio Arts (Sculpture).

His pieces are among those held in major national collections like the Ayala Museum, Metropolitan Museum, and the Lopez Memorial Museum.

His career reached another milestone in 2000 when he represented the country to the Symposium
on International Sculpture held in Busan, South Korea. In 2002, Robles took part in a prestigious residency program in Vermont, USA. His works had been put on exhibit in Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Chile, and Japan.

Robles has been practicing his craft for over 30 years now. Felipinas The Chan Rooster’s Threshold was his tenth solo exhibition with Gallera Duemila in Pasay City.


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