Lot 1080
  • 1080

Hernando Ruiz Ocampo

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD
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  • Hernando Ruiz Ocampo
  • Dancers
  • Signed and dated '74; Signed, titled, inscribed and dated 1974 on the reverse
  • Oil on canvas


This work is in good overall condition as viewed. There is some craquelure, consistent with age, and some tiny areas of associated paint loss. There appears to be some very minor, old retouching at few areas of paint loss, visible under close inspection. However, examination under ultraviolet light reveals no sign of restoration. Framed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Major breakthroughs in Philippine modern art took place during the post war period when the country gained independence. The rebuilding of a new republic inspired artists to break with the depiction of a reality through rose-tinted glass as exemplified by the tradition of Fernando Amorsolo popularised during the American occupation. Awaken by an urgent sense of ripening nationalism, Hernando Ruiz Ocampo (H.R. Ocampo), along with the original members of the Philippine Art Gallery (PAG), developed new painterly expressions and idioms that directly challenged the more conservative taste of academic art. These avant-garde artists were known collectively as the “neo-realists” who sought to depict their inner visions of the physical world rather than a direct emulation of it. The effort helped rejuvenated the country’s creative impulses and brought the modernist visual aesthetics to new heights.

As a member of the revolutionary “Thirteen Moderns,” H.R. Ocampo belongs to the same generation of artists as Vicente Manansala, Cesar Legaspi and Botong Francisco; his firm commitment to the unconventional language of abstraction at the time eventually singled him out as the most original exponent among the Filipino modernists. A self-taught artist who has never travelled abroad, H.R. Ocampo finds the depth of his inspiration from the visual patterns he sees every day, such as “the plants and the flowers, the fish and the animals, the bugs and the butterflies, the effects of the wind, the sun and the rain on the terrain of the Philippines.”1 While the writings by the members of the Bauhaus movement influenced him intellectually2, he finds the architectural works of Eliel Saarinen most profoundly enlightening precisely in the way his structures are dependent on the integration of cultural symbolism with material and form. Consistently evident in the pioneering canvases of H.R. Ocampo is a similar driving force to capture the hard struggles of the common people, as well as the colours and sentiments unique to the landscape and spirit of the Philippines. Moreover, like the architecture of Antoni Gaudi, the pictures of Ocampo recalls traces from the Art Nouveau period, for his images are comprised primarily of abstracted forms derived from natural phenomena. Visually, his paintings recall the experience of entering into a Gaudi building, for we are confronted with an organic informality that defies our immediate reality.

The end of 1960s marked a significant juncture in H.R. Ocampo’s artistic career. Having already won a series of notable awards for his paintings, the widespread recognition had propelled him to develop a highly personalised vernacular to express the newfound stability and serenity in his life. During this final phase known as The Visual Melody Period, H.R. Ocampo embarked on a new direction towards full abstraction with a dominant preoccupation on colour theory. The aim was to “create pure painting[s], something akin to chamber music.”3 Working predominantly with free forms and oftentimes restricted colour palettes, H.R. Ocampo sought to achieve a unity of composition and design. For example, the numbering shown on his studies demonstrates the systematic approach to the chromatic structure of his paintings. And like music, the result is a perpetuating organic unit, “in which tension, balance and colour combine to provide a total aesthetic experience.”4 The elements are gelled together by their tonal relationships with one another, and thus creating a melody and rhythm of its own.

Completed in 1974, the present painting entitled Dancers, embodies the full flowering of Ocampo’s Visual Melody Period. The picture is composed of individual leaf-like motifs, where the precise execution of tonal values facilitates the formation of a rich and coherent pattern. Emerging from the centre are the silhouettes of figures leaping into air. Their postures recall the traditional Filipino folk dancing techniques. The fluid entanglement of their bodies and limbs epitomizes the dynamism of movement, while the bright fiery hues represent the very life force of dance. Captured in mid-action, the momentum created is described by the rhythmic oscillation of shadows and reflections on the soft, undulating shapes that extend to the far edges of the canvas. The result is a truly dynamic painting that encapsulates the spirit of dancing through the use of abstract forms and colours. Ocampo wrote in his journal in 1953 describing the formal aspects of his paintings: “In my pictures, I am more interested in how shapes, hues, values, textures and lines interact with one another in space rather than capturing a photographic semblance of nature. I am more preoccupied with the creation of new realities in terms of stress and strain, rather than with the portrayal of such conventional emotions as hate, love, anger, jealousy, etc.”5

The present Lot Dancers shines on the moment of a creative genius whose unique approach to painting and his deep insight into the interrelation of colours and psychology placed the Philippines at the forefront of Avant Garde art. The painting therefore serves as a grand example of H.R. Ocampo’s consistent effort to instil a vital sense of Filipino identity in all of his works, for it is the beautiful Philippine nature and its inhabitants that tucked on his heartstrings and inspired his pictures.

1Angel G. De Jesus, H.R. Ocampo: The Artist as Filipino, Heritage Publishing, Philippines, 1979, pg. 55.

2 Refer to 1, pg. 54.

3 Refer to 1, pg. 60.

4 Refer to 1, pg. 56.

5 Refer to 1, pg. 58