By Hannah Jo Uy
Portrait by Pinggot Zulueta
To create according to his heart’s desire—this is Louie Ignacio’s life philosophy. Indeed, creativity is so innate in him it is practically a compulsion. An exuberant embodiment of the multi-faceted potential of pure imagination, he has an infinite reservoir of energy fueled by a lust for life and love of nature.
For many, Ignacio is the iconic and prolific director known for crafting independent movies that have won critical acclaims from the most discerning international and national audiences. Beyond this public persona, however, is a rich artistic identity that reveals itself through myriad other mediums.
“Since I started making independent pictures such as Asintado, Laut, Childhaus, Area, and School Service, I felt drawn to making free and authentic films,” Ignacio says. “It’s the same thing with painting. I have the freedom to choose my subject and style. No one dictates my works—it comes from my heart.” In many ways, he says, being a director is similar to being a painter, drawing parallels between his experience as a catalyst for moving pictures and of creating still ones. “I develop a beautiful story, until it becomes a beautiful film,” he said. “It’s the same when I start a painting. I paint what my mind and heart sees. I don’t copy, but there is inspiration.”
That said, Ignacio admits that there is, undeniably, a stark difference between both mediums. “In my films, many of the concepts and topics are dark and sad, but it carries a heavy and important message to the viewers,” he explains. “My paintings are the opposite of my films. They are colorful and filled with life with each stroke of the brush, because I want the viewers of the painting to smile. It’s different, but both are created from the heart, and go through the same creative process.”
Naming Jackson Pollock and Vincent Van Gogh as his favorite artists, Ignacio revels in works that are authentic and free, championing art that challenge formal academic rules and favoring abstractions as a result. For Ignacio, inspiration can strike at any moment, a concept or aesthetic can emerge to grip his attention and engross him for days on end. “When it does, I want to do it right away even if it’s experimental,” he says. “I need to fall in love with what I’m working on so I can feel joy or fulfillment when the work has been completed. Sometimes I can finish work under an hour, but sometimes it would take a month.”
Despite confessing to being moody as a painter, much of Ignacio’s spontaneity is tempered by a discipline born from a steadfast commitment to his craft carving time for reflection amid the responsibilities of commercial projects. “I need proper time so I can paint,” he said, “but I always make sure I paint every day, as soon as I wake up or before I sleep at night.”
This has allowed Ignacio to continuously push his boundaries, undergoing many creative cycles since his first solo show in 2006, which marked his transition from a long-term patron of the arts to a more an active participant of its development in the contemporary landscape. The dynamic changes of his oeuvre through the years were also born from his extensive travels and willingness to immerse himself in exotic cultures. “Slowly, the colors and style would change based on the different cultures and the sceneries I was exposed to in different countries,” he says.
The most significant driving force for Ignacio’s art, however, is nature.
“I’m a nature lover,” he says, with much excitement, saying that he often finds himself drawn to painting the undulating mountains, the vast ocean, and the tireless beauty of flowers. To this end, Ignacio feels a deep connection to and admiration for Juvenal Sanso, who he credits for having had the most significant influence on his aesthetic among all the masters in the Philippines, as natural elements and water bodies find prominence in his work. “I also love to get inspiration from the rich natural resources surrounding my house in Pagsanjan,” Ignacio adds, emphasizing that his idyllic sanctuary in the province has continuously inspired him to capture the beauty of the earth. “Good artwork stems from good inspiration,” he says.
These creative forces were evident in Ignacio’s latest exhibit, “Heaven and Earth,” at Crucible Gallery, which is his seventh solo show to date. In addition to putting the spotlight on his vibrant paintings, the exhibition also celebrated Ignacio’s debut as a sculptor. In his earnest desire to represent nature and his deeply personal connection to it, Ignacio drew more than inspiration from his haven in Pagsanjan. He used the surrounding organic materials to breathe life into his idea—embodying nature, through nature. In his mixed media works, Ignacio uses low-fired clay from Laguna, river stones near his home along with golden south sea pearls from Palawan, and white freshwater pearls, as if in homage to the Philippines’ moniker as the Pearl of the Orient.
Ignacio fused this subtle nationalism with his treasured memories as a worldly adventurer by integrating mementos from his travels, such as a metal mask from Venice and a coffee cup from the museum honoring polish composer, Frédéric François Chopin, an obsession of the artist. Ignacio spends countless hours listening to his compositions and, perhaps fittingly so, as the alluring harmonies from the foremost virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era provided ample background to the artist’s creation of this show, which celebrated his love affair with Mother Nature. With this collection, Ignacio ventures to offer a humble reminder: “If we care for Mother Nature, she will give us a beautiful world.”
“Heaven and Earth” is on display at The Crucible Gallery until June 2