Arts & Leisure

By Jasmine Agnes T. Cruz, Reporter

Breaking away from Malang

Posted on July 02, 2014

IF YOUR artistic bloodline can be traced to Mauro "Malang" Santos, some people might expect you to paint abstract figures of vivid fiestas, sari-sari stores, and town plazas. Instead, the Santos family -- Malang’s son Soler, Soler’s wife Mona, and the couple’s children, Luis, Carina, and Isabel -- have all developed their unique artistic sensibilities as seen in their first family exhibit, Gathered Narratives, curated by Nilo Ilarde at the Silverlens Galleries in Makati City.

ISABEL by Mona Santos
Known for his layered abstract depictions of twigs and leaves, Soler Santos also showed his photos of abandoned houses. When he sees a crumbling structure while he drives, he thinks, "Uy, ang ganda noon (Wow that’s so beautiful)," and he is compelled to stop and take a photo. "Mas sira mas maganda sa akin (The more damaged it is, the more beautiful it looks to me)," he said.

Mona Santos paints flowers because she is attracted to the interplay of light and shadow. She explained that flowers have petals and folds, and thus the object’s interaction with light is more interesting. It was this interplay of light and shadow that also inspired her foray into using unmade beds as her subject. It started when Carina was taking pictures of her feet in Luis’ bed. Their father passed by and was intrigued by what his daughter was doing, so he took his own photos. At that time, Mona, already looking for another subject to paint, was drawn to the light and shadow on the bed sheets in her husband’s photos.

The children are just as different as their parents.

Luis Santos’ Structures is diptych featuring a galvanized iron (GI) sheet beside a painting of the said sheet. He was intreged with how the GI sheet refracts light when the otherwise drab object is distorted.

When Carina Santos browsed through old yearbooks in a secondhand shop, she was fascinated by the photographs. She began to collect them, and then decided to cut out the images and paste them on playing cards -- the cards are an ideal surface for her as she is intimidated by the expanse of the canvas. By designing one card at a time, eventually she has a stack, and she can bring them together to produce a larger work.

Isabel Santos adds markings in graphite, acrylic, and pen on comics-sourced images -- the vibrant colors and the textures appeal to her aesthetic leanings. "I just like a busy background," she said.

Mona and Soler Santos’ children were not into art initially, and the parents never forced them. The children seemed uninterested whenever the family visited museums, so their parents thought that none of them would follow in the family’s artistic footsteps. "We were also surprised," the mother told BusinessWorld. "You wouldn’t think we’d have a group show like this," added the father.

"Hindi naman parang kahit ano basta ’wag lang art (It was not as if we said anything will do so long as it is not art)," said Carina. "We just had other interests."

Luis took up Business Management at De La Salle University. "I didn’t want to be an artist," he said. "He wanted to get rich," quipped his father. "He didn’t want to be a struggling artist," added his mother. Everyone laughed.

Things changed when Luis visited the home of artist Elaine Navas. He went home brimming with questions about painting.

Carina wanted to be a writer. A self-confessed bibliophile, her love for words led to her to express herself visually by using images from books.

Constantly drawing since childhood, Isabel’s friends thought she’d go to fine arts, but she did not want to do something so expected. In the end, taking up European Studies in Ateneo de Manila University and a family trip to Europe were the inspiration of her first exhibit last year.

"Just because you went into fine arts doesn’t mean that you’ll continue to do art," said Soler Santos in mixed Filipino and English, remarking that in his University of the Philippines batch, only 20% of his classmates pursued art careers. You might be discouraged because you have really good classmates, or your teacher embarrassed you in front of class, or a teacher forces you to adopt a certain style -- or, since they know you’re a grandchild of Malang, they might be extra critical of you, explained Mr. Santos.

"OK na rin yung nangyari sa kanila (What happened to them was a good thing)," he said. "At least they are free to do their work."

The show is ongoing until July 5. Silverlens Galleries is located at 2/F YMC Bldg. II, 2320 Don Chino Roces Ave. Ext., Makati City. For details, visit