A whirling focus on nature and the infinite in Wilwayco’s art
Providence-based abstract expressionist Edwin Wilwayco is now focused on small things like bubbles, dots, fractions, fragments, and spots, chasing them with whirling hands to restructure nature-bound abstract art works that he is known for, and, for many viewers, to approximate the infinite in his canvases.
In a show at Makati City’s Altro Mondo entitled, “Fractals,” which opened in early November, Wilwayco has become a god of small things— inwardly deconstructing, but at the same time outwardly reconstructing abstract images. Many viewers believe that he aspires for the metaphysics in his canvases whose colors are like wind and fire.
At Mondo, Wilwayco’s abstract works are calculated with fractal objects—an endeavor developed in the mid ’80s with computers, initially for scientific research, advertising, and later, new media art. His new scientific approach—of dividing his canvas with fractal measurements, but fleshed by his hands with something deep, primordial, and wild—is new to abstract expressionism which began more than 80 years ago in the United States and 65 years earlier in the Philippines.
The round shapes in Wilwayco’s canvases at Mondo are like drops of water, wild life, and unchartered nature. “There are leopard prints. I have broken these images and elevated them into another dimension,” he says. They recall life and nature with perfect unity of small and big things. They also symbolize the finite and the infinite—to approximate the magical and the nominous in his abstract art works.
“I don’t plan when I work simultaneously on several canvases. When I start painting, I close my eyes and ask God to guide my hand and my brush. Most of the time, I am surprised by my own paintings,” he says, adding that nature-bound abstract art with feelings and moods, including other scientific applications are his contribution to revive abstract expressionism.
Looking forward, he says, “I like to take risks—like making black and white paintings soon.” He refuses to reveal if they will be in his exhibit at Artes Orientes in Bonifacio Global City’s Serendra in late January.
Looking back at his exhibits done for almost 40 years, he boasts of his “phenomenal leap.” He made frothy images of exhilaration, tender and awesome nature in 1976. He made Philippine flags ala “Jasper Jones” and pop art in 1979. He distorted images of the Philippines’ jeepney for five years for a show in 1989. He immortalized in semi-abstract the bird of paradise in canvases and in moveable dividers in 1992. He turned soft and tender with semi-abstract vines in 1999. He combined classical music and nature in early 2000. He painted water, slashes of light, and subterranean spaces.
In 2014, he stayed for more than six months in his studio at BF West Executive subdivision to paint for art exhibits, and to help a publisher produce a seminal book about his development as one of the country’s third generation of abstract painters in the Philippines.
Abstract art is a 65-year old tradition in the Philippines since Constancio Bernardo made his first iconic abstract painting entitled
Perpetual Motion while a student at the Yale University in 1950—he was then influenced by German abstract
expressionist Josef Albers, head of Yale’s painting department, after the school ended its tradition of promoting the Italian School of painting. Bernardo was the lone Filipino artist who participated in the artistic revolution that happened in the US with the migration of European artists after the two World Wars. Apart from Albers, the other European abstract
painters who came to the US
included Russian Jew Mark Rothko,
Armenia-born Arshile Gorky, German Hans Hoffman, and Dutch Wilhelm de Kooning. Dutch artist Piet Mondrian moved to New York in 1940 (before World War II). The New York School (of modern art) eventually included Pennsylvania-born Franz Kline, Washington-born Robert Motherwell, and Wyoming-born Jackson Pollock. Wilwayco admits being influenced by de Kooning, Kline, Mondrian, Pollock, Rothko, American
abstract expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, Spanish Dadaist Joan Miro, and abstract Chinese painter Zao Wuo Ki.
“I have been mentored by Professor Bernardo (19132003) and Dean Jose Joya (1931–1995) at the University of the Philippines,” recalls Wilwayco whose abstract works are compared to Joya’s cadence and celebratory mood.
Wilwayco studied at the West Surrey College of Art and Design as a British Council Scholar in 1982. He, his wife, and daughter are Rhode Island-based.
‘I don’t plan when I work simultaneously on several canvases. When I start painting, I close my eyes and ask God to guide my hand and my brush. Most of the time, I am surprised by
my own paintings.’