By HANNAH JO UY
Layout by PINGGOT ZULUETA
Last year, Romeo Gutierrez faced the reality of his inevitable mortality, when he had to undergo a major surgical operation in St. Luke’s Medical City. This had a profound impact on the artist who, after having recovered, is now bursting with enthusiasm for life.
“This is my second life in this world,” he says. “I owe my talent to God and I’m expressing it through my intuitive mind. I don’t consider myself as a deeply spiritual person. I’m just a God-fearing person and I just want to acknowledge the many blessings God has given me.”
Romeo views each painting as a prayer, a celebration of the divine quality inherent in the creative process all artists partake of. He attributes his initial interest in the arts to his father, Jose Gutierrez, a colonel in the army and civil engineer. Romeo says his father was not the imposing authoritarian usually associated with those in the military. He was, instead, the epitome of a Renaissance man. “He was a mathematician, a singer, a poet, a musical composer, a painter, a scholar, and has been all around the world as a scholar of Philippine Military Academy (PMA),” Romeo explains. “He was the very first person who influenced my art because of his paintings and illustrations.”
This influence of his father extended beyond simply opening his eyes to the joys of creation. Romeo’s father, who was also taught at the PMA, instilled an impeccable sense of discipline to his children. Such an upbringing made him a particularly organized person, something he carries over to his artistic practice.
Romeo also became a professor of Fine Arts, teaching only twice a week to balance educational duties with his own work as an artist. Though he was the one teaching, he says that it has also served as valuable learning experience for him as a painter. “I have to study what I teach,” he explains. “Because of this, I have learned more about the principles of design.”
Initially, Romeo was exposed to and inspired by the likes of Manansala, Malang, and Legaspi, which cultivated in him a deep appreciation for classical tradition. This, he says, is essential and fundamental for all artistic practice and will remain timeless. Given that his father was also a big admirer of the genre, Romeo says that he wanted to pursue realism in a bid to please him. He, however, became heavily influenced by Picasso when he began pursuing a full-time career in the arts. “I wanted my own style,” he says, “so I did several experimentations until I arrived at my own.”
Painting is an extension of the personality of an artist. It is like a signature. A painting should be an artist’s identity. Try to be different, always.
Through time and effort, Romeo managed to enhance his natural technical talent with regard to color and composition. But questions revolving the issue of identity remained vital for him as he believes in creating a unique artistic voice to contribute something different to the local art scene. “It is a truly hard climb going up,” he says. “There are so many good artists, so I tried my best to be different.”
The quest to discover and develop an identity led Romeo through numerous periods, soul-searching through the canvas. “A style for me is very important,” he says. “Painting is an extension of the personality of an artist. It is like a signature. A painting should be an artist’s identity.” This, he adds, is the similar advice he would also share to young up and coming artists: “Try to be different, always.”
This made him dabble in a number of styles, colors, and themes, which he recalls as the blue-green period, the brown period, and the black and white period. His subject matter also ranged from the parapsychological, mother and child, family scenes, species of birds, and the environment.
“All the paintings are unique in themselves,” he explains, emphasizing how much he cherished the different chapters of his artistic journey. Today, Romeo is dabbling in landscape scenes, reimagined according to his own figurative abstract style and pulsating with the enthusiasm he feels toward life. This was showcased in his latest show, which was supposed to be held last year but was only recently unveiled. It serves as a milestone for Romeo, owing to the health struggles he had to overcome. Many of the works, he says, touch on the spiritual as part of his efforts to give tribute to the Creator “The act of painting is something meditative and spiritual,” he describes, emphasizing that this is what makes artworks unique. “All artist, all creators, do their greatest work when they abandon self and let their talent take over,” he adds. “And their talent is God.”