Wednesday, January 1, 2014

About the Exhibition

By Patrick D. Flores

                Poet and photographer come together to reflect on images. These are scenes of everyday life in the dense city taken by Jose Zulueta, speaking of conditions that are testimonies as much to sordidness as to survival. They are portraits of how people have been refused and how they have prevailed. This situation is a demolition of houses and thus evokes homelessness and eviction, the struggle to live with dignity and the authority of the state to carry out a policy on housing and urban development. 
                The photographer keenly registers their presence and discerns a part of their sentiment. This is the first moment of the gesture: the rendering of the stark urban world in black and white. As if the latter were so benighted and so explicit, he chooses to mediate the imagination. The second moment of the impulse is to offer an overlay of artistic disposition: graphic details of geometric motifs in acrylic paint that invariably frame, disrupt, adorn, embroider the photography. (What is the urge of this intervention, we might ask. Is this a sign of optimism? Or just index of experiment?) The photographic image, however, has undergone levels of mediation itself: it is printed through ink jet and then painstakingly transferred on canvas with the aid of emulsion. The tedious toil that goes with it is the photographer’s commitment to an artistic process.

                Finally, the third moment comes with words. The poet Virgilio S. Almario, the National Artist who is also known as Rio Alma, writes around the edges of the photographs telling verses from his copious corpus; these converse with the images that try to elicit sympathy and engagement. They look like marginalia but are actually central to sensing the ties between the languages of light and thought, reality and realization, the handwriting of a poet and the vision of the photographer, both grasping with patience the woes of the world.

Photography and poetry 

By Jasmine T. Cruz
November 12, 2013

AN EMACIATED child with pleading eyes looks at the camera. The child’s gloomy world is captured through a black and white photo that was transferred on canvas. As though hoping to inject color into this somber world, the artist used acrylic paint to superimpose colorful geometric lines and shapes on the image. Then on the edges of the canvas are written words that say, “Ang pangarap ng ulan, maglaro sa putikan, bago kunin ng araw (The dream of the rain is to play in the mud before it is taken by the sun).”

Photojournalist Pinggot Zulueta’s work features poetry by National Artist Virgilio Almario.
This is a piece by photojournalist Pinggot Zulueta done in collaboration with National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario for the exhibit Makatulog Ka Pa Kaya? at the Crucible Gallery. Curated by Renato Habulan, the exhibit employs photos from a demolition in Taguig, Metro Manila.

In a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Nov. 12, Mr. Zulueta recalled what it was like when he took the photos in 2008. It happened just two days after he arrived from living in Australia, and he was shocked by the poverty that he witnessed. “Galing ka sa magandang bansa tapos ’yun ’yung unang bumulaga sa akin (I came from a beautiful country then that’s the first thing that I saw),” he said.

From these photos, he submitted one entitled Taguig demolition Philippines to the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies photo competition in Rotterdam, Netherlands and won a special award. This photo is now included in the exhibit as a reworked piece entitled Diyos Na Ang Bahala.

On the choice to include Mr. Almario’s poetry in his work, Mr. Zulueta said, “Ayoko kasi na tignan yung mga litrato ng isang saglip lang (I don’t want people to look at the photographs in just one moment),” explaining that he wants the viewer to spend time looking at the photo and to think about it.

Mr. Zulueta had previously worked with Mr. Almario -- the National Artist was his editor back when he was making editorial cartoons in the 1980s and ’90s. “Sanay na siya sa mga tema ko kaya madali niyang natutulaan (He was already used to the themes that I do so it was easy to make the poetry),” he said.

The geometric lines and shapes on the photos are an expression of Mr. Zulueta’s sympathy for his subjects’ plight. “Pilit kong binubura ang kanilang kahirapan at pinapalitan ng isang imaginary at makulay na buhay (I am trying to erase their poverty and replace it with an imaginary colorful world),” he said.

The exhibit will run until Nov. 17. with cocktail reception on Nov. 13 at 6p.m. The Crucible Gallery is located at the 4th Level, SM Megamall, EDSA corner Julia Vargas Ave., Mandaluyong City. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Art – triangle on poverty and hope: Pinggot Zulueta’s mixed-media paintings and Virgilio S. Almario’s poetry

by Filipina Lippi
Manila Bulletin
December 16, 2013

In an art exhibit entitled “How Will You Sleep Tonight?” at Crucible Gallery in SM Mandaluyong last November, photographer and painter Jose “Pinggot” Zulueta fused for the first time photos and paintings to depict homelessness, poverty, and hope. He has been separately working with the two mediums with great skill in the last three decades.

Zulueta’s artworks included photos of families who lost their shanties in a demolition that he covered in a slum area near a railroad track in suburban Taguig in 2008. “That was after my arrival from Sydney where I stayed with my family for two years. We were in New Zealand earlier for four years. In Taguig, I encountered the same images of poverty that I left behind in Manila in 2002,” he recalls.  One of his “demolition photos” received a special award in the Rotterdam Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies’ photo competition in 2008.

