March 25, 2023

Genesis – large abstract work, first done in oil on canvas…

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1969 / Tapestry / 8 x 914.4 cm / Artist: Hernando R. Ocampo aka H.R. Ocampo / Cultural Center of the Philippines Collection

This large abstract work, first done in oil on canvas, was later made into the tapestry of the Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. It best exemplifies Ocampo’s prismatic style of the late 1960s. In overall monochrome red except where the red tones modulate into yellows at the center, the interest of the work lies mainly in its numerous facets, like multiple crystalline prisms that capture the light at different angles. The numerous adjacent tonal facets create a lively sense of spatial relationships—shallower and deeper, outer and inner shapes.

Relative depth is suggested by the tones of the well-defined forms: shades of deep red growing into grays and blacks as they go inward; reds increasing in brightness and luminosity as they project outward. Shapes of lighter tone gather toward the center of the composition where the focus is on three sculptural forms, bright yellow in their highlights, flame-like in shape, and oriented toward each other. As flames they become symbols, guardians of life and creativity, the Genesis of creation in this web of ever-multiplying forms. There is a sense of glowing vitality and movement through the maze of shapes that interweave and gravitate toward the center in this example of an abstract work with symbolic connotations.

In 1991, as part of the tribute to Ocampo to celebrate his proclamation as National Artist for painting, a special son et lumiere number was prepared by lighting designer Katsch SJ Catoy, which highlighted facets and “layers” of the tapestry, making it “move” to the music of Maestro Lucio D. San Pedro’s Ang Buwan sa Kabundukan (The Moon over the Hills), played by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra while Ocampo’s poem “Buhay sa Kamatayan” (Life in Death) was being read by actor Joonee Gamboa. San Pedro was proclaimed National Artist for music together with Ocampo.

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