Sotheby’s is honoured to present three works by this key member of the Thirteen Moderns, who together with Vicente Manansala and Cesar Legaspi formed the triumvirate of neo-realists. Abstract (Lot 350), Untitled (Lot 351) and Madonna and Child (Lot 357) all originate from Ocampo’s ‘Transitional Period’ (1945-1963), a defining era that witnessed the artist’s departure from an objective reality, to distorted, mystic forms rendered in symphonic color. His return from imprisonment in World War II also effected a shift in his countenance, sobering his works with a matured sensibility and producing some of his most sophisticated works to date. Each work embodies the artist’s ability to create for viewers pleasantly surprising visual experiences, yet they stand as unique examples of how Ocampo explored geometrical abstraction and chromaticism.
Sumptuous and decadent, Abstract (Lot 350) is an enthralling amalgamation of paradisaical colors, capturing the buoyant brilliance of Philippines’ tropical flora. The fiery red figures extend across the lush greenery in anamorphic form, their opposing tonalities imbuing a spirited cadence in the work. Ocampo’s nebulous figures are emboldened with a textured complexity of intersecting lines and contrasting accents of color, punctuating the piece with an arresting rhythm. The variegated surface is an exceptional occurrence in Ocampo’s oeuvre, the rarefied pattern impressing an entirely new, inimitable aesthetic experience unique only to the artist himself. The present work exemplifies Ocampo’s gradual aesthetic shift towards complete abstraction, forging a new reality that transcends objective meaning but rooted in a distinctly Filipino disposition.
At the crossroads of transition, Ocampo hovered between the edges of realism and abstraction. Madonna and Child (Lot 357) is a notable divergence from the esoteric quality of Abstract, and instead draws inspiration from the artist’s domestic life. Despite the enigmatic nature of his works, Ocampo found a muse in his natural surroundings, claiming that “The strongest influence on my paintings are, of course, the things that I see around me every day.” Featuring the ubiquitous motif of mother and child, the lot’s muted palette is a stark juxtaposition to his richly saturated works. Ocampo grounds the intimate scene is cooler hues of earthy browns and green, revealing a tender moment between mother and child. As a family-oriented man, it is no wonder that the artist cherished the precious moments of family bonding and sought to depict it throughout his career. The poignant recollection of his family is echoed in the curved, oblique body of a mother cradling her child, her tilted face evocative of an affectionate gaze. Interspersed with various shades of pink and magenta, the scene emanates an affectionate warmth shared between a new mother and child. The loving ambience attests to Ocampo’s sensitivity to the subtle relations between mood and color, conjuring a nostalgic remembrance of his earlier days spent as both a parent and a husband.
A monochromatic piece that brims with the same exuberance of polychrome contemporaries, Untitled (Lot 351) exerts an invigorating tension that hypnotizes viewers with a singular glance. Created at the apex of Ocampo’s aesthetic evolution, the work is a testament to the artist’s experiments and greater understanding of the interrelations between form and color, “In my pictures, I am more interested in how shapes, hues, values and textures and lines interact with one another in space...” His distorted forms are not united in Ocampo’s familiar, organic consistency but set in a disparate array that disrupts the painting’s uniformity. Instead, the opposing contrast between the stable harmony of the rectangular blocks and the assortment of alien objects creates a discordant tempo that immediately engages the eye. Layered in gradations of black and white, the movement of color throughout the work instills the painting with a dynamism specific to Ocampo. Untitled (Lot 351) is a striking exception in the collection in terms of arrangement, color and form, testifying to the ingenious versatility of the maestro’s range.
A paradoxical combination of harmony and dissonance, Ocampo’s works are an entirely unique experience that enraptures viewers with his innovative, abstract idioms. This collection of works provides exclusive vignettes of a luminary en route to pure abstraction, overflowing with an abundance of creative energy.
 Angel G. De Jesus, H.R. Ocampo, Quezon City 1980, p. 54
 Ibid, p.54
 Ibid, p. 58
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