- Cesar Legaspi
- Signed and dated 74
- Oil on acrylic primed chanson paper mounted on wood
Often associated with the neo-realists, the artist’s paintings were largely inspired by urban landscapes, and the daily lives of laymen. He deliberately rebelled against Filipino painters whose paintings he believed had hindered the progress of Filipino art, with local artists continuing in this theme of expressionism, and the beautifying of national identity. As a member of the “Thirteen Moderns”, a group of artists who shared like principles, Legaspi was able to fulfil his want of experimenting with foreign styles and ideologies in the artwork. He was initially attracted to cubism, for it challenged his creative paradigms, and welcomed in a new set of tools that could be applied to his own paintings.
Created in 1974, Workers is reflective of Legaspi’s maturation as an artist, with these now favoured aesthetics and principles, evident throughout the artist’s oeuvre. Placed into a political and socio-economical framework, the painting was created during a time of governmental tension, with the late sixties and early seventies a period marked by public dissent in the Philippines.
The figures that inhabit the work exist within their own environment, void of facial expressions or costumes to secure their place in the narrative. However, the artist has gifted them with a story that is universal, that of the worker defined by his actions, an urban soldier who is a part of the larger picture.
The artwork is a slight nod to sculpture, for the piece is executed onto acrylic primed chanson paper, which has then been laid onto wood panelling. Each separate panel has a different size width, thereby giving the suggestion of depth in the painting. It is a curious play with contrasting mediums, and further shows Legaspi’s appetite to challenge existing modes of expression by creating a new set of language within the work.
The painting Workers is an exceptional piece by the artist, and establishes his role as a key figure in the emergence of modern art in the Philippines. Viewed as a study of Legaspi’s creative influences, and favoured constructs, the work provides a keen analysis of an individual whose paintings had a transformative impact on the future of Filipino artists worldwide.
Legaspi’s paintings are ultimately visual narratives that celebrate human relationships. Like the self-titled figures in Workers, his pieces have the ability to make the mundane become extraordinary. An eloquent painter, Legaspi’s oeuvre acts as a social commentary, that seeks to inspire a dialogue between the artist and the society at large.