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Four Ilocano artists painting on their canvases with their own brushes

Finding one’s identity may not be as simple as choosing between coffee and tea, although that can be tricky to some as well. Perhaps having to decide whether to plan your next trip to the beach or going hiking is an easier task, probably not, again. 

The thing is, these choices and decisions are based on one’s preference —not everything is universal.

The only thing common to all of us, is our uniqueness.

And these four inspiring artists in Ilocos Sur, few among many, wrestled with a million simple opposing ideas before they found -or created their identity.

There might be a bit of exaggeration along those lines, but modesty has no place in describing the work it takes for one to find themselves.

Even more so, channeling that identity into an artistic expression.

Roves Solar, Franz Benedict Reburon, Dexter Keith Prepose and Cherry DV Agoyaoy are among the emerging passionate creatives in the province.

In the recent couple of months, they joined the Kwadro Ylocano art exhibition, Mercante de Ylocos art fair and Kannawidan Festival Painting and Plein Air competitions organized by the provincial government to provide a bigger platform to the Ilocos Surian artists. 

During the first ever Art Show Philippines (ASP) convention, an online platform for showcasing and selling the finest Filipino artworks, in December 2022 held in Tagaytay, Mishelle Tongson, the chairperson of Ilocos Sur Export Enterprise Marketing Cooperative, Inc. personally lent a hand to these artists for their participation fees and transportation.

The four artists in Ilocos Sur Roves Solar, Franz Benedict Reburon, Dexter Keith Prepose and Cherry DV Agoyaoy together with other artists in the country. PIA/ATV

Rebruron, in an almost midnight interview, shared, “It is overwhelming, the support we are receiving, because there is no discrimination among the forms of art -we have cosplayers, photographers- they [the provincial government] support emerging artists, not only the senior but also the neophytes.” He said, “Hangga’t may gumagatong sa passion ng artists, hindi mawawala iyong apoy.”

Meanwhile, Solar and Prepose, who goes by ‘Dexaur’ , voice their hopes for the art scene to prosper even further.

“We are wishing for more activities we can join in. I am very thankful for the support because prior to these we only had little exposure, and due to the pandemic opportunities for us declined too,” he said.

Agoyaoy follows up their sentiments citing the existence of focus mostly on traditional Ilocano art, but now, she said, “Naglilitawan na rin iyong contemporary tapos naihahalo pa sa gawa ng mga beteranong pintor ng Ilocos Sur.”

Ms. Cherry DV Agoyaoy beside two of her unique artworks (R) at the Ilocos Sur Kannawidan Festival 2023 exhibit. PIA/ATV

She is a native of Ilocos Sur now residing in Santa Maria, Bulacan who occasionally visits the province and attends art events. 

“Despite living practically miles away, I am always representing Ilocos Sur,” she said. 

She is a business administration graduate who actually wanted to pursue Fine Arts.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, she started journaling and eventually dived into painting to ease her anxiety. 

A friend invited her to join the ASP, which when she did help her discover her own style after a few tries with materials that did not satisfy her standard.

With the mentoring she had through ASP, she tried a unique material-fused plastic, and sometimes painted over with acrylic paint. 

The vibrant colors in her paintings that complement perfectly are eye-catching enough but the materials she uses keeps the attention on her works, and sparks intrigue.

Agoyaoy admits the material she uses is toxic so she only uses it in exhibits and conventions. 

Moreover, she often paints women whose eyes are closed because she is colorblind. 

“I cannot see true colors when it is dark, sometimes even when there is still daylight it is difficult for me to determine the colors,” she shared. 

She may see the colors differently, but the images she shares through her craft allows those who see it to gain new perspectives and a valuable experience at that.

She said that art should not be imposed on everyone, “kailangan lang ipaintindi sa tao na iyong mga araw-araw na ginagawa natin sa buhay, may art diyan.”

She believes that there are a lot of artists in Ilocos Sur who might be hesitating to share their art.

“For me, I always say yes. It is not enough that you have talent or that there is an opportunity, you have to be there to take it as if it is your last,” she said, noting that she was 38 when she decided to let go of her worries that she might already be late.

Reminiscing a part of her journey, she uttered, “The moment I said yes, it opened doors -wide open.”

Similar to Agoyaoy who was not originally set out to pursue art, are her now friends Dexaur and Franz.

Dexaur is an artist from Caoayan town, who claims to be obsessed with dinosaurs hence his chosen alias, but sticks with a teddy bear he fondly named Bond in his works.

