Zen Cloud, by Philippine master of minimalism Lao Lianben, has the distinct honor of being the first piece presented at an international auction since the publication of a long overdue book—the only one thus far—celebrating a stellar career that spans over 40 years. In that time, Lianben's name has become synonymous to abstract, monochromatic works of genius.
Esteemed art critic Cid Reyes writes that central to Lianben's practice are the "Japanese ideals of wabi (transient and stark beauty), sabi (the beauty of natural patina and aging) and yugabi (profound grace and subtlety)."
Zen Cloud, created in 1992, embodies all the qualities that have solidified Lianben's position as one of the country's leading painters. The large-scale graphite and acrylic work done in his neutral palette is a meditation on writer Bruno Ferrero's observation that "the life of a cloud is very busy and very short."
Highly gestural drawings float at the bottom of a white expanse, creating a horizon. Below the expressive lines making up each graphite cloud are analytical, crosshatch grids—almost obscured by Lianben's spontaneous strokes.
The artist, a visual poet who paints with the brevity and minimalism of a haiku, hinges the work on his penultimate depiction of Ferrero's cloud: standing out from roiling gray thunderheads swollen with rain is a peaceful white macula that refuses to disappear into the also white background.
Philosophical in his approach to art, Lianben is a quiet virtuoso who offers solace and refuge in each of his canvases.
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