By HANNAH JO UY
Layout by PINGGOT ZULUETA
For Aubrey Fajardo, painting became a way to unravel the mysteries of his own soul. Doubling as an active form of meditation, art was his way of gaining a deeper understanding of himself to triumph over the physical and mental challenges. This was celebrated in Aubrey’s most recent show called “Flourish,” which emerged following a dark period in his life.
“The concept started when I got sick,” he explains. The bodily ailments influenced his psyche to such an extent that the constant pain also led to panic attacks. With Aubrey living in the province, as he chose to have his studio in a more rural area, and his family living in the city, he recalls having to battle his own demons in isolation. “I will have to overcome my anxieties on my own,” he recalls, saying to himself. “And in that process, I came to know more about myself.”
Aubrey offers a quote from the exhibit write up by Prim Paypon that he believes aptly describes how the experience became inspiration for this show: “Even without watchful eyes, Flowers bloom on their own to fulfill their purpose in the ecosystem.” Art, thus, served as an oasis amid a storm of anxieties.
Art has been a significant part of Aubrey’s life. As a young kid, he was always drawing. “With the encouragement and support of my family, I never thought of any other profession other than the arts,” he says.
Aesthetically, Aubrey was deeply influenced by realism, surrealism, and magical realism, drawn to how the genre opens new worlds to viewers. A self-confessed lover of classical tradition, he was also inspired by masters in the field, the likes of Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Caravaggio, Bernini, and Rembrandt. He also admires Ronald Ventura, CJ Tanedo, Renato and Guerrero Habulan, Rey Aurelio, Yue Minjun, Zang Xaogang, and Johan Barrios.
To feed his hunger for knowledge, Aubrey also opts to actively participate in group exhibitions as a way to get to know other artists and observe current trends in the burgeoning Philippine artistic landscape. A full-time painter since 2012, Aubrey continues to challenge himself by experimenting with new techniques and studying other artist’s works to dissect various methods. This exercise in critical thinking instilled a kind of sensitivity, developing in him a nuanced understanding of both style and substance.
This is seeping into his own works, as Aubrey has been increasingly drawn to the face as a subject matter. “I love painting faces with a just subtle hint of emotion,” he says. “It makes you guess what you yourself feel.” The subtle emotion he imparts in his work stimulates a viewer’s curiosity, looking for what it hides and what it reveals. There is an air of mystery surrounding his subjects, many of which are shrouded by flora and fauna as though peeking out from their own secluded world. Fajardo’s studies of the face challenges our notions of what we know about the very faces we interact with daily—our friends’, our family’s, and even ours. By highlighting portions of the face, Aubrey asks us to take a closer look, not only in the painting and the subject it showcases, but also in those closest to us, perhaps to gain an appreciation of the different wars every individual wages from within.
Admittedly, Aubrey remains methodical and conscientious in his artistic approach, examining how flowers will flow throughout the composition, imbuing life and vibrancy in the lush forestry surrounding his subjects. His curiosity, of late, has also driven him to dabble in sculptures, which he has been contemplating as an evolution for his succeeding shows, inspired by the three-dimensional creations of the great classicist Bernini and modern master Ronald Ventura.
Aubrey’s creative philosophy is perfectly summed up in this heartwarming quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky:
“Beauty will save the world.”
“With the current state of the world right now,” says Aubrey, “it needs beauty more than ever.”
“Flourish” is on display at Ysobel Gallery until April 17.