The Self in Art (Metro Society)

This is an excerpt from “The Self in Art”, published in METRO Society in February 2012

"The Self in Art" (METRO Society, February 2012) Words by Nina Terol-Zialcita, images courtesy of Finale Art File, art direction by Butchie Pena
“The Self in Art” (METRO Society, February 2012) Words by Nina Terol-Zialcita, images courtesy of Finale Art File, art direction by Butchie Pena

Few works are as intriguing as an artist’s self-portrait, for here, an artist–who is mostly hidden or disguised by his works–finally reveals himself to the public. The revelation may be literal, almost photographic and matter-of-fact as in the case of Rembrandt, or it may still be laden with layers and symbolism, as in the case of Frida Kahlo and her monkeys. In any case, the art of self-portraiture itself begs closer examination because, through it, a society can glean how its people have perceived themselves and their environment through the ages.

Finale Art File’s latest exhibit, “Imagining Identity”, presents Manila art lovers precisely with this opportunity. Through 100 Filipino self-portraits made available to the public from the Paulino Que collection, arguably the most important art collection today, the exhibit reveals the faces of some of the most important artists this country has ever known. In the process, it also reveals the movement of Philippine art through the ages and how artists have found themselves within the heady mix of art-making, surviving, politicking and jostling for public attention, and self-actualizing…

… It is fascinating to see what is practically a historical timeline of Philippine art brought together in and through a single collection. As [Dr. Patrick] Flores [, curator of the University of the Philippines’ Vargas Museum] writes, “In the history of art in the Philippines, the Que Collection is able to deftly mark the turns in the fraught demands of modernity foisted on a country, a post-colony, a potential nation, a nation in pieces: to be critically aware of being in the world in time with others.”

To read the full article, grab a copy of the February 2012 issue of METRO Society.