Currently on view at Galerie Anna is an exhibition of works on paper by Negrense artist Nunelucio Alvarado, with the tender titled “Ara Ka sa Dughan”, translated as “You Are in my Heart,” affords the viewer to see an aspect of his prolific creation that is not often seen by the greater audience. Alvarado is one artist whose art aspires for greatness: certainly not in the materialistic and commercial sense of it, but in terms of ambition; again not as a careeristic or egoistic self-promotion, but in the struggle to use his art to address themes that may seemingly be rooted in his native Negros, but translate to their universal significance and consequences.
To be sure, the viewer is more accustomed to the more bristling, more aggressive stance of Alvarado’s art. For decades, since the Seventies, his works were associated with the historical movement known as Social Realism. It was the appropriate decade, remarkable for the fearless denunciatrion of a reigning social order that unconscionably ignored the plight and suffering of the masses. To say that the trauma inflicted by years of Martial Law still lingers is an understatement. Indeed, the wounds of this inhuman destruction of lives remain indelibly present in the never-ending curse of poverty and persecution throughout the land. Thus artists could only take recourse to their art in order to hold up a mirror that reflects our social realities. Undoubtedly, the tension in the works of Alvarado is one of unmitigated intensity, of a sustained pitch that is more remarkably memorable by his distinctive handling of form which enables him to uplift his art to the level of excellence achieved by Social Realists in other countries, specifically Mexico and Latin America.
It is therefore a visually refreshing and solacing experience to see Alvarado tackle themes that depart momentarily from his accustomed images. A long-running series titled “Babaye” - “Woman” – is a refreshing take on folk genre, depicting the subject - “Inday” – as wife, mother, vendor. Still in his distinctive, characteristic style and brilliantly acidic chromatic scale, the image is redolent of the idyll. Whether selling fish, chicken, flowers, fruits and vegetables (inevitably raising visions of Manansala, Malang and Magsaysay-Ho), Alvarado’s Inday seems made of sterner stuff, of a backbone made sturdy by life’s vicissitudes, unbending to the willful neglect of destiny. Typically, these paintings are invested with brilliant prismatic and primary colors and, more enchantingly, a vibrant spread of variegated quilt-like patterns, with particular patience and persistence on their enthusiastic elaboration. Surprisingly, Alvarado works on this visual activity, traditionally regarded as feminine, being allied with domestic arts, with a total lack of self-consciousness. The prevalent use of patterning, both geometric and arabesque, engenders in the works a welcome liveliness, a dynamic rhythm, and a joyous orchestration of contrasting patterns.
One returns to the title piece, “Ara Ka sa Dughan”, which depicts the visage and torso of a man upon which is emblazoned a heart, so diffident and disconcertingly hidden, as if quelling its palpitating torrents of love. Is this a portrait of the artist in the throes of an overwhelming emotion? For Nunelucio Alvarado, the human acknowledgment of this universal force remains at the heart of the matter.