Last August, when he went back to his family in Sydney, he brought the colored photos with him to prepare an art exhibit. He printed them in black and white and transferred them on canvas through a process called emulsion transfer. He dissected the middle part of his canvases using a network of colorful lines. Then he added abstract forms of houses, stilts and scaffoldings, including geometrical forms: squares, rectangles and trapezoids – within which the poor and the homeless could be viewed as if they were no longer sheltered by a wide sky above and an empty railroad track around them.

Zulueta’s profuse overlay of abstract elements on his photos creates a meditative texture and an external scar. It is a willful “inward” navigation toward understanding the heart and predicament of the poor and the oppressed, he says. His abstract overlay of scaffoldings over the photos initially look like barricades (or scars) that also symbolize his wish: “I want them to have their own homes where they can eat, live, love, pray, and sleep.”

Critics usually presume that photographic images of poverty should be projected to prick the conscience of the viewing public. But for Zulueta, the concern is, first, to reveal his conscience (his understanding and relationship with the poverty he has captured in photos) and not to project poor people as poverty object. For him, understanding and relating with the images — not projecting poverty per se as art — is the more important thing.

He thus creates a moral universe for the poor – aided by photos – in his artworks. “I want to enhance the soul of the images by showing my stand (or how I feel) with the poor people I have encountered,” Zulueta says. It took years for him to dare transform his photos into artworks that reflect a photographer and an artist’s life-changing encounter with poverty.

“Pure photographic forms of poverty benumb and create reality-fatigue. To hide the starkness of poverty and oppression a little bit can entice viewers to a closer look so that they meditate on what they see. This way, they will not take for granted what they encounter. Through my artistic embellishments, I think they can experience my own encounter with the subjects in my photos.” he adds.

 Justified and ethical style

 Zulueta’s aim in creating tight and contrasting layers of reality and possibilities justifies his method of blending photos and paintings.

As a photojournalist who peripatetically takes photos of rich and poor people alike, Zulueta has enough stock to fuel his artworks towards an attitude of class struggle. His use of photos that are patently his intellectual property – in his artworks, is more ethical than the habit of other modern artists who rampantly source from everywhere the “found objects” that they use for artistic projects.

 Almario’s poems on Zulueta’s artworks

 Poet Virgilio S. Almario, also known as Rio Alma, National Artist for literature in 2003, has added to Zulueta’s artworks lines from his own poetry.

“When I made poems for the exhibit, I sought the meaning of his photographic images underneath the layers of colorful lines,” Almario says. The poet’s words therefore do not become mere captions for Zulueta’s photos-cum-paintings. They appear in Almario’s handwriting — permanent and autonomous calligraphic art at the borders of Zulueta’s canvases. The jamming of Zulueta’s art works and Almario’s poems has interesting results.

Abject reality

 Zulueta’s images of two men staring straight across the canvas, entitled “Titig sa Kawalan (Staring at Nothing),” for example, makes Almario despair about the predicament of poor people: “Wala. Walang kabilang buhay para sa daga, maliban kung nakatakdang angel ang pusa (No. There is no after life for rats. Unless cats are destined to be angels),” he says in his poem.

Zulueta’s image of a sleeping man, in “Humahabi ng Panaginip (Weaving Dreams),” is accompanied by Almario’s sarcastic lines on inequity: “Pag nawala ang pobre, sino pa ang kliyente ng mayamang teknokrat at manedyer ng World Bank? (If the poor disappear, who will be the clients of the rich technocrat and the World Bank manager?”

 Necessary revolution

 What about revolution, the staple of conscientious art? Zulueta’s image of a poor couple entitled, “Naghihintay ng Himala (Waiting for Miracle), triggers Almario’s impatience and he writes about a sense of possibilities and defiance of one’s mortality: “Di naghihintay ang oras. Humihinto lang sa wakas (Times does not wait, but only stops in the end),” is his comment.

Zulueta’s inscrutable faces of father and child, entitled “Kapalaran (Chance),” become a platform for Almario’s prediction that poor people’s outrage has only one logical and bloody end. “Sampisik lang kalawang kakain balang araw sa sambundok mang bakal (The tiniest bit of rust will eat a whole mountain of scrap),” the poet blathers.

 Life versus revolution

 But Almario also opposes rage and revolution when writing lines inspired by Zulueta’s images of innocent, poor, and young children.

Zulueta’s photo-portrait of a wide-eyed young girl, in “Tadhana (Fate),” makes Almario caution against violence: “Kung may mata, magmasid, kung may taynga, makinig, bago sundin ang bibig (If you have eyes, see. If you have ears, listen. Before doing what you say).”

