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Artist at Work: Action/Reaction

The science behind the creative philosophy of Don Bryan Bunag


By Hannah Jo Uy

According to Newton’s third law of motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This law, however, does not only apply to physics, it also extends to the creative philosophy of visual artist Don Bryan Bunag who sees each painting as the product of a rhythmic push and pull between his heart and his mind, and a back and forth between his soul and the canvas.

“What happens in the studio should be a conversation, not a monologue,” says Bunag. He emphasizes that it is vital for the artist to be connected to each element of the composition. “You should be able to discover yourself even deeper. I don’t believe that art-making only happens in the studio. It is more dependent on what happens outside the studio.”

Bunag begins with translating his reaction and proceeds to flesh it out in prose and poetry. He reflects upon an image that can correspond with the concept. As for choosing a subject, Bunag admits it’s all about his intuition, saying that in the initial stages, he strongly disregards aesthetics because it often complicates and pollutes the concept. “No rules,” he stresses. “I don’t think of consistency in relation to my previous pieces, nor do I force myself to stick to a particular subject.”

  • Alexis, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2017

  • For My Mother, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017

  • Conversations with Moon, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017

  • Tales From A DressMaker, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2017

  • Don Bunag

    His love for art has always been inborn. “I love the freedom that art gives me,” he says, touching on both the simplicity and complexity of artmaking as a profession. The works of Andrew Wyeth, along with European romanticists, have influenced Bunag greatly. Locally he expresses admiration for the works of Geraldine Javier, Rodel Tapaya, and Mark Andy Garcia, and his mentor, Renato Habulan, whom he says has had a deep impact not only in his art but also in other aspects.

    Outside of the art world, he credits his family, friends and, the people, both those who continue to be in his life and those long gone, even fictional characters, as vital aspects of his evolution as an artist. “They give you the opportunity to know yourself deeper,” says Bunag, for whom persistence and the openness to learn are the key to self-improvement for an artist. He cites that our ability to adapt to changes in society, whether consciously or unconsciously, as equally important.

    Bunag has recently been haunted by the concept of time. “It’s scary,” he says. “But it’s also challenging. I can describe every moment in our lives, like a place that we can never return to.” For the most part, time and memory, and the wide spectrum of emotions associated with them, have continued to fascinate him.

    This became the catalyst of his latest show, “Underneath the Fleeting Cloud,” which was recently unveiled at Art Verite’ Gallery. “When I was growing up, I would be at my grandmother’s garden and I would often spend my days thinking and contemplating while lying down, looking up at the clouds slowly passing by,” Bunag says. “This was the foundation of my concept. When I was planning for my first solo, I considered a lot of things, but couldn’t settle on one concept. It was frustrating. Then one night, I recalled my fond memories growing up.”

    Nostalgia led Bunag to zero in on the fleeting nature of time, as embodied by the formation of the passing clouds, and how no two forms will ever the same. It led him to contemplate on how humans are like “water bodies,” dependent on the sky and whatever is reflected from it. “It’s more on self-portrait in relation to the people who served as ‘clouds’ in my life.”

    The muted palette makes the collection light and airy, like memories. The lack of color serves to invite viewers to focus on the context of the work. Though harboring the same affection, he cites “Surviving Wars” as the one that most closely represents the thought process behind the collection.

    Bunag’s ability to communicate the melancholia of memory is truly exceptional. Each work connects us to the human longing to go back to the familiar, knowing full well we are not able to. These memories will remain encased in the museum of our past.

    ‘Underneath the Fleeting Clouds,’ is on display at theArt Verite’ Gallery 2C-05 2/F Shops at Serendra, BonifacioHigh  Global, Taguig City.

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