One remarkable dream propelled artist JOHN PAUL DURAY into finding a clear path to achieving his visions of a career in the art industry and straight to finding ways for others to find similar success
Impassioned dreams have produced many of the best artistic works the world has ever seen. From Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory to Paul McCartney’s composition of the hit single Yesterday, dreams (or even nightmares) have given birth to magnificent works that in ways have touched many lives or in some cases—even better—changed the world. Young artist John Paul Duray shares a similar experience. The otherworldly vision of a tropical fruit fixated on a body's cephalic region was the catalyst to a series of life-changing experiences that even he admits almost feels like a dream.
THE BIRTH OF A DREAM
At an early age, JP—as his friends and family call him—exhibited much of the makings of an artist. He was curious and experimented with every ounce of creativity that he had in any given circumstance. But in the rush of creativity, there existed an indefatigable roadblock ahead. For him, the path to becoming a full-fledged artist entailed the colorful life of a college student undergoing rigorous training in a prestigious art school. His realities at the time could not afford the experience, but this did not dissuade him from exhibiting his talents elsewhere. Working at the neighborhood café, he showcased his talent in the form of latte art and fruit carvings.
Fate would eventually land him a gig in showbiz, and even if it was deemed profitable, JP wasn't exactly sure if working on television suited him. While he believed in his destiny for greatness, he hadn't exactly figured out where his life was going. Was he going to be a successful businessman? A bankable actor? He had many questions in his head, but he persisted in searching for the answers. He delved into sketching his infamous dream, using free time in shoots to draw figures, and even attempted painting. But the response to his creations wasn’t exactly encouraging, and this prompted him to abandon the idea.
SHAPING A NEW DIRECTION
Sculpting somehow saved the vision. After an arduous voyage across the edges of Manila in search of a willing teacher, JP found a relentless mentor in the form
of experience. The search brought him from the skilled sculptors of Paete to factories in Angono and Mandaluyong, where they used fiberglass resin to shape various sculptures and other products for Japan. And while he didn't have the funds to pay for a teacher—granted that he was already living in debt at this time, JP opted to learn from what he could in the places he went. Armed with nothing but his guts, he challenged the factory owner to take him in and have a Filipino addition to his employ of foreign sculptors. It paid off. And he was finally able to mold three sculptures of his Banana Man.
With three pieces in tow, he bravely came after Manila's well-known galleries, hopeful to receive positive results. Unfortunately, his inexperience became another hurdle for his pioneer pieces as everyone he spoke to expected him to present a portfolio exhibiting a wide range of work, something he didn't have yet. With self-doubt looming in, he gave himself a deadline of 30 days. If no gallery accepted him, he decided to return to his home in Subic and continue his work serving coffee in the café. He asked for a five-thousand loan from a friend (which he paid with a portrait promising an increased value in the future) and promised himself he would break all three pieces and forget his dreams forever.
THE FRUITS OF HIS LABOR
Another artist friend of his advised him to go to Boston Gallery (an exhibition space for contemporary artists located in Cubao, Quezon city). Upon arriving, however, he was told that the team was in a different location, Pinto Art Museum. Miles away, but willing to give his all in this last attempt, JP went to the destination where he was warmly received by Dr. Joven Cuanang, proprietor of the museum. JP got the surprise of his life when the eminent neurologist and well-known figure in the art industry immediately offered to buy his pieces at his proposed prices. But his streak of good fortune did not end there.
Dr. Cuanang asked him to stay for dinner, where JP was introduced to the art patron’s group of skilled master artists, the Salingpusa group. JP recalls meeting Ferdie Montemayor, as well as Antonio and Erwin Leaño, that fateful evening. History tells of the incredibly talented group of then struggling artists, who were given a door of opportunities by Dr. Cuanang in his aptly named Pinto Art Museum. The group of then “unbankable” artists is now well-received by critics and collectors alike, with members including other highly-coveted art figures such as Mark Justiniani, Emmanuel Garibay, and Elmer Borlongan.
TOWARDS THE NEXT DREAM
The quick succession of good luck found JP launched by the group in his first showing at Art in the Park’s 2016 exhibition, where he bagged 3rd place in six of the event’s most outstanding pieces landing him on equal footing with master-level artists. Many achievements after, a feature of his work on the pages of Architectural Digest included, JP hopes to encourage a new breed of art enthusiasts into joining the field as bravely as he once did. He cites many successful names in Philippine art history—from Napoleon Abueva’s monumental figures to Arturo Luz’s neo-realist sculptures, to Ramon Orlina’s glass pieces and Leeroy New’s signature art pieces—and hopes that many young students aspire to join the ranks of the most talented Filipino sculptors. JP shares that his new dream is that neophytes will see a future with a lot of options—not just as an oil painter as what most Filipino artists are known to specialize in.. His Camp Banana Studio is one such avenue where eager learners have a better shot at being molded, to discover their unique personality and sense of style, and find interest in the vast array of media they can use. One day, he says proudly, he will build his own museum where they can hold several workshops, and artists will be afforded platforms to educate youngblood. It is his dream giving birth to many others—a legacy he hopes to achieve. And in the myriad of whimsical characters and figures he created, he hopes that one day, like him, this new age of artists will be able to share their stories and experiences, uninhibited, unfiltered, and even, as unhinged as JP says he is.