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THEN I CAME TO REALIZE

Omi Reyes finds his center

Updated

by TERENCE REPELENTE
Portraits by PINGGOT ZULUETA

Boundless, Mixed media on Canvas Board, 2019

Boundless, Mixed media on Canvas Board, 2019

Visual artist Omi Reyes has been painting since the early ‘80s. In those years, he was especially known for landscapes and scenic works with the usual floral imageries. He used finger-painting to create art. Omi was a struggling artist then, and he needed to feed his family and send his kids to school. “That kind of art was profitable back in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” he says. “I remember always wanting to do something else, something different. But I did what I had to do.”

Omi didn’t even know that finger-painting was a thing. He was just comfortable with that style, plus it was well-received by the art scene back then, an art scene that was dominated by “old houses,” “rice planting,” Amorsolo-esque works. “If I did the kind of art I really wanted to do during that time, my family probably would have starved,” he says. “So I did finger-painted flowers.”

Today, Omi is known as a versatile painter, totally different from the young finger-painter who was known for his floral/nature-themed works. In 2010, when all of his children had finished school, he started to get out of his comfort zone, explore what he never got the chance to explore, and veer away from his traditional stylistic practice.

His works now, abuzz with gears, wheels, rivets, clockworks, machines, cogs, and other industrial imageries, are seen by many as possessing the steampunk aesthetic. Like his finger-paintings, however, Omi didn’t intend for this to happen. He didn’t know anything about the genre. “I had no idea that what I was doing was steampunk,” he says. “For some reason, I’m just really fascinated with machines and gears. In one of my past exhibits, someone just approached me and told me that it was ‘steampunk,’ since then, I had just gone with it.”

Have Gears, Mixed media on Canvas Board, 2019

Have Gears, Mixed media on Canvas Board, 2019

Even the colors, or the absence of them, often rust, grayish, and dark, which at first glance mirror the style and content of his works, go beyond the genre, and have something to do with Omi’s artistic persona. “I use minimal, sometimes soft or dark colors, because I’m often afraid to use them,” he says. “I have a lot of inhibitions when it comes to putting colors or detailing my works. I usually don’t force myself. The rust, dark colors come in naturally.”

His current exhibition, “Finding My Center,” at the Saturday Group Gallery is probably his most colorful in years. According to Omi, it’s a battle against his long-time nemesis: self-doubt. “Often, I feel like an elevator,” he says. “Unstable. Sometimes high, sometimes low. Most of it is rooted in self-doubt. Agam-agam. I have this problem of being a perfectionist.”

For one, as president of the Saturday Group, he feels he is under immense pressure. “I find myself anxiously asking ‘What will happen?’ The expectations are high,” he says. “Even in my past works, I’d always felt like something was not right, something was missing. There’s always a feeling of dissatisfaction with myself and my works.”

But all of this problems were solved when Omi thought of the line: Then I came to realize. “I needed to realize that I could not please everybody. Some people will like my work, some will not. It’s as simple as that,” he says. Like machines, things work a certain way, Omi believes. “That’s just how things are. There’s happiness because there’s sadness. How can you appreciate glory without struggle? There’s always a center. That’s where I am at.”

Art, according to Omi, isn’t about who is best or whose work is most aesthetically pleasing, “Art is all about how you put yourself in your work. It’s about how you express the best version of yourself artistically.” And this is what compels him to keep creating, even if it means radically shifting into a different art form. “There’s no such thing as perfection,” Omi says. “But it has always been my goal to be the best version of myself.”

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