Sarsarita : Samtoyan Proverbs
By Lorraine Datuin

In Demetrio dela Cruz’ latest exhibition of his signature enigmatic assemblages, he digs into his Ilocano ethnicity to present a treasure trove of pre-spanish oral cultural heritage - the sarsarita which are wise sayings that originate from his hometown in the Ilocos region. Called sao sao, these maxims have enlightened the mind of both young and old, long time ago when ancient Ilocandia was still called Samtoy, the region’s moniker before Spanish colonization. Expressing general truths and principles of action, these proverbs have been handed down through generations to shape morality and influence conduct.
Believing in the importance of sarsaritas, Demetrio visually interprets these wise sayings in “Sarsarita: Samtoyan Proverbs” through multimedia assemblages that aim to present timeless maxims in a new light for the contemporary viewer. Thus, in the exhibit, viewers will see not just oil paintings but boxes upon boxes of oil paintings on multiple layers of transparent acrylic sheet or Flexi Glass, Demetrio’s unique art invention of mixed media. When put together, these curious boxes of glass paintings become windows to a past when Filipinos held these adages in high regard.
Demetrio expresses wistfulness and hope for the sarsaritas through pop surrealism, a genre that fuses dream like images with the commonplace, re-wrapping archaic and profound sayings into brand new packets of wisdom. Hence in “Ti sursuro petpetam, ta isu’t kapatgan a sanikuan” (Firmly hold on to your education, or it’s your greatest possession), we see a careful composition showing a Galatea-like bust juxtaposed with references associated with enriching the mind, such as a wise owl reading a book. In another work, “Malaca a damilyen ti Bonton no nalucneg pay” (Molding clay is easy when still soft), Pairs of hands are molding a bust of a child from clay – a dream like composition implying good parenthood and raising children. In both artworks, as well as in the rest, Demetrio captures the essence of age-old maxims through rich symbology, that challenges viewers to think and reflect.
Reflection takes on many meanings in Demetrio’s latest collection. Thematically, his works reflect on the sarsaritasas they illustrate interpretations of traditional proverbs. Visually, reflection may mean double images as when one looks into a mirror; but in here, multiple images layered one on top of the other – as art critic Alice Guillermo once noted about his style. Through this layering of images, made possible by combining painting with oil on several layers of transparent Flexi Glass, all encased in intricate woodwork, Demetrio’s works are successful in creating a rich, multidimensional vision of his very complex topic. In the process, we see a successful marriage of material and meaning.
For Demetrio, the Samtoyan proverbs mean more than witty expressions from an ancient oral tradition. To him, they are cultural treasures worthy of being relived in today’s society. He believes that by keeping them alive in the creation of art, he is doing his part in preserving an important aspect not just of his Ilocano identity, but also, of the Filipino heritage. In the end, Demetrio hopes viewers to see the beauty of his sarsaritas - the wisdom of many in the wit of one.

About the Artist
Demetrio L. Dela Cruz (b. 1971) is a Filipino visual artist, digital photographer and graphic artist. With a degree in fine arts from the Far Eastern University, he has joined and mounted many exhibitions local and abroad in countries like Singapore and South Korea. A multi-awarded artist, he has received a roster of recognitions such as Grand Prizes from the Art Association of the Philippines Art Competition (2007) and the the Lion’s Club mural painting contest (2008). In 2004, he was chosen as the Philippine’s Representative during the prestigious Asian Art Festival held in Seoul, South Korea.

“Sarsarita: Samtoyan Proverbs”, the solo exhibition of visual artist Demetrio dela Cruz’ opens on August 13, Saturday and runs until August 27, 2016 at the Art Cube Gallery, which is located at 3/F Glorietta 4, Ayala Malls, Makati City.

Art Cube Gallery

13 - 27 August 2016

3/F Glorietta 4
Ayala Malls
Makati City