For Fundacion Sansó’s first exhibit of the year, the works of Juvenal Sansó find kinship with those of Kenneth Montegrande.
There are many ties that bind Kenneth Montegrande and Juvenal Sanso; Gucci celebrates 100 years of imagination with an exhibit set in Florence and Roblox
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.
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...”
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.”