Text by Hannah Jo Uy
Photos by Pinggot Zulueta
“A good work of art affects people—it even touches their lives,” says Jamie Gubaton. His drawing career started in his early school days. He was the first in his family to venture into art, but his consistent participation and accolades in competitions fortified his decision to pursue Fine Arts at the University of the East-Caloocan. He was an eager student. He was happy to focus on each plate, drawing inspiration from the teachings of, and support from, professors and fellow students.
A pivotal moment came in Gubaton’s senior year when in his first attempt at a national painting competition, the PLDT-DPC painting contest, his entry won the grand prize and became the first directory cover nationwide. That same year he entered Art Petron, where he was also declared the grand winner and his work displayed prominently in the calendar. A few months later, he was the runner up at the prestigious Shell Art competition. These accolades drove the school to name Gubaton “Artist of the Year” upon his graduation in 2003. As part of his natural evolution, he soon shifted away from competitions, joining group exhibitions and holding solo shows.
Asked about his approach, Gubaton says, “I believe that when you work on your pieces, you should always do your best and God will do the rest.” He shares that he begins by meditating on his concept through rough sketches, before finalizing the layout and color schemes. Relying on staged photoshoots if in need of more custom tailored reference points, he admits that he paints on two to three canvases at a time. This, he says, is more effective leading him to work on stages: the first few days he would work on realistic pieces and elements before venturing to textured backgrounds and suddenly moving to patterns and lines. He goes on to enhance the realistic figures through oil, adding that he has developed strong familiarity with both acrylics and oils as a medium. “I used to be a part-time restorer,” he says. “I was working on old paintings along the likes of Amorsolo, Legaspi, Vitalis, Sanso, and Arturo Luz. I can say I learned a lot from my experience handling such paintings.”
As for his style, Gubaton doesn’t see the point of rigidly confining himself to one type of aesthetics. He values the freedom of choices. “I’m happy I explore different styles, but I’m happy to go back to what I really what,” he says. “It’s important to know the fundamentals. I think these aspects define an artist, they have to showcase your journey.”
Gubaton’s adventurous spirit also allows him to explore various mediums, from brass to wood sculpture, but, always, he hungers for acrylic and oil, the former for its ability to evoke texture and patterns according his liking, and oil, for figures that have to be enhanced and elevated in the context of realism.
The artist often refers to himself as a former social realist. It was common, he says, that his old paintings had shanties and addressed political issues, poverty, and religion. “Later on,” he says, “I just want it reversed. That’s why the shanties ended up having more whimsical characteristics, I want it to evoke light and be more positive. I want the audience to engage in a positive manner and offer more pleasant perspectives to showcase the beauty and simplicity in our surroundings.”
Gubaton further built on this during his third solo exhibit entitled “Home,” unveiled at the Artist’s Space of the Ayala Museum in collaboration with Gallery Big, where shares his visual contemplations on the old saying “home is where the art is.” The new collection of paintings, he says, celebrates the comforts of love, family, and peaceful daydreaming in shared spaces, relating not just to structures and its surroundings.
Featuring a total of 12 paintings, Gubaton highlighted a 3ft x 10ft diptych piece entitled You say goodbye, I say hello, as one that stands out. The painting, he says, refers to past memories and future dreams. He also provided audiences with a more personal glimpse of his process when he shared a video clip as he was working on these two pieces, For your eyes only and I see them bloom.
“I like to show the balance in terms of composition and its concept,” he says. “The man-made structure and nature elements, a state of harmony and sustainable progress.” While working on this exhibit, his family was in the process of building their house in Caloocan City, which gave him more opportunities to reflect on the difference between a house and a home. At the end of the day, Gubaton’s ideal home is “where my family and children can build many happy memories.”