A Colorless Soul for Judeo Herrera

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

“The sad plight of farmers compromising whatever is left to our agricultural sector in their farm lands only to be laborers on a daily wage earner is a cause for alarm. Not only did they left their families as well as their fields become untended but their dignity is tarnish as they struggle hard in a jungle of a city where there are no trees but of concrete as gray as decay of their existence.”

Thus wrote Judeo Herrera of his monumental work entitled Konkretong Gubat ng Mga Pangarap which was his entry in the recent Tanaw: National Art Competition of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Konkretong Gubat ng Mga Pangarap

Ongoing at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, unfortunately the work is not among those hanged. And the exodus of farmers leaving his hometown is at an alarming rate prompting him to paint such predicament.

It is a welcome respite or one may even be grateful that Judeo has never left his roots in Tarlac. He represents all those non-Manila-based and non-Fine Arts school educated painters who try to break into the Philippine contemporary art scene. His staying put in his hometown may have some good vibes after all. Personally what Judeo offers is a fresh perspective, one whose brushstrokes may be more organic than the temporal contemporariness of the art spaces and the genre works in the galleries in the malls.

Contrary to its limiting nature, for him joining art contests with themes provides for Judeo the most liberating act there is. You really can’t separate the images of Tarlac from his works as it has always been his playground as his work represents how he approaches whatever grim matter there in his hometown with a fresh perspective. His style may be too blatant, as one both versed with realism and abstraction, he seems quite obsessive with his splats of paint and his use of “this ash-like tint” in his works.

From a simple theme of a farmer’s exodus to the city, with an explosion of his sub-conscious lies a certain fluidity which is constant among his images. The foreground is what the subconscious is to the viewer. Judeo is one of the few artists I know who’s well-versed with watercolor and oil-acrylic. This is just the initial mark of his brilliance.

However more than a talented artist that he is, one appreciates Judeo first as a good son. He had to forego his schooling to try out his luck in the KSA as a designer and he has applied his paintings, making each piece unique. Observing him at various phase of his artistry, for someone who has maximized colors early on, the element of this mixture of black and white is a welcome respite. Having worked in Al-Khobar, could he be affected by his short stint in Saudi Arabia had a drab effect on his paint brushes?

He explains further: Keeping in mind the overall appearance na gusto ko lumabas dun sa artwork, I usually start with an abstract background. Yung movements nung texture sa abstract background nagsusuggest nang direction or personality nung subject ko. Having learned decorative art painting sinubukan kong i-apply s artwork ko yung techniques na natutunan ko abroad. Iniiwasan ko gumamit ng skin tone. A friend told me there is no local color, ibig nyang sabihin kahit na anung kulay pwede mo gamitin sa kahit anung bagay. It’s the value that counts.



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Heart of Generosity


Kids are always part of Judeo’s initial forays with experimentation. In fact these were his first works using this style. Mothers, you can never get enough of them. Consider Heart of Generosity. Unlike other parents, Judeo was fortunate unlike those other artists who didn’t have mothers to support behind their back.



An Alliance Beyond Culture and Dependence

There is so much wealth of subjects for Judeo than one wonders has he become too personal for comfort. In the Alliance of Beyond the Culture of Dependence proves otherwise, social themes are also part of his consciousness. The pull of nationalism is nothing new to him as he is from Tarlac which is more than just represented as one in the eight rays of the Philippine flag and by an event known as Death March during World War II. An entry at the recent AAP-PAF, one would think socio-political view he does not prefer the rigid clenched-fist approach to solving poverty. He is more positive in narratives which are visual than symbolic more uses metaphor.

Judeo adds: I’m having fun at my new discovery as if making both non representational and representational painting at the same time. And as I try to enjoy the painting process this is what comes out, if it I like it and it turns out good kaya tinuloy tuloy ko na. The painting itself is composed of layers of paint kaya you really have to be patient na hintayin mong matuyo bago ka pumahid ng panibago. Thus when you will look into it closer mapapansin mo yung details nung pagkakapatong patong ng mga kulay.


Pragmatic

Pragmatic is my personal favorite, about love and its deeper meaning. Casting shadows of airplanes and other material well-off, one aspires to provide for a love one but what if she decides alone to fend for herself and leave him behind? Most especially when one is young and carefree. But what about commitment, dreams of having a together, of one’s talents to new hopes for the country.

Judeo’s works may not even be decorative or described as pretty. What makes these pieces come alive is its narrative is deeply rooted on his experiences channeled through his own artistic terms; from an artist who is not a product of your typical western fine arts degree or from the current city art scene. His not showing commercially does not mean he is not willing tto accept an invitation not to be part of where the action is.

A subject void of color which is almost stainless in effect may not be of sadness or of blandness but of liberation. Judeo’s careful attention to his hues, how colors are well coordinated against his images as his imagery continuously evolves, his involvement digs deeper and his palette becomes more gray in urban treatment.

More than just producing two presidential aspirants during the last presidential elections (if you were in another planet one even made it to Malacañang), Tarlac has been a community of young masters like Judeo are churning out masterpieces as they add to the luster that is Philippine art while painting in the peripheries. It may be off the center, through persistence and dedication, their collective efforts may yet unravel something big and brighter for all of us to see.

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