The image of a young girl entitled “Liwanag (Light,” causes Almario to plead for peace over war, forgivenes against hatred: “Ano ba ang dahas? Isang bisig ng poot, kapanalig ng lakas, at kabiyak ng lungkot. (And what is violence? An arm of rage, a co-believer of force, a spouse of sorrow).”

A powerful close-up shot of a young boy, in “Musmos,” prompts Almario to compare youthful “rain-dreams” with elders’ sun-drenched labor.

Zulueta’s photo of a young girl carrying a school bag bearing a picture of Snow White, in “Kinabukasan puno ng alinlangan (A future full of doubts),” makes Almario quip, “Ito’y museo ng mundo sa bulag at pusong bato (This is the world’s museum for the stone-heart and the blind).” It sounds like an ironic description of art with conscience, which is Zulueta’s advocacy in this art exhibit.

Another photo-portrait of mother and child in “Pighati (Lament) provokes Almario to wonder:  “Hindi kaya Diyos mismo ay nabagot sa ganito (na imahen ng kalungkutan)? (Didn’t God himself tire of this daily labor?).” The poet’s reaction suggests revolutionary fatigue.  This nails an argument for life and sheltering, just like Zulueta’s need for nests for the homeless.

 A kind of art-triangle

 The show’s multi-media presentation of poverty – a kind of art triangle – brings back to life a fascination that once challenged young social realist artists to flirt dangerously with class struggle in the ‘70s.

Marne Kilates’ English translation of Almario’s poems was in the exhibit’s catalogue. Social realist artist Renato Habulan was the exhibit’s curator.

As a political cartoonist in the ‘80s, Zulueta also identified with the social realist artists. In recent exhibits, he has depicted migration issues, based on his experience as a Filipino immigrant in New Zealand and Australia.

 Mixed-media portraiture converges with literature to give face to the homeless

By Lester G. Babiera
Philippine Daily Inquirer

On a mission to give a face to the homeless and displaced, José “Pinggot” Vinluan  Zulueta mounts his fifth exhibition in collaboration with National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario, titled “Makatulog Ka Pa Kaya?”
It will be on view Nov. 5-17 with cocktail reception on Nov. 13, 6 p.m., at Crucible Gallery (L/4, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City).

In this exhibit, Zulueta presents black-and-white portraits of people whose houses in Taguig were demolished in 2008. That year, one of his photographs received a special award from the Institute of Housing and Urban Development Studies photo competition in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Five years later, despite government commitment to provide safe and decent housing, there remains inadequate response to the plight of the marginalized.
The experience of missing what is right before our eyes as a result of misplaced focus is known as inattentional blindness. In our society today, there are various forms of collective blindness. One such phenomenon is the seeming invisibility of the homeless and displaced.

Curated by Renato Habulan, the exhibit invites the audience to acknowledge the constitutive relation between themselves and the portraits. Zulueta (no relation to the editor of this subsection) begs us to ask ourselves: How does your own perception and experience shape the way you look at the images? Whose perception is missing from the images, and whose presence continues to be invisible?

In his mixed-media works, Zulueta used the surfaces of the photographs as a base layer, then painted geometric lines and shapes that intersect through the images.
Rio Alma, the nom de plume of Almario, wrote his poetry on canvas and is integrated into the artworks. By recomposing the images and integrating poetry, Zulueta has contravened from usual practice and blurred the distinctions between photography and painting.

Zulueta believes the convergence of image and text enhances the depth and meaning of the artworks. However, at the heart of the creative articulation is the artist’s profound desire to depict the plight of the homeless and displaced.

“The person in the portrait is a real human being whose life can be transformed. In reality, it is our own prejudices and inaction that make the homeless invisible,” said the artist.
For further details on the exhibit, contact Chari Elinzano at 6356061.

Encountering the face

by Hannah Jo Uy
November 11, 2013

According to the ethics of French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, the face is central to responsibility. We encounter others, through the face. Their lips, their nose, their eyes, these are the words that make up the story of their lives. The face of the Other “orders and ordains” us to serve them. When we encounter the face, we are immediately meant to claim the responsibility of that encounter, the responsibility of the Other. However, our apathy has turned us away from the Other and our responsibility to it, and the result are the faceless statistics of the underprivileged and the overlooked. It is by this very philosophy that artist, Pinggot Zulueta and National Artist for Literature Virgilio S. Almario have collaborated to put together a captivating and intriguing show that will bring us face to face with the Other.

Aptly titled, “Makatulog Ka Pa Kaya?” two artists come together to present us with a visual and literary presentation that aims to move our hearts and our minds to a greater awareness of the people who suffer under the urban decay of our time, artfully encouraging us to remove the shackles that limits our view of the world we live in.

