18th 2006
Oil has the texture of memory

Posted under Articles

Philippine Star


One of the best poets in the country, Marjorie Evasco, once wrote, “Water has the texture of memory.” The same with oil, in the case of New York-based artist Mia Ongpin Herbosa. Talking about new pieces in her ninth solo exhibit titled “Carpe Diem” at Alliance Française Total Gallery, she says, “I am trying to paint a memory of my life.”

Take the case of her work titled “Three Hats.” Herbosa says she was reluctant to throw away her daughter Lana’s hats, so she sat down and captured them on canvas. In this hurrying life where one moment metamorphoses into the next, the artist tries to capture each facet of her life as a mother. “My life revolves around my kid who just turned four. You could say I see the world through her eyes.”

Herbosa arrived from New York recently to spend Christmas here in the country. She says she spent the whole year painting on her own and taking care of her daughter.

“As a painter, I have changed emotionally. My works are more personal. There is more attachment. As you can see, I am using a lot of primary colors, because I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books with Lana, and it is fun to see how a child reacts to colors.”

Even in the way Herbosa plots her perspective the viewer can see how the artist’s daughter has exerted her influence. Herbosa says, “In my work titled ‘The Red Chair,’ I used flat perspective. When Lana looks at drawings in a book, she doesn’t know that figures are big because they are near and they are small when they’re far (laughs).” True, true. Kids probably think every storybook is a rehash of Gulliver’s Travels.

In Herbosa’s “The Red Chair,” the artist regards the subject with childlike wonder. It’s as if she were in her kid’s world, keeping a visual journal, mixing her oil paint to approximate the texture of memory.

“My works before were somber, now I could see something maternal in them.”

The other works in the collection have the signature Herbosa touch: strong lines and deft interplay of shadows and light.

The artist won the prestigious Edward G. McDowell Grant from the Art Student’s League of New York, and with this she traveled to all major art capitals in Europe to study the masters. Her works are in the collections of the New York Public Library and in the Museum of the City of New York. Her self-portrait (on view in her “Carpe Diem” show) titled “Life in a Still Life” was exhibited at the National Arts Club at Gramercy Park in Manhattan, New York last October. It was the third year in a row that the artist was invited to the prestigious Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Art Club, one of the oldest professional women’s art clubs in the States.

“I have finished art school, but every now and then I take up a course if there’s a teacher that I like – such as Michael Grimaldi who had a summer workshop. There is a new art school that opened in New York called the Grand Central Academy which offers courses in figurative and classical paintings. The point is to keep learning as an artist.” * * *

Herbosa’s works are on view until Jan. 12, 2007. For information, call Alliance Française de Manille at 895-7441 or 895 7585, e-mail or, call Elaine Herbosa at 0917-8901219, or visit Alliance Française Total Gallery is at 209 N. Garcia St. (formerly Reposo), Bel-Air II, Makati City.