Like the feeling that ooking at his paintings evoke, Bond represents love, care and friendship.

His art style, chromoluminarism or more simply divisionism, was something he realized after workshops in ASP during the pandemic, and interacting with other artists. 

Now he delves into this style which he said he tries to improve on, the same way he is developing on texture and small brush strokes. 

Recently, he also started incorporating aromatic coffee grounds that invade the sense of smell when standing in front of his works.

Dexter Keith Prepose, with his partner, beside his painting of Astronaut Bond at the Kannawidan Festival 2023 Art Exhibit. PIA/ATV

He featured one of these at the exhibit during the Kannawidan Festival, in which his entry shows Bond as an astronaut, sitting on a portion of a large cookie-like asteroid, cookiesteroid as he calls it.

His inspiration stems from his desire for art to continue to the future generations. 

“Inspirasyon ang nagbibigay buhay para magpatuloy ang sining sa bawat henerasyon. Kung may nakikita na gumagawa pa rin, mahihikayat ang marami na magpatuloy,” he said.

He also went through being stuck with one style and felt like it was taking too long before he found his own.

He advises, “For you to shine, you need to find a way for your artworks to be unique. People will pay attention if you show something that stands out.”

Franz Benedict Reburon, a teacher and an artist, taking a photo with his paintings. PIA/ATV

Franz, who joined the same exhibit, meanwhile, is a teacher by day and an artist by night, on the weekends and on holidays as he stated. 

He imagined himself as a Fine Arts graduate as a child, but as fate would have it he now teaches elementary pupils and pursues his passion at the same time.

Like his peers mentioned earlier, he finally had time to focus on his craft during the heat of the lockdowns.

Franz does self-portrait. He said he loves painting himself, “self-love”, he quipped. 

He mentioned, “I just recently discovered my art style, which is fauvism and impressionism. Thanks to my friends who suggested I stick to this, because I really enjoy the process now.”

He explained that impressionism and fauvism are more centered on the expression of brush strokes and striking color choices which he also learned through ASP.

True enough, his works capture one’s attention even across the room not only with its spectacular shades and hues but also with the tiny hint of pop art he includes on his pieces. 

For artists who are just starting, he suggested, “If you do art everyday it becomes a habit, eventually it will become your springboard to create better outputs. Do not listen to ill-intentioned comments. You are supposed to do art for yourself. “

To find one’s style, he said it is easier if they try to seek where they are comfortable, then explore and try different styles because they will grow if they enjoy the process. 

And he notes the journey is more fulfilling with friends around.

One of those friends he was referring to is Roves, who pertains to herself as one of the rare people allowed to pursue the arts is a Fine Arts degree holder in the University of Northern Philippines. 

“An openly queer artist representing queer art,” she wrote on her social media bio.

During the conversation, she shared the significant role ASP played on her discovery of her art style.

Most of her works now show individuals whose faces are deformed, and a prominent detail, the vibrant pride flag, on the mostly melancholic atmosphere in her current paintings. 

She calls her style “defacement”.

“As a perfectionist, I used to be too focused on the face as that has really been my forte, so I realized this narrative of breaking my obsession,” she said.

Roves Solar, a queer artist, takes a photo with her piece at the Kannawidan Festival 2023 Art Exhibit. PIA/ATV

She remarked, “Para tawagin ang isang bagay na maganda, hindi kailangang maging kumpleto.”

Art style, she told as she recalls their time struggling to find theirs, is very significant. 

“Kapag nasa journey ka na, it is okay to struggle and explore using different mediums. Don’t limit yourself,“ she quipped. 

As intricate and satisfying the paintings they present are, and as unique each of their stories are, their journey towards finding an identity was not a matter of a choice between black or white. 

They had to dabble with various hues and shades, scrap numerous canvases they did not feel was right enough, and grapple with confusion & uncertainty to create something they finally resonated with.

These four artists each have found their own style, and what we cannot be certain of is that this will remain their identity for good. 

What they unilaterally echoed throughout sharing their journey however, is that they will keep growing and developing their craft. 

Because just like any of us, they are in control of the brushes creating the masterpiece that is their life -just like any of us. (JCR/ATV, PIA Ilocos Sur)

About the Author

Aila Villanueva


Region 1

Aila T. Villanueva is an Information Officer I of the Philippine Information Agency Ilocos Sur Information Center based in the Heritage City of Vigan.

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