Everyday, society goes about its daily routine, and in the midst of the morning rush hour traffic, and the cigarette breaks are men, women and children who are dressed in the grime of the city remain invisible to the very world they inhabit. Through the collection of mixed media works that will showcase Pinggot Zulueta’ aesthetic sensibilities and highlight the handwritten poetry of the literary gem that is Virgilio S. Almario, this exhibit aims to bring about a certain sense of consciousness to the world around, a call to self awareness and reflection.

The show is composed of black and white portraits of the poverty stricken individuals whose homes were demolished in Taguig, Metro Manila in 2008. As a photographer for a major newspaper, Zulueta was moved with this encounter, realizing that a factor in their suffering is the lack of their acknowledgment. Therefore, he brings about this acknowledgment and call to social and personal movement in the only way he knows how: Art.

“The person in the portrait is a real human being whose life can be transformed. In reality, it is our own prejudices and inaction that make the homeless invisible,” explains Zulueta.

To create more of an impact, Zulueta employed his artistic composition and included bright and arresting geometric lines in the photographs that are transferred to the canvas with emulsion transfer process. And on the products are the ever powerful poetry of Almario, thoughts made more sincere as it fills up the white spaces and the crevices of the images with his own handwriting.

Together they bring us stunning words and images to help us awaken to reality. The cause to give the homeless and marginalized a face runs deep within the artists, who, through the show, champion the possibility of art as a tool to effect change; and this change begins with one question, “Makatulog Ka Pa Kaya?”

“Makatulog Ka Pa Kaya?” exhibition is supported by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and is now ongoing at the Crucible Gallery, 4th Level, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City with cocktail reception on November 13, 2013,6pm, Wednesday. For inquiries, please call Chari Elinzano at (632) 635- 6061.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

VIAJES : Celebrating Memories and Solitude

Migration’s Painful Heart Bleeds in Zulueta’s Canvas

By Filipina Lippi
Published: March 25, 2013
Manila Bulletin

Artist, political cartoonist, and photographer Jose “Pinggot” Zulueta has experienced migration and has painted his experiences abroad like images of a bleeding heart. In his art works, he has also captured the essence of a migrant whose heart belongs to two places – both in his own native soil and the host country where he has stayed and taken root. Again, navigating between two worlds, whether real or imagined, makes the migrant perpetually hybrid and schizophrenic; or in an eternal state of being lost and found, qualities that are not lost in Zulueta’s self-referenced art works.

In his fourth one-man show entitled “Viajes” at Galerie Francesca in Mandaluyong’s Megamall, from February 21 to March 7, Zulueta’s works included diptychs and triptychs with abstract and figurative works. His abstract pieces depicted pure emotions and raw impulses with colors and gestures; his figurative works depicted the migrant’s persona, a steady body, but whiplashed with colors that could easily signify a tumultuous and unsettled existence of someone who keeps coming back and forth from his origin.

Combining his abstract and figurative images with straight and colorful lines, Zulueta succeeded in underlining the narrative of a migrant’s psychological tension. His titles: Blue Figure, Blue Night; Flight; Figure Rising; Introspection; Meditation; Moon Dancer; Night Walker; Oblivion; Quiet Mind; Dawn, and Wind Talker, were also tell tale signs of a migrant’s desire to overcome himself and his giddy, and global world.

In “Viajes”, Zulueta also showed stand alone abstract pieces entitled Albany on My Mind, Castle Hill Memories; Crying Heart; Dreaming of North Shore; and Imagining Parramatta River. They were all about memories of his adopted home that kept haunting him even after he has returned to the Philippines.

“I never thought much of these places that I saw abroad. But they keep coming back in my mind like intimate spaces, after I have returned home in 2008,” says Zulueta.

He and his wife Vanessa, a top social development worker for international agencies; and daughter Paula, (now a media graduate of Macquarie University), left for New Zealand in 2002. They transferred to Australia in 2006. His wife and daughter were left behind in Sydney when he returned to Manila in May 2008, to pursue his art while working as a lifestyle photographer of The Manila Bulletin.

“It is hard to be a migrant (especially if one has to give up one’s art while abroad). At the same time, it is harder to be away from my family while pursuing my art alone in the Philippines,” confesses Zulueta. It is a never ending tension for the artist who has also realized after returning to the Philippines, that going home ironically means being with one’s family whether it is based abroad or not; that one’s country is no longer a place, but one’s soul.

His life abroad was full of sacrifices and unnecessary alienation. Like any other overseas Filipino worker (OFW), he has experienced asserting his identity either through persuasive interactions or clashes of cultures.

It was not the first time that Zulueta tackled the issue of migration. In 2005, just three years after living in New Zealand, he depicted images of a man with clipped wings in an exhibit entitled “Aotearoa Series,” at the Philippine Center on Fifth Avenue in New York.

