By TERENCE REPELENTE
Portrait by PINGGOT ZULUETA
In celebration of his 60th birthday, the prolific visual artist Rosscapili will open a show titled “Palette Diaries,” which aptly presents 60 unique art pieces, at the Secret Fresh Gallery on Oct. 20. In an interview with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, he reveals that each of the 60 pieces, which are all in the form of mixed media on paint palettes, expose a part of him. He says the pieces, covered in multiple layers of objects, paint, and meaning, are extensions of his soul.
“Sa show na ‘to, masasabi kong wala akong kahit anong inhibitions (In this show, I can say that I have no inhibitions),” he says. “The board or the palette and everything you see on its surface up to its core—that’s my flesh, my soul.” And he does, indeed, give a glimpse of his soul through memories and stories told by the artworks. As the title suggests, Rosscapili essentially shows us what he feels and what he has been up to—his failures, his inspirations, his childhood life, his emptions—like entries in a personal journal or diary. He calls this: “a reenactment of the past 60 years.”
Rosscapili was born and raised in Tondo, where he spent most of his early years as an artist. Growing up in a middle-class family, he recalls: “laging sakto lang ang pera, hindi mahirap, hindi rin mayaman (our resources were just right, we weren’t exactly poor, nor rich),” he said. He recalls doing odd jobs like washing Sarao jeepneys to support his family and education. This material situation made it hard for him to pursue the arts since it wasn’t the “smart” or economic thing to do. Plus, he says, “there’s this belief na hindi ka bubuhayin ng sining (art can’t feed you).”
But this kid from Tondo was rebellious. In 1974, when he was in high school, Rosscapili placed second, both in the Rotary Club of Manila On-the-Spot Painting Competition and the Manila Council Nationwide Painting Competition. These first couple of achievements was the confident boost he needed to finally believe and start calling himself an artist. He never looked back. “Eventually, I fully turned to art and photography, as a source of income. It was surely hard at first, but art got me through college. Art got me to where I am today.”
Even for a veteran, award-winning artist like Rosscapili, art will always mean struggle. He believes the best version of the former cannot exist without the pressure of the latter. “I’m still struggling, and I will always struggle,” he says. “I may have different problems as when I was in Tondo, but the artist will always have problems—that’s what fuels and inspires my art.” For one, he believes that he’s just as good as his last show, which drives him to continuously improve, evolve, and step-up. “I see my evolution as an artist like a constant metamorphosis,” he says. Like a caterpillar waiting to transform into a majestic butterfly, Rosscapili admits that he is still in an unceasing task to create what he can call a masterpiece.
His exhibit, “Palette Diaries,” is mainly an embodiment of these memories, these continuing struggle, years of experience, anxieties, victories, goals, and more. A huge part of the exhibit’s beauty is the personal aspect of it. It has been Rosscapili’s signature art style to use his memory as his muse, and while he leaves obvious trails—such as wooden trumpos (tops) he used to play as a child in old Tondo, or a nostalgic Cat Stevens vinyl disc, or the iconic Sarao horse—for us to follow, most of the works possess details that remain mysterious and personal. This, according to him, is what he enjoys most in doing these type of works. “Walang nakakaalam kung ano ‘yung mga nasa loob, kasi patung-patong na ‘yung paint at objects (No one knows exactly what the details look like inside the layers of paint and objects),” he says. “It feels like leaving a personal mark on something, a mark that only you can know. After all, it’s my soul. It’s me.”
Through these 60 unique works, Rosscapili hopes to share a piece of him to everyone.He gives a glimpse of himself as a father, as an artist, as a son, and as many more. The works represent the places he has been to, the toys he played, the music he listens to, his secrets, his pure naked art. These painted palettes, according to him, are the layers of his life.