By Marivir R. Montebon
Celso Duazo Pepito is known for crisp and clear lines in his works of art, and the bright color scheming. His masterpieces convey faith, love of country, and concern for the family, and in each rendition, there is a message of positivity and hope.
He has traveled extensively bringing his artistic craft with him to Singapore, Malaysia, Luxembourg and New York. The latest project would be one in New York titled Cultural Confluence – IV, which will showcase the works of his wife Fe and artist Sonia Yrastorza at the Philippine Center in Manhattan in autumn this year, from September 24 to October 5.
Pepito is a graduate of Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines Cebu College in 1981. He has mastered Cubism in his years of visual artistry, but he has gone beyond himself in promoting the well-being of people through his art. Excerpts from OSM! interview.
1. Before your New York gig in September, what has been your latest work exhibit?
After joining the 3rd series of “Kita: The Philippine/Indonesia Art Exchange” in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia on June 30-July 7, 2012, I had two exhibits. The first show is a Two Man Show with Jet Florendo dubbed as FLORENDO AND PEPITO at The Gallery of Philippine Heart Center, Quezon City. Our theme for this show is focus on our “Personal Perception” about life in the Philippines; the second show is a three-man show with Antonio Alcoseba and Darby Vincent Alcoseba at Galeria Immanuel in Makati City entitled: VISUAL INSIGHTS. In this show we opted to tackle on our journey as artists, moving with flow of our own evolution as painters- leading us to a more free sense of our expression
2. What do we expect to see in your New York exhibit at the Consulate?
In the CULTURAL CONFLUENCE-6 in New York on September 24 to October 5, 2012, we are trying to manifest the culture in us as Filipinos, visually present them unto the kind of viewers in America, and hopefully, provide them the opportunity to appreciate our culture as Filipinos through our arts. We find it a privilege to immerse ourselves with the rich American art and culture that can possibly strengthen our perception as Filipino artists.
3. Who is your mentor in visual arts?
I will always attribute it to the late Martino Abellana who has given me the opportunity to learn and understand the basic tenets in painting. My shift to another style is a product of the encouragement of my friends: Wenceslao “Tito” Cuevas, Jr. and Edgar Mojares.
4. What makes a painter like you prolific and accepted by the community?
In the early years of my practice as a painter, my concentration was to develop my artistic skills. I didn’t care that much whether the public will appreciate or accept my kind of art. After painting for thirteen years in the direction of my teacher, I have finally realized that I have to embark on my own style that can provide me with my own identity as a painter.
In 1994, i have started to develop my brand of Cubism. It is in this style that I have found the true freedom in expressing myself. My encounter with the teachings of Opus Dei in the same year has also provided me the opportunity to understand my role as a painter, gave me a deeper meaning in what I do and finally provided me with a greater purpose in life. Believing that as a painter, I can contribute much in the development of my community.
Art should not only be limited to creating beautiful things but it must go beyond it, looking forward to contribute more in nation building. It is perhaps in doing something for my community that the people have started to appreciate my art. With such kind of appreciation, I came to understand that I have the greater responsibility to do more in the spirit of helping my community into a more responsive one.
5. Is competition tough? How do you survive?
I have always considered my colleagues in the arts as inspiration rather than competitors. When I see good art, it keeps me going, it enables me to create more. Making an extra mile in what I do, simply manifesting my own aspirations as a person, or perhaps, trying to be different from the others, are ingredients that keep me alive in my artistic journey.
6. How can an artist survive using this God-given talent without being compromise to commercialism? Or be killed by commercialism?
Any artist who has the passion to do his thing can surely survive his art. But surviving is not the sole purpose of painting. To contribute for something different is even more noble than personal recognition. Expressing one’s personal sentiments and observation makes him more unique, therefore very difficult to be followed or commercialized, this is so, because the product of his creativity is based on his own personal opinion.
7. What is your distinction as an artist from the rest of artists in Cebu?
Every artist has always its own distinction as long he does not let himself be totally influenced by other people. Expressing his own passion as a person is his gift of uniqueness. No other people can perfectly express himself than him. In my case, I have used my art to entice my viewers to understand my advocacy as a Filipino painter. Foremost, I encourage them to appreciate the presence of God in the their lives.
As a Filipino, I wish to use my art to appeal to my brothers – to love our country, there is no other kind of people that can love our country that much, than us. Taking care of our very own family, strengthening our ties with them is simply our very own testament that indeed we care for our nation. Creating a stronger family will surely contribute to creating a strong and better community. Being positive in what we do can simply make us hopeful in celebrating the best meaning of our lives.
Putting these ideas in my paintings are what differs me from other artists not only in Cebu, but perhaps from other countries , as well.
8. Plans, perspectives in the visual arts.
‘Though the art scene in the Philippines is developing positively, there are areas in the country that needed support. In Cebu, for example, we lack the infrastructure to house the products of creativity of the Cebuano artists. So far, we only have few galleries that promotes our talents. We lack art museums that can facilitate the rapid growth of art awareness and appreciation in the Cebuano community. We are deprived of an Art Center that can truly house the artistry of the Cebuano painters.
Part of my vision is to help establish more venues that can promote the works of our local talents. To help facilitate this plan is to establish a foundation that can professionally run this kind of facilities and help seek more funding for this project. I am also trying to make a linkage among Asian artists to facilitate a better understanding and cooperation among our neighbors in Asia. We are also trying to extend our reach to Europe and America in the hope of giving us wider perspective in developing our art. Lately, we are also embarking on making art as part of the tourism industry in the country.