These early pieces on migration were more expressionistic in depicting the pain and loneliness of being uprooted and the difficulty of settling down abroad, says Zulueta, adding there was no other authentic voice he could amplify in his art at the time.

Although other artists have explored earlier Zulueta’s signature theme on migration, many of them have tackled the issue objectively, not subjectively, because majority of them have not experienced painful episodes of living abroad.

In 2012, social realist artist Edgar “Egai” Fernandez depicted the OFWs using a balikbayan box and candles shaped like human beings. Unlike Zulueta, he has not lived abroad for a long period of time.

In 2011, installation artists Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan used rows of compressed boxes in telling stories of migration, in an art exhibit entitled “Address” at the Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. Although Australian residents since 2006, the Filipino husband and wife team has been doing collaborative works on migration that tend to be more Platonic than expressionistic.

In 2007, Antipas Biboy Delotavo who belongs to the group of social realist artists, made a large oil painting entitled “Diaspora,” which portrayed a sea of lonely and passive people moving away with their luggage (at the airport). Using the same “objective” approach in depicting OFWs, Delotavo held a one man show on migration entitled “Street Guide: A Roadmap from Home” at the Artesan Art Gallery in Singapore in 2008. Like Fernandez who has not lived abroad, Delotavo’s interest on migration has a strong socio-historical flavor.

In 1978, National Artist Ben Cabrera (Bencab) also made a series on OFWs and mail-order brides in a show entitled “Larawan II: The Filipino Abroad” at the Luz Gallery. Although he has lived abroad with his now estranged wife Caroline Kennedy, and raised their three children in London, Cabrera’s works about migration did not refer to him, but to other OFWs who worked as professionals and domestic helpers abroad.

Filipino installation artists like Canada-based Lani Maestro and France-based Gaston Damag, have amplified the visual-voices on migration that are now resonating from almost all other ethnic artists based abroad.

In comparison with the more philosophical and objective works done by other artists on migration, Zulueta’s approach is more autobiographical, heartfelt and personal.

About nine million OFWs are based worldwide.

Zulueta is also involved with several art activities. This year, he will launch a coffee table book, a compilation of his photos of 75 artists in their studios that he shot for Manila Bulletin’s Artist At Work section.

In 2012, Zulueta’s 40 editorial cartoons, a collection of his daily output for Abante from 1986 to 1991, were included in a group show entitled “Papelismo,” at Crucible Gallery, SM Megamall in Mandaluyong.

In 2002, his images of political and socio-economic events for a show entitled “Asinta: Images and Imageries”. In 1985, he painted, in representational style, marine life for a show entitled “Tilamsik”.

For inquiries, call Galerie Francesca at +63(2) 570-9495 or email

                                                             Night Walker, Triptych, Mixed Media
                                                                Night Scape, Triptych, Mixed Media
                                                                Bird Spirit, Triptych, Mixed Media
Imagining Parramatta River
                                                     Mixed Media, 16 in. x 22 in. 2012

                                                 Dreaming North Shore, Mixed Media
                                                                16 in. x 22 in. 2012
                                                Moon Dancer, Acrylic on Canvas, 2005
                                                 Quiet Mind, Acrylic on Canvas, 2005

                                                       CATHARTIC EVOLUTIONS

                              “A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art. “
                                                                                                                   -Paul Cezanne

Catharsis had its Greek origin in Kathairen, meaning to ‘cleanse’. The word was derived from Aristotle’s Poetics, in which it set forth the notion of release through art and drama. For Pinggot Zulueta, his process of catharsis gave birth not only to powerfully evocative paintings, but also the opportunity for his audience enjoy the works as a secret window to the intimate expressions of his soul.

There are two dimensions of loneliness that a man feels in his life. One is reserved for those away from home living in a foreign land; A loneliness that consumes the mind and body making it hunger for familiar sights, sounds and smells. The other is the loneliness in finding yourself a stranger in your own land as a result of being without the people you love; A loneliness that consumes the heart, aching for those who matter most making the quiet emptiness of the home chilling. It is the tension between these two dimensions of loneliness that has driven artist Pinggot Zulueta to create a deeply personal collection of works.

More than a diary of his thoughts, his latest exhibit is a tribute to the therapeutic qualities of art. The healing characteristic of an empty canvas, the soothing excitement of the oil and acrylic and finally, the hypnotizing beauty of a finished work that serves as a welcome and temporary intermission from the sobering realities of life.

However, Pinggot Zulueta graces us not only with his personal memories, he also takes us with him as he relives through the work his evolution as a painter. The collection is a retrospective of his recent evolutions as an artist. Exhibiting never before seen works, he includes his figurative, as well as gestural abstract works.

