By Sara Grace C. Fojas
Not many students are familiar with the history, style, personalities, and stories that make up Philippine art. And we cannot blame them. In schools, most art textbooks only contain the works of classic Filipino painter Juan Luna, the noted painter of Spoliarium, and other classic Filipino painters who make up the canon of Filipino art. Art books in bookstores like the Filipino Artists in their Studios Volumes I and II” compiled by The Manila Bulletin photographer Pinggot Zulueta may contain the Filipino artists worth recognizing today but these books, price-wise, are a luxury not many kids could afford.
Although the government has now granted free access to museums, and artists themselves hold free viewings and workshops, the ordinary Filipino still has a long way to go to acquaint himself with the works of both contemporary and classic Filipino artists.
De La Salle University (DLSU) is now doing its part to showcase Philippine art. The De La Salle Publishing House (DLSUPH) recently produced notebooks with covers featuring the works of Manila-based Spanish painter Betsy Westendorp and Filipino painter Kenneth John Montegrande. It was launched during the celebration of Dia del Libro (International Book Day) 2019, an event that aims to promote the book industry and to celebrate the joy of reading.
“I have always wanted to replicate what the Metropolitan Museum of New York is doing, which is to produce quality art notebooks of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. So I thought of featuring Filipino artists, one contemporary and one canonical, who are both associated with La Salle. But the real aim of this project is to promote that DLSU is serious about its art education. It has always been known to be an engineering school or a commerce school so we ’re thinking it’s about time to change the image and let people know that we’re serious about art,” says Dr. David Jonathan Y. Bayot, executive publisher of DLSUPH.
The first two in the notebook series showcase Westendorp’s Luces en los Jardines de Amistad (Lights in the Garden of Friendship, 2018; acrylic on canvas; 26.5 x 35.5 cm) and Montegrande’s Underwater Seascape (2018; acrylic on canvas; 48 x 96 in). One of the aims of this publication endeavor is to bring Philippine art—its national as well as international character—closer to the visual and imaginary horizon of those who care enough to see.
“Both of the covers of the notebooks are in my collection. We made it with quality paper. The lamination is also very high quality, which means the painting on the cover won’t fade for a long time. It’s just that many people cannot afford to buy the painting. And many people also can’t afford to buy art books so we did it in notebooks and they can buy it for just P100,” says Dr. Bayot.
Both Westendorp and Montegrande are author-artists of DLSUPH. In 2018, the university press office published and launched Betsy Westendorp, a two volume coffee table book set featuring the art and life of Westendorp. This July, the publishing house is scheduled to release The Art of Kenneth John Montegrande . The Montegrande book will be the inaugural volume in the Contemporary Filipino Artist ( C F A ) book series. Both the Westendorp and the Montegrande publications—as well as subsequent volumes in the CFA series—aim to offer readers a range of visual treats in a gallery of images and words geared toward more telling portraits of the Filipinos as artists.
The notebooks will be available for sale at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Ayala Museum, and De La Salle University for P100. Proceeds from the sale will be used to support the Contemporary Filipino Artist book series to be published by DLSUPH.