By Hannah Jo Uy
Fitz Herrera is an artist that values the inner state over the outer condition. He is moved by emotions, and though he is man of few words, he speaks volumes through colors and textures. His art is an expression and extension of himself, and equally as distinguishable. He is an open book. But instead of using words, sentences, and phrases to articulate his ideas, he uses colors, lines, and texture.
“In abstraction, I’m not confined to one idea,” Herrera emphasized, “I feel it. It’s allowing yourself to be commanded by your feelings instead of your mind.”
Prior to taking up Advertising at the University of the East-College of Fine Arts, Herrera was drawn to music. Born in Caloocan and raised in Nueva Vizcaya before relocating to Manila, he was a member of the drum and bugle corps of his school when he was in elementary. At the time, he was set for a musical career and aimed to attend the Conservatory of Music at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). “Music is in my veins,” he says. “Currently, I play drums for local bands in Manila. Music helps a lot in my creative process, it sets the right mood.”
The early influence that music gave him as an artist carried over to his work as a visual artist.
He was a graphic artist in the advertising sector for eight years but it slowly suffocated his natural and spontaneous creative impulses. “I felt I was missing something. I was confined to a box,” he says. “But whenever I would get home from work, I would paint. I found that was the time I felt free. It’s the most amazing feeling, parang lumilipad sa ulap.” Since then, Herrara has been a full time artist. It has been seven years.
Admitting to the influences of Cy Twombly, Bernardo Pacquing, and Jose Joya to name a few, Herrera developed a distinctive style borne from his efforts to make his own paint through the use of modeling paste and pigments. This led to deeply textured works that allude to the layers of deep thought that led to its very creation.
The works of Herrera have increasingly taken on a stream of conscious quality as it evolved over the years. Each painting is as much of a journey to the artist, as it is to the viewer. As audiences, we are asked to partake of the experience that Herrera aimed to capture.
“Usually, the concepts and themes in my work center around my feelings,” he says. These concepts, he added, are usually borne from his experiences in the past and present as well as his hopes and dreams for the future.
The sense of freedom in his work is palpable, and there is a natural flow, like an endless harmony. Herrera feels deeply. These overwhelming emotions, it spills and splatters onto the canvas. He uncovers the unique patterns of freedom though visual poetry that is representative of his outlook on life.
Herrera is unabashed about his personal viewpoints. “I’m not into current social issues,” he says. “I want to share a positive outlook in life in my works.” Deeply intimate narratives form the bulk of his composition. Emanating from the wild and beautiful visual chaos are positive thoughts he wanted to integrate in his work. In a departure from the often strongly opinionated pieces that evolve from social commentary, Herrera opts to spotlight universal and timeless aspects of humanity, using his own experience as a platform and take-off point.
Bold spontaneity is probably the strongest aspect of his work. As a narrative artist, before Herrera embarks on a new work, he says he makes an effort to empty his mind and remove from his consciousness anything harmful to others. Herrera is quick to add that overall, his biggest inspiration is family, especially his two kids whoserve as his greatest muses.
“Follow your feelings, not your brain,” says Herrera.“That’s my basic philosophy in creating. If I plan too much I’ll never find [an idea], but when you just let your feelings do the thinking, that’s when ideas shows up.”
That being said, Herrera is acutely aware of the discipline and time it takes to develop cohesive work. Though his art is driven by his own personal values, his aesthetic devotion also pushes him further to uncover new and unexpected layers of meaning within the often familiar silhouettes we have grown accustomed to. “For me, evolving as an artist is non-stop learning,” he says.
Herrera applied the same work ethic in his latest show “Selfless” recently on display at Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea. The exhibit features the artist’s signature hues and trademark aesthetics. As alluded to by the title, the collection is a representation of the artist’s commitment to be an oasis of peace and positivity in today’s world.
Colorful with a hint of playfulness, the quality of the paintings is not confined to their visual elements but rather, also on the feelings that they evokes among the viewers.
“If you respect life, you respect yourself. Don’t step on or use people just to achieve the success you are yearning for. Success comes when you uplift others in need.”