Some works form a trio of paintings, the middle work a token from his early figurative paintings, an intimate revelation created in the time that the artist was abroad. The figurative paintings present themselves to be self-portraits; a representation of being that discloses the darkness of that period in his dim palette and poignant strokes.  This nostalgic piece, is flanked on both sides by abstract pieces that display a changed yet similarly emotional state in the gestural brush strokes that reveal the powerfully reminiscent mind of the painter. His abstract works, the shifting between one style from another the noticeably varied strokes, and change in textures and colors is testament to the artist’s need to push the boundaries of his craft, constantly exploring different possibilities.

The three paintings, a combination of new and old, is held together by three bright arresting lines, connecting them and making them into one. In effect, each work is a holistic revelation of his being. His existence, formed by past and present held together by his unbreakable love for painting.

Not all however are positioned this way, some form diptych partnerships that similarly exhibit his movement from one style to another, other works stand alone as a statement of the powerful emotions he experienced in that particular period of time.

As a whole the collection divulges the passionate emotional state of the painter during the specific periods of his life. The shift from one style to another speaks of the restless that connects the works all together. However, taken by piece, each work can stand on its own by its very style.

However, beyond his cathartic process, is a message of hope. Hope that serves as a reminder that life, in its periods of solitude, still holds within it the possibilities, of beauty, love and friendship.
                                                                                                                       Hannah Jo Uy


AOTEAROA SERIES Philippine Center, 556 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY December 2005

“ At  first glance,  this series of Jose Zulueta is a  terrible discourse on the annihilated self. Man’s contorted  and sometimes  mutilated body perhaps  best  expresses  Zulueta’s own sentiments as a migrant  Filipino artist. Yet his humanity as a Filipino also seems  to   urge him into providing spaces for dreams—some literal wings of  hope for a future redemption. Zulueta still  fervently wishes  for man’s  ultimate salvation from a  history  of  violent  and violated existence.”
                                                                                         Virgilio Almario
                                                                                           National Artist for Literature

                                                      Oil on Canvas, 2003

                                                        Oil on Canvas, 2003
                                                          Oil on Canvas, 2003


Visual artist and photojournalist Pinggot Vinluan Zulueta presents  his 3rd-one man show, entitled Aotearoa Series on 19 December 2005, 6 o’clock in the evening, monday at the Philippine Center Gallery, 556 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York, NY. Invitational cocktail reception is scheduled during the opening of the exhibit.

Aotearoa Series is a collection of 25 paintings on canvas rendered in oil and acrylic. The paintings were inspired by the artist impressions and reflections of his experiences abroad, Aotearoa, which translates to “ Land of the Long White Cloud ”, is New Zealand’s indigenous name. The artist has made New Zealand his home since January 2003.

Aotearoa Series is a documentation of the artist’s experiences while living in a foreign country. The paintings chronicle the artist’s emotional journey, culminating in hope and a resolve to overcome. These works have served as the artist’s refuge…his sanctuary.

The visual images portray upheaval, adaptation and redemption. They are presented in surreal and meditative forms, which may elicit profound contemplation or reflection on existencial issues. A fundamental idea underpinning these works is the potential for self-affirmation in a context of cultural dysfunction.

 Consul General Cecilia Rebong of the Consulate General of the Philippines in New York along with Department of Trade and Industry Representative Eugene Reyes and Philippine Center Management Board General Manager Gavino Abaya, Jr. lead as Guests of Honor during the exhibition.

Prior to his migration to New Zealand, Zulueta was an exhibiting artist and news photographer in one of the major daily newspapers in Manila, Philippines. In September 2002, he launched a successful one-man digital art exhibition and book launched dubbed “ Asinta: Images and Imageries” at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City. The exhibition was in collaboration with UP Creative Writing Director and TOYM Awardee Vim Nadera.

 The exhibit runs from 19 to 30 December 2005. For further details and information, contact the Philippine Center, New York, at  telephones (212 )575-4774, Fax (212) 575-3133.

                                                           EXHIBITION NOTES

From what we saw of his last exhibit on home grounds, Jose Vinluan Zulueta (Pinggot, still, to his many friends, though perhaps now simply Zulueta, the artist, to his increasing admirers), sets aside his digital palette and returns not only to "analog" paint but to the even more primal and interior territory that has always been there before it could be touched by any brush or "pick tool."
He returns, too, to the individual figure, not the dazed (by hunger) or distraught families or Madonna-and-streetchildren picking through garbage or lost in the middle of street marches cowering under the transmogrified manifestations of state power—remnants of his digitally-altered photojournalism.
Instead, the lone figure materializes in the by now recognizable Zulueta colors, the form not just disembodied but disemboweled, torn perhaps in the elemental struggle with loneliness and loss of a native foothold.
 But the title itself seeks homage to his adopted home, and though the Land's "lone white cloud" might be "stained" with his pained memories, it is the colors that triumph, less in the tortured manner of an Edvard Munch, but in the flushed, apocalyptic intensity of an early Legaspi.
                          Marne L. Kilates

Pinggot Zulueta is a truly gifted soul who is, in parts, a photographer, a painter and a cartoonist -- a combination of talents that he spotlighted in his one-man show in the Philippines. As a photojournalist for many years in the Philippines, Zulueta captured through his lens countless powerful images of unfolding current events as well as human-interest scenes that he was always on the look-out for as he roamed Manila’s streets.

