Printmakers Go Beyond Paper at This UP Vargas Museum Exhibit

Parched earth, ardent spring runs until June 7.
by Marz Aglipay
May 28, 2023
Marz Aglipay

( May is full of printmaking exhibitions, but none quite as intimate as a group show at the University of the Philippines' Vargas Museum. Parched earth, ardent spring features the works of 11 artists, much smaller than the ongoing group print shows at the Cultural Center of the Philippines or at the BenCab Museum. It runs until June 7.

Most would assume a print exhibition would be about works on paper that explore a variety of ways to transfer an image as its focal point. Instead, Parched earth, ardent spring considers the foundations in which the individual artists operate. It explores the individual contexts of the artist such as their roles in their family, personal beliefs, and motivations among other things. At its core, the exhibition explores the idea of what is indispensable or foundational to the artist.

This idea is expounded on by printmakers Ambie Abaño, Virgilio Aviado, Imelda Cajipe-Endaya, Ronyel Compra, Rey Concepción, Brenda V. Fajardo, Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi, Caroline Ongpin, Henrielle Baltazar Pagkaliwangan, Anton Villaruel, and Pam Yan-Santos.

Artists present during the exhibition opening
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay

Each contributed to the realm of Philippine printmaking in one way or another, through their respective capacities as educators, stalwarts of the medium, and even pioneers of the local printmaking practice.

Also read: 10 Cool Art Galleries to Visit in Quezon City

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Articulating the Indispensable Through Printmaking

As visitors enter the museum, they see Ronyel Compra's "Luta sa Balay ni Masyang," which is a print made from rubbing termite soil on textile that’s been set against his grandmother’s dilapidated house. The work is borne out of the artist's desire to preserve the memory of his grandmother’s home.

"Luta sa Balay ni Masyang" by Ronyel Compra 
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay
"Sabertoothpaste Flowers on the Loose" by Anton Villaruel
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay

Prominently situated on the second-floor landing is Anton Villaruel's "Sabertoothpaste Flowers on the Loose." These prints of hybrid plants on newsprint are wheat-pasted on the walls. While in another room is "YOUR EXHALATION, MY INHALATION" by Ambie Abaño, a large-scale print depicting a tree sprawled across 20 canvases. The works by Villaruel and Abaño are both in reference to nature and locate balance in their respective practices as they consume materials from the earth. 

Works by Virgilio Aviado, Rey Concepion and Ambie Abano
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay

This reveals to us that even artists who typically work on paper and wood—both finite resources, are compelled to expand their work on alternative surfaces. Villaruel on the other hand opts to give back. His long-term "HALA MÆN" project responds to this cycle of consumption with his "Plant Print Plant Print" ethos. He even planted a tree on the museum grounds in response to his participation in the exhibition.

"Reprise" by Pam Yan-Santos
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay

Another print-based installation, "Reprise" by Pam Yan-Santos, is a new iteration of her work "Hello Everybody" (2008). Situated in an isolated room furthest from the museum’s entrance is a piano chair, a family heirloom, placed on a platform. The room's green walls are screen printed with assorted styles of chairs that one is likely to find inside a UP classroom. The room, although barren, is filled with sound, a recording of a piano audition piece by her son Juno Santos on loop. Being in the room makes the spectator feel a sense of being among an imagined audience.


Yan-Santos shared that the 2008 iteration of the work was made "in a time when I was navigating how to bring up a son with special needs." The work that was once informed by anxieties felt by a parent for their child to be accepted is revisited by the artist through new eyes. "Reprise" is an installation that advocates leaning into one’s uniqueness.

Print Springs Eternal

The exhibition, as small as it is, offers variety in terms of the age of the works dating as far back as the 1970s and in the way that these printmakers have taken their practice beyond paper. Parched earth, ardent spring frames the practice of printmaking as a medium that is equal to any other.

“Liminal Space, Unstill Lives (Sunset)” by Henrielle Pagkaliwangan
PHOTO BY Marz Aglipay

Traditional prints on paper are also included in the show. The selection of older prints subsequently highlights the dominance of female artists in the printmaking scene. Imelda Cajipe-Endaya's "Buhol-buhol" and "Kastigo" reflect class struggles and the fight for women’s rights during the Martial Law period. The strong imagery of her work still rings true to this day. Her contemporary, Brenda Fajardo; and her professor, Ofelia Gelvezon-Tequi, are also included in the show.

Tin-Aw Art Projects co-presents this exhibit. Lately, the artist management group has been engaged in activities that build interest in printmaking through exhibitions and demos, their most recent one at the Xavier Art Fest in January. Parched earth, ardent spring is another one of their projects that faithfully highlights the printmaking medium.

Parched earth, ardent spring runs until June 7 at 1/F Galleries, UP Vargas Museum, Roxas Avenue, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City.