Vibrant life in the Philippines come alive on antique wood
By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – A walk through the gallery of the masterpieces of consummate artist Fernando Kabigting is a walk through the rustic Philippine life, of joyous childhood, or the sweetness of maidens, and generosity of Mother Earth. One is taken into those beautiful memories, unmistakably, this time through Kabigting’s Milestones Solo Exhibit.
At the Philippine Center that opened on May 31, 2019, Kabigting has lost count on the multitude of his exhibitions. But this exhibit is aptly to celebrate his milestone of 80 years and 60 years of being a Filipino artist.
Now based in Iloilo City, he flew into New York with his wife, Menchu Kabigting, to showcase his finest pieces, mostly painted on wood, specifically the batya (wooden basin) that he has come to be critically acclaimed for.
“At age 80, I find myself looking back with fondness on all that I have experienced. At my age, I don’t spend time regretting the things I can no longer do. I have learned to be less critical of myself,” he said in his artist statement.
Kabigting is a well-rounded artist who use oil and acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, pencils, metal art, glass art, and wood. His Milestones exhibit features his current pieces on reclaimed wood and wood materials that have long been discarded.
A paralyzing stroke that happened more than 20 years ago did not deter Kabigting from painting, but he had struggled to use his left hand after his working right hand had been paralyzed. With the encouragement of wife Menchu, he eventually managed to use his left hand to paint. And while his eyesight may have waned, his works have never before become sharper and coming to life.
During the opening of the exhibit, Consul General Claro Cristobal remarked that each of Kabigting’s painting tells a story. “The fact that he had a massive stroke, paralyzed and blind in one eye and still be able to use his “supposedly non working hand” with more vividness is truly remarkable.”
”My art has changed over the years, and perhaps it reflects the changes happening inside myself as well. But one this is certain, with all the ups and downs in life, my soul is Filipino and it will always be reflected in my work,” Kabigting said.
A family friend and special guest Vivian Talambiras Cruz said that Kabigting’s paintings are uniquely beautiful. “The first painting I got from him was about two decades ago. It was a watercolor of two boys perched on a tree branch that reminded me of my two sons.”
Kabigting himself explained: “There is something uniquely beautiful that happens when I paint on wood. The material lends itself well to paint, as if a dance is taking place and where I am allowed to lead and follow in the dance.”
His daughter Karina K. Tenaillon described the Milestone Exhibit poignantly: His life has taken him full circle, to a homecoming leading to a rediscovery of himself and his passion, allowing him to see beyond limitations and resurfacing as a man fulfilled.”
(Photos by Vivian Talambiras Cruz)