Moving to New Zealand with his family proved daunting for him at first. Transplanted to a new land and suddenly immersed in a different culture, Zulueta faced the most difficult times. But it was here that he actually managed to return to his roots as an artist. In his paintings, he has sought to define the migrant experience – the wrenching emotions of being away from one’s country and all that is familiar, as well as the urgent need to uplift one’s self in the midst of a strange environment.

The New York exhibit is Zulueta’s way of showing fellow Filipinos -- especially those who have been based in the United States for a long time, a shared experience. In his themes of change and constancy, upheaval and adaptation, Zulueta particularly wants to establish a connection with those who, like him, have struggled to find meaning in a foreign land and have risen to meet the challenge
                            Susan A. de Guzman
                            Journalist / Curator

“The burden of Pinggot Zulueta is a journeyer’s sorrow: cutting soles, skinning soul, singing paean to facelessness and peril in another land and clime. But a hand remembers the gift; the hand reaches the heart, and the heart remembers it beats to life, and is grateful.”
                           Rebecca T. Añonuevo, Ph. D.
                           Miriam College

The road he has taken can be lonely, but Zulueta has used this experience wisely to get reaquainted with his art and raise it to a higher level of consciousness.  What we see are the inner roads of a man's journey.”
                         Nestor Cuartero

“ After a year or two, Pinggot is back in vengeance, so to speak, with a fresher, ironically more mature, perspective and persuation,  or it is persuasiveness? Aotearoa Series is his way of saying his reason for leaving, and at the same time, living. “
                        Vim Nadera
                        UP Creative Writing  

Moon over Aotearoa
August 25, 2003
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By Divina C. Paredes

AUCKLAND, New Zealand-Jose "Pinggot" Vinluan Zulueta says his works as photojournalist and visual artist have always been social commentaries. The 42-year-old artist has always opted to depict "the good and bad in Philippine society, the challenges and shortcomings of Filipinos, as a nation and as individuals."

These themes were evident in his critically- acclaimed exhibits in the Philippines, the most recent of which was "Asinta" (Bulls Eye, September 2002), which featured digitally processed drawings and photographs of political and socio-economic events in the past two decades.

These days, however, those themes have been taking a back seat as Zulueta's art explores more personal feelings on a recent major change in his life.

In January this year, Zulueta and his wife Vanessa and daughter Paula, 16, migrated to Aotearoa, "Land of the Long White Cloud" New Zealand.

While the move, Zulueta admits, jolted him, it had a hint of irony. For the first time in nearly two decades, he had all the time in the world to paint; time, which was a luxury when he was working six days a week, sometimes more, as a news photographer.

His house in Auckland's North Shore is now replete with his works that he planned to exhibit in Manila. But while surfing the Internet for jobs, Zulueta stumbled upon the Big Idea (, the online community of New Zealand artists, and learned about a forthcoming exhibit of migrant artists.

Zulueta contacted the organizers, Arts Access Aotearoa and AB Arts Partnership, and is now one of the artists of the ongoing group exhibit "On Arrival."

The exhibit at the Bashford Gallery, in the trendy Auckland section of Ponsonby, brings Zulueta together with artists from Argentina, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Colombia, England, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Kenya, Kosovo, Malaysia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Spain, Taiwan, Uganda, USA and Uruguay.

Zulueta opted to create three new works for the exhibit. The oil paintings, he declares, "represent mixed feelings of uncertainty and fear-emotions that a migrant experiences on arrival in his or her adopted land." The titles say it all-"Introspection," "Journey" and "Unknown."

While the colors may appear attractive and vivid, a closer look reveals sadness and fear. 

Those who are familiar with his earlier works would also note the colors are "darker," a fact Zulueta acknowledges.

The choice of surreal figures in his works is deliberate. "The figures do not have detailed faces and have protruding skeletal outlines indicative of the migrants' difficulties and challenges. The paintings depict their search for meaning and identity and what the uncertain future holds for them."

The figure in "Introspection" is actually faceless. In "Journey," the facial features are hazy. The principal figure is entering a door, but seemingly floating on the air, as if in limbo. This, he says, was how he felt the first few weeks and months in New Zealand.

The third painting, aptly titled "Unknown," shows his uncertainty on what his future holds in his adopted homeland.

A common image-the moon, always in flaming red-links the three canvases. In "Introspection" and "Journey," the moon is peering from behind the human figure. In the last canvas, the moon is less discernible, merging with the head of the human figure.

