Rare and essential

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Monday, January 20, 2014

HIS lively blue eyes and jovial demeanor belie his years. He carries himself like a young man, and regales his audience with lively stories with more energy than some people decades his junior. 84-year-old painter Juvenal Sanso jokes that it is no mistake that his first name sounds like “juvenile” and refers to himself as makulit.

Yet, his work holds talent and stories that only years of experience can maturate.

Sanso was born in Catalonia, Spain but moved to Manila at the age of four. His father established a wrought iron business, which Sanso proudly proclaims was “the best in the world.” The young Sanso attended the College of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines under the tutelage of Fernando Amorsolo, then enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas. After years of establishing himself in the art communities in France, Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom, he can communicate in Catalan, Spanish, Tagalog, French, Italian and English, not just conversationally, but also reading and writing. The painter was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit by the Philippines in 2006, the Distinguished Cross of Isabela by Spain in 2007, and The Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France in 2008.


Take note that it’s “the painter” and not “the artist.”

“I’m a painter, not an artist,” Sanso says to describe himself. “Painting is so much more natural and more truthful.”

With decades as a painter and dozens of work produced, different periods can be expected in a painter’s output based on his experiences. He clearly remembers a day when, as a 14-year-old boy, he was beaten for not bowing to a Japanese officer. The family business closed down after refusing to support the Japanese. With these difficult and traumatic experiences, his Black Period during World War II was of paintings of gruesome and deformed imagery.

Although some young painters may rip up what they consider ‘bad’ work and throw it away, Sanso says he never destroys anything. “It’s proof of what is good and what is bad,” he says of work that may be unsatisfactory to its creator. How can one learn from past mistakes if only the good is left behind?

Dedicated to his craft, Sanso never married. He says that on some days, he wakes up with a spoon in one hand for his breakfast yogurt, and a paintbrush in the other.

After 50 years of living in Paris, Sanso returned to the Philippines in 2008 and brought with him “Rare and Essential,” a collection of work depicting summer beach scenes, green landscapes, and still lifes of flowers. The works are on display in the Qube Gallery at the Henry Hotel, Ma. Luisa Road, Banilad, until Feb. 8.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 21, 2014.


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