2nd 2011
Mia Herbosa and a certain kind of light

Posted under Articles

By Igan D’bayan (The Philippine Star) Updated December 06, 2010 12:00 AM

Laguna sunrise: “There’s something enriching about living in Laguna,” says Herbosa. “My house is small, everything is very Spartan, but I feel very rich inside. There’s something good for the soul.”

MANILA, Philippines – Something about place, something about location.

Arles stirred something in the soul of Van Gogh. Giverny did the same thing to Monet. The landscapes outside sometimes crawl into the mind’s terrain to be relocated on canvas or a wooden panel. A shift of planes, so to speak. A metaphysical relocation.

For artist Mia Herbosa, living in Laguna has given her a quiet spark. Herbosa was based in the Big Apple for more than a decade while studying at the Art Students’ League of New York. (She once wrote, “Why did I stay so long? I knew instinctively that I was learning more about art in these life classes.”) New York with its everyday sirens, frenetic rat race and maddeningly inspiring boroughs and avenues.

“Life is a journey  an interior journey and an exterior one,” the artist tells me over a dishes of mushrooms and chorizo at Terry’s. And painting? Well, painting is her visual diary. “When you paint you are always leaving traces of yourself. (These images) are my notes in a song.” The song that would take a lifetime (or in the case of Buddhists, lifetimes) to finish. The case for each of us.
“Andrea & Tinkerbelle”

Mia is part of a group show titled “Illuminata,” which features the recent works by Herbosa, Denise Weldon, Emmanuel Cordova, Olivia d’Aboville and Neal Oshima, with a special participation of visual artists from L’Arc En Ciel. The show opens on Dec. 12, Sunday, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Art-in-House, The Picasso Residences, 119 L.P. Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati City. The show was put together by curator Dindin Araneta.

“When I was in New York, (the effect of the environment) didn’t just come out solely in one painting. It came it in a whole body of work. When I came home to Manila, the same thing (happened). Now that I am living in Laguna, the same thing is happening. There is a change that takes place in you whenever there’s a new stage in your life, or a new place where you live.”

Laguna offers less of a stimulus, is more laid back, kind of pastoral. Mia still goes to Alabang every Monday where her energetic mom Elaine maintains a gallery and art school. The younger Herbosa teaches a master class in nude portraiture.

But when she is in Laguna she feels so good to be living in the Philippines.

“Laguna looks like an Amorsolo painting,” she gushes. The rice fields, the glorious sunset, everything’s green, and there are fireflies in the night.


The paintings bear this enthusiasm out. A young Pinoy male stands magnificently in full bloom in a painting titled “A Beautiful Filipino.” A youngish rooster gazes upon something left of the canvas in “Rooster.” In other paintings, there are fish from the market, loaves of bread, coconuts and flowers. Has Mia gone completely rustic?

Not totally, she answers.

Those who are fans of the artist’s European-inspired palette work will still see traces of her astounding technique (lifelike flesh tones, dramatic lighting, precise compositions and blocking, etc.) She still has New York paintings. She also has an homage to Pierre Bonnard. Also one abstract (“I wanted to do something based purely on feeling and without any representational object, but I ended up putting a cross.”). A painting even presents the dichotomy of her Western and Eastern mindset  a Toulouse-Lautrec poster is juxtaposed with some “Mickey Mouse” plants and some rambutan on the table. “This a reflection of myself, a dichotomy.”

Technique-wise, it’s a case of back-to-basics for the artist. In the “Life’s Kaleidoscope” exhibition in August 2008 at Ayala Museum’s ArtistSpace, Mia used oil paint, her usual medium, but superimposed surfaces with Japanese, Nepalese and Burmese handmade paper. She even put real hair onto a portrait of a woman named Mutya.

“This year, nawala ’yung feeling ko that I wanted to work with paper. Maybe there were too many changes in my life  leaving Alabang, living in Laguna, maintaining my own home, enrolling my daughter Lana in a new school  and that I wanted my art to serve as the anchor.”

“Fish & Bread”

Yes, both anchor and illuminator.

The “Illuminata” group show is all about illuminating things about life, a facet of existence that is sometimes relegated to the shadows.

When you paint from life, she explains, you can get hundreds of beautiful things from something you’d otherwise take for granted. “Something you felt was very regular  that is until you started painting it.”

And each artist sees things in a different way (“They’re going to be all different from each other  like a person’s handwriting.”), chooses his or her own colors (“No matter how much a teacher tells you to make it exactly like the model.”), and creates that truly idiosyncratic mark (“What differentiates each painter? One is history or training.”). “Ultimately,” Mia Herbosa illuminates, “The subject of your painting is always your mind.”

Rightly so. Whether in the New York or the Laguna of the mind.

* * *

“Illuminata” features the recent works by Mia Herbosa, Denise Weldon, Emmanuel Cordova, Olivia d’Aboville and Neal Oshima, with a special participation of visual artists from L’Arc En Ciel. The show opens on Dec. 12 at Art-in-House, The Picasso Residences, 119 L.P. Leviste St., Salcedo Village, Makati City.

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