Thursday, January 31, 2013

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 Pinggot Vinluan Zulueta presents  his 3rd-solo 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 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

“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.

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