By Hannah Jo Uy
Portrait by Pinggot Zulueta
As human beings, our busy minds can often be pulled in a million different directions and we fall prey to distractions. Artists in particular have to strike the careful balance of indulging their restlessness and accepting the natural ebb and flow that comes with living a creative life. This is true even for the most disciplined and focused painters such as Omi Reyes, whose exuberant passion for the arts has led him to wear many hats.
Despite the multitude of responsibilities he carries as a passionate advocate of the arts and active member of the local art community, Omi is, first and foremost, an artist. And this is a fact that he has celebrated with his latest exhibit currently on display at the Crucible Gallery entitled, “Streamlined.” “I love how the Merriam-Webster dictionary defined the word,” Reyes said. “It says, “stripped of nonessentials.” Dictionary.com defines it as “designed or organized to give maximum efficiency; compact.” The moment I got a grasp on the word, I realized it is the perfect definition of my latest works.”
Indeed the collection embodies Reyes’ struggle following what he felt to be a creative downturn or, what is otherwise considered, “artist’s block.”
“I was like a lens that was going out of focus,” he remarked. “I was not able to finish what I have started. It was mainly because I had too many things going on in my mind.” Omi was bombarded with a host of new responsibilities having been recently elected the president of The Saturday Group, and the work leading up to the launching of the Saturday Group Gallery. “I was not ready for all the multi-tasking that I needed to do,” he admitted. “But in spite of that, I still am a visual artist first, so I had to carry on with my artist duties.”
“I needed a breath of fresh air, a step back, a pause, or in this instance, a help of a friend who would later on refocus my blurred lens,” Omi said feverishly. The answer was a treasured friend, Ricky Francisco, who was also curator of the Lopez Museum. Upon inviting Francisco for a home-cooked dinner Omi divulged his struggle. However, Francisco upon seeing what Omi considered were ‘unfinished’ works was perplexed as he did not find them incomplete as what Omi has otherwise related. “He told me my works are good “as is,” Omi recalled. For Omi, what he saw as lacking, Francisco saw as completed, and what Omi found bare, Francisco discerned as simplified.
“Streamlined is about focusing on the essentials,” Reyes said, emerging from what he initially considered to be a creative dry spell. “That amid the complexities of my worrisome mind when it comes to my artworks, people still find beauty in the simplicity of the fundamentals.”
Reyes will be exhibiting a total of 12 works in each show, comprising of 10 wall reliefs and two sculptures. In a departure from his previous works which predominantly used wood, canvas, and acrylic as mediums, Reyes has injected metal to some pieces, to further elevate its “steampunk” aesthetic. Though metal hues are in line with this particular genre, Reyes felt a tinge of excitement in adding the new element to his work, most especially in light of the satisfying outcome.
His pursuit of mixed media remains evident, as well as his inclination for his steampunk style “Although I use intuition as the basis of my creativity, my fondness of gears, mechanisms, and industrial components makes my artworks fall under this genre,” he said.
Omi likened a new style as a new product that must be tinkered and familiarized so viewers remain entrenched and enthralled by it. Speaking against the backdrop of steampunk aesthetics penetration in the art industry in 2010, Omi remains committed to making himself familiar with the possibilities that lies within this genre saying that he constantly aims to continue “exploring, experimenting, expanding the possibilities that I can venture on.”
Indeed, for this collection Reyes celebrated the minimalistic quality of his work, especially with regard to the monochromatic hues, which never numbered more than three neutral colors of black, grey, and a brown rustic palette that mimicked wood itself.
Instinctive and spontaneous, Reyes creative process remains largely the same though he has managed to embrace the tension that comes with handling the often fickle muse. It has not deterred his approach as he continues to work based on how he feels. “I make sure that every day, I create and my works evolve on themselves,” he said. “My craftsmanship is more of initiated by heart than by head so they just come out involuntarily. I compare it to making melodies. As long as the notes jive and fall in the same scale, new chords and melodies are produced, and in my case, the components and elements of my crafts connect and come to life.”