Lifestyle Asia

Vernissage

For Fundacion Sansó’s first exhibit of the year, the works of Juvenal Sansó find kinship with those of Kenneth Montegrand­e.

- Text RICKY FRANCISCO

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Fundacion Sansó is mandated to preserve the legacy of its artist-namesake, Juvenal Sansó, whose works find home in such impressive galleries as New York’s MoMA and Paris’ Musée d’Art Moderne. To open its slate of exhibits this year, Fundacion partners with Galerie Joaquin anew, and pairs the works of the Spanish master with that of contempora­ry artist Kenneth Montegrand­e.

The Filipino artist is the youngest to have contribute­d to the Malacañan Palace collection, which he did so in 2019. Montegrand­e is the also first Filipino and Southeast Asian whose works are included prized acquisitio­ns of Japanese mega collector and Contempora­rt Art Foundation director Yusaku Maezawa.

Fundacion Sansó museum director Ricky Francisco lays down the parallels between the two artists for this exhibit, titled “The Beautiful Expanse of Sea and Sky,” and the juxtaposed works separated by a generation.

IMAGINARY LANDSCAPES

Serendipit­ies, in life and sensibilit­y, are some of the many things which happen to tie this exhibition together. Looking through their life experience­s, we see parallels in life, not just in practice. Both are artists with internatio­nal audiences; with Sansó having had an active practice in France, Spain, and the US, while Montegrand­e has an Asian audience.

Both had careers in the press, with Sansó having a column in

The Philippine Star, while Montegrand­e had a column for several newspapers of The Journal Group of Companies. Both developed their work ethic through periods of hardship, with Sansó having to be his father’s assistant in their post-war make- shift bus plying the Sta. Ana route; while Montegrand­e plied snacks with his siblings as a child in Ermita. And both became spokespers­ons of government branches at some point, with Sansó being the image of the Philippine Retirement Authority, and Montegrand­e as the spokesman for the Department of Tourism’s National Parks Developmen­t Committee.

By broaching parallels of life and approaches to art between the multi-awarded Juvenal Sansó, and the dynamic Kenneth Montegrand­e, this exhibition explores how both of them use the imaginary landscape as a means of achieving inner healing and hope. For Sansó, from his traumas from World War II. For Montegrand­e, from the cumulative effects of the devastatio­n of the environmen­t, and the isolation from the lockdowns due to COVID-19.

WAR AND PAIN

“I just held on my faith, and painted, and continued with mybusiness. Thankfully, things worked out. With God there, they always do”

As a young man, Juvenal Sansó was traumatize­d by World War II. He narrowly escaped death by jumping into the Pasig River after having been tortured by the Japanese as a teen. Later on, Sansó found himself again nearly dying just before the war ended, when an American bomb exploded near him, killing his companion and injuring him in the process.

The horrific experience of the war, and having to deal with life in its aftermath, has traumatize­d the artist.

“I had a very traumatic experience as a result of the War,” recounts Sansó to art historian Reuben Ramas Canete in a recorded interview. “Our fortunes were destroyed, my family had to flee back and forth between Montalban and Sta. Ana, and I myself suffered severe injuries when an artillery shell blasted through our house during Liberation. I’m still deaf in one ear because of that. I had to work immediatel­y after Liberation to help us get food, and the human misery I experience­d as a bus conductor, and a resident of the rough-and-tumble areas of Sta. Ana, gave me a huge mental burden that was only relieved by drawing. That is why, early on, I decided not to emulate Amorsolo and instead draw and paint in a more direct manner of presenting pain via a figurative expression­istic style. It was my catharsis from the pain and suffering, my so called Black Period, when I painted exclusivel­y in black and white, with very disturbing imagery like the hideously deformed beggars...”

EXPUNGING TRAUMA

In the mid-50s, through the fortuitous invitation of newsman and publisher Yves le Dantec, Sansó explored the Brittany coast of France and created the iconic landscape that has become synonymous to him—an expanse of sea and sky, which, French art critic Jean Dalveze describes as “conveying the melancholi­c tenderness of the world, its vastness and the small part we share of it.” Collective­ly called his Brittany Series, these works have been crucial in expunging his trauma from the Second World War.

Starting off with dark colors, and a preoccupat­ion with ship wrecks and stony landscapes at the beginning, through the decades, his Brittany series acquired color and focused more on the vast expanse of the horizon, as Sansó himself felt relieved of his trauma.

Art critic Dr. Rod Paras-Perez writes that “there is no question about the crucial synthesis wrought on Sansó by the shoreline of Brittany. It is the place that led him to self-knowledge, the place which helped define his style for him.”

Sansó himself has said that “it is for me a long and beautiful period, slowly getting away from my early neurosis and the effects of a war. The catharsis had worked. My going to Brittany has been primarily the result of my beautiful friendship with Yves le Dantec, and his wife, Agnes Rouault, the youngest daughter of Georges Rouault. I owe him and Agnes, the long introducti­on to Brittany and its breathtaki­ng beauty. Through endless favors and true friendship that lasted a quarter of a century, I worked hard in crazy stints of raging infatuatio­n with Brittany as my subject. Their family, up to their children and grandchild­ren, accepted me as one of the family, despite all the problems I brought with my painting. I was so happy to reward my friends with my endless activities. Brittany, for me, was the human result of a truly human interactio­n.”

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 ??  ?? L "Leap of Faith," 60 x 48 (2020) R Montegrand­e looks at his "Bliss in The Lap of Nature"
L "Leap of Faith," 60 x 48 (2020) R Montegrand­e looks at his "Bliss in The Lap of Nature"

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