Zulueta explains the moon reflects constancy and a link to his past life. It is the same moon, after all, that could be seen in the land he left and the country he now calls home.

While Zulueta has devoted more time to photojournalism in the last decade or so (he won the first and third prizes in the 1997 Willie Vicoy Photojournalism Awards in the Nature and Environment Category, among other awards), his academic background is in painting.

He graduated in 1982 with a Fine Arts degree, major in Painting, at the University of Sto. Tomas and took up post-graduate courses at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts.

In 1982, while working as a graphic artist and illustrator in a government agency, he enrolled in a workshop of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. The workshop lasted two months, but for Zulueta, it was "an eye-opener and paved the way for my sustained interest and studies in the visual arts."

He knew, however, he had to take on a regular job to sustain his craft, and, since 1986, has been working in major Philippine newspapers, first as an editorial artist, then as news photographer.

But the fast pace of newspaper work meant Zulueta did not have ample time to paint. He consoled himself by the fact that he had a daily "exhibit" of his works-on the front pages of the newspapers.

As he puts it, the nuances of injecting art into photojournalism and painting are different. As a photographer, he says, he sees the subjects outright, and can compose the picture. In painting, he starts on a blank canvas.

He credits, however, his vast experiences in news coverage-he has covered coup attempts, presidential visits, crime scenes and the less gritty lifestyle shoots-for providing him endless subjects for his artworks.

His current exhibit-a feat, considering he has only been in New Zealand for only seven months-is simply a first step in what he hopes to be a full-time career in visual arts in his adopted country.

Brett Hopkins, of AB Arts Partnership and curator of the exhibit says Zulueta's paintings are "unique" compared to the other artworks in "On Arrival."

"They have real strength in terms of both color and composition. As expressionist works, they deftly convey an intensity of experience that is intriguing, although a little disturbing. I particularly admire his ability to translate his recent experiences with such immediacy."

Even then, Hopkins finds a common thread in Zulueta's works with those of the other artists.
"The artists are attempting to deliver their impressions of dealing with life in a new world order. 

Not all the artworks in this exhibition attempt this feat, but among those which deal with migration or relocation, there is a sense of dislocation and the trials of dealing with the unknown. In contrast to placing experience within past culture or the culture from one's past, Zulueta's work is about dealing with the present and its possible future."

It is worth watching, then, how the choices of themes and colors of this exemplary artist will change as he adjusts in his new home.

The author is a staff writer of an IT management magazine in Auckland, and a columnist of Diario Filipino, the newspaper of the Philippine community in New Zealand.

ASINTA: Images and Imageries, RCBC Plaza Galleria, Ayala Avenue, Makati City September 2002

The Artist As A Social Critic

For those who grew up during the period of authoritarian rule, the choices for the artist were very few: To create art for its own sake, as a manner of personal expression; or to transform art, perhaps even to elevate it, to the realm of social protest and give it a concience.

Pinggot Zulueta's art genuinely belongs to the second philosophy--and unabashedly so. It stirs the concience--and makes one realize, almost painfully, that one can never find true comfort and the pleasures of a tranquil concience if the broken, oppressed and exploited are left behind. Under autocratic  or more benign rules, the artist as a social activist and critic has persisted through decades. Zulueta follows in the eminent footsteps of Filipino artists in this genre. He has amassed a volume of work on canvas paper worthy of a one-man exhibit.

The artworks cover two decades--the Eighties and nineties, the most critical and memorable in the nation's life since 1946. The evolution of his technique is evident; it is evident too, that his themes are timeless, on the social, economic and political dimensions of national life that his generation has experienced. One can go back a century in our national life and find these themes starkly relevant.

His career took of as an Editorial Cartoonist characterized by riveting images of poverty, upheavals, street protests and subtle anti-imperialism. In his later works as a Photographer, his lens focused on both the faceless and famous, portraying a society of great achievers but with little soul and heart for the forgotten ones.

In all of his works, his true heart shines through brilliantly. He grew up believing that freedom. independence, and social values do not grow on trees. They are won at the price of a social struggle--with the artist very much part of it. We may not always agree with his art and his underlying philosophy--but we absolutely admire that courage that coats his paper canvas. The artist has found his true calling.

                                                                                                      Noel A. Albano, Journalist

                                                    Maestrang Kumain ng Sarling Bituka
                                                    Printed on Pigment Archival Ink, 1998

                                                      Orasang Walang Kamay
                                                      Printed on Pigment Archival Ink, 1998

                                                       The Media Activist
                                                       Printed on Pigment Archival Ink, 1998

                                                      The American Dream
                                                      Printed on Pigment Archival Ink, 1998

                                                       Gising Bayan, Bukas Tayo'y Lalaban
                                                       Printed on Pigment Archival Ink, 1986