One of the best realist painters working today, Demetrio L. Dela Cruz brings to fore his meticulous trompe l’oeil technique and his exacting vision in his solo exhibition, FRAGILE! .
The show, which spun off from his work that paid homage to a painting by Fernando Amorsolo and won third prize in the mixed media category of the GSIS National Art Competition, extends his concept of appropriation to the works of Vicente Manansala, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, BenCab, and Elmer “Emong” Borlongan.
For the artist, the idea of fragility is expressed three-fold: first as the literal fragility of the paintings as a material object (hence the need to conserve and restore them); second as the “cultures, beliefs, traditions” presented by the paintings that are in danger of being eroded by modernity; third as the thin, fragile line that separates his works from the paintings on which a “discourse of plagiarism” may ensue.
By definition, plagiarism is passing off other’s works as one’s own, and Dela Cruz’s works operate more in the realm of homage. Think of Pablo Picasso’s series of paintings that celebrates the works of masters past. In fact, one may say that the paintings of Dela Cruz add a layer of freshness and vitality to the works that are in danger of being consigned to the dusty corners of (art) history. By painting them, the artist brings the works of the masters to the contemporary moment, to the attention of present-day gallery-goers, proving that they still have something vital to say.
In replicating the works of these masters, Dela Cruz situates his practice in the tradition of appropriation, which raises questions on the nature of style, originality, and personal iconography. Painters influence fellow painters, a fact that the artist highlights to such a degree of verisimilitude that, without Dela Cruz’s other interventions (the crate, the bubble wrap, the folded piece of Manila paper), his paintings become stand-ins to the originals.
It is these very interventions, however, that make the works of Dela Cruz as very much his own, as they inject nuance and concept to the paintings they replicate. They are not mere reproductions but contemplations on the value of these paintings to the imagination of the nation. The artist emphasizes the need to protect them, yes, but also the need for them to continue to circulate in public life, where their relevance can be sustained and assured.
Fragile! is at once a testament to Dela Cruz’s masterful technique as well as to his indebtedness to the painters who have irrevocably shaped the landscape of Philippine visual arts. He wants us, the viewers, to look at them with fresh eyes, to appreciate their beauty and symbolic value, to see that their fragility as a call to be more vigilant in protecting them. With that said, the exhibition is an achievement in the medium of painting: the credible representation of the world on a flat surface.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
07 September - 22 September 2019
Address: Cubao Quezon City Philippines