Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We were in the MRT from Legarda to the Cubao station when we thought it great to end the day with a look at Juvenal Sanso's paintings at the Mandarin Oriental Suites of Gateway Mall. We've just been through an after-lunch meeting with two scientists on our forthcoming review of science investigatory projects of high school students for the national science fair in February 2010.

We've always admired his art; his paintings are very distinguishable from those of BenCab, Baldemor and Malang, who are still living artists.

The exhibition--Premier Sanso: A Show of Shows--just opened the day before (November 4), so we were surprised that Juvenal Sanso was around. Aside from us, there was just a couple who, we gauged, were looking at possible additions to their art collection. The painter was briefly engaged by the couple.

When he greeted us, we queried about the ubiquitous moon in his paintings. There are a lot of reasons for putting it there, he said, but it's principally to indicate that these are not underwater landscapes. We retorted that, yes, the initial impression would be of coral reefs, but with the moon, they'd seem like ruins unless they are embellished with flowers.

He walked us through the exhibition, and in a way, through his artistic life. He chuckled when we jested if Paris lacked buxom models when he painted his nude, which like his other early works like the portraits, was still signed Juvenal Sanso.

Almost all the works on display are from his collection, and actually, he said, he can show a thousand at one time. He does not sell what he really likes.

He can yet be a National Artist, but we forgot he is a Spanish citizen. He opted to being a permanent resident here, he said, because naturalization when he was young was a tedious process with the documentary and legal procedures. But with the dual citizenship law in place, we might yet see him become a National Artist.

During the second world war, they evacuated to Montalban, which he considered a prison just like the UST concentration camp for Americans and other foreigners trapped in the country. The Sansos, he said, were scared during those years; they could be mistaken as Americans because of their skin and taken as prisoners.

Juvenal Sanso and Henry Sy were boyhood friends. We surmise that the biggest Sanso collector could be the Sy family, which commissioned the artist to do the mural, the biggest work so far of the artist, for the convention center at the Mall of Asia.

We went back to the show late afternoon of November 24, his birthday, and who knows if we'd bumped into him again. We had the paintings all to ourselves. And the show would be closing later.

We don't aspire to own a Sanso. The cheapest in the Gateway catalog was Php38,000 for a Christmas-card size acrylic on paper. It's enough to be awed by his moon in the various scapes of his artistic imagination. Another awesome time is coming; a Sanso exhibition is being mounted, where else, but at a Sy establishment - the SM Megamall later this month. We hope to see a thousand Sansos.

Photographs from the invitation to the Premier Sanso: A Show of Shows painting exhibition,

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