Tattooed women, pop art and a can of sardines

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Monday, May 26, 2014

SHE wanted to become a tattoo artist but after taking up painting, which for her was simply to improve her drawing skill, she realized how she actually loved to paint. Incorporating cartoons, graffiti and pop art into her outputs didn’t seem too far removed from her initial dream to ink.

Kim Napha Barbara Aurelia P. Bartz, a 25 year-old Filipina-Luxembourger, is a graduating student of fine arts with major in painting at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City.

The school’s fine arts department mounts two reputed exhibits annually as platforms to expose the creative competence of students in the field.


The 8th Pintal Exhibit and 4th Cristobal B.C. Espina Art Awards concluded last March. Bartz bagged first place.

Bartz was born in Luxembourg. When she was four, her parents decided to live in her mother’s home country, the Philippines, where the artist completed her kindergarten and elementary education. They moved back to Europe when she was 12. At 22, Bartz settled in Cebu to study fine arts.

She paints about the human condition, mostly of women and social issues. Her style depends on the topic. As she is both content- and process-oriented, she experiments with colors and assorted media.

Bartz circulates around the influence of her university art teacher Nomar Miano, the late Edgar Mojares, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Filipino contemporary icon Ronald Ventura, Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, French academic traditionalist William Bougeureau and above all, her father—her first art teacher, also an artist.

In Grade 5, Bartz won first place in a poster-making contest for Nutrition Month. It was her first award. She doesn’t frequent art exhibits since school projects are time-consuming, although she was a freshman when she joined the 6th Pintal Annual Exhibit and 2nd Cristobal B. C. Espina Art Awards with the entry “Virgin and the Red Horse,” a painting with a burst of colors, feminism and modern approach plated in mixed media.

A year after that, became a finalist in the same competition with “Bar Bee Doll,” one of her personal favorites that depicts how fragile yet tough women are in a society dominated by men, stereotype and insecurity.

“In a country where physical beauty is exulted, I sometimes have the impression that looks are preferred over brains,” Bartz observed.

According to Bartz, education is given high importance in Europe and women are more protected there. In Luxembourg, in particular, education is for free.

The Dolleeta in “Bar Bee Doll” is tattooed for the obvious reason that Bartz finds tattoos beautiful. Most of the time in the Philippines, however, when a woman has colors printed on her skin, she is automatically read as something as negative.

“It’s just unfair. People should not go around judging a book by its cover,” Bartz noted.

Her latest winning piece surfaced as a deviation from her “signature” theme, a move admired as a corroboration of an innate experimental discipline.

The inspiration for “Sinardinas” came to Bartz when she invited her cousins (ages six, seven and eight) to visit Cebu from Camotes Islands. The kids have never been to the city before. As her apartment is quite small, her cousins had to sleep on the floor, close to each other—a scenario that unfolded as a subject, something she would be proud of later on.

Bartz knew she had to paint the idea as something “inside of a can of sardines.” The girls in the painting were done in oil. The background is a collage of “Family’s Choice Sardines” wrappers. The can itself is made of galvanized iron.

Why should the public patronize the art of a neophyte? But perhaps, patronize is a big word. Bartz feels contented when people appreciate her displays considering the fact that so many underrated artists here deserve the right avenue but are a little bit neglected, instead.

“Winning was just a bonus,” she said.

Bartz lives in two worlds. Growing up in Europe, she has a particular view of Cebu that she thinks is what makes her artworks fresh.

“I cannot imagine life without painting. Just like a musician who cannot live without his instrument, I cannot live without my brushes and colors. Not being able to paint would be tragic. Art is a necessity, my life,” Bartz said about her romance with art.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 27, 2014.


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