Two compelling paintings in 8 x 20 ft. hang on both ends of Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Gallery’s walls—both are the works of an artist whose name is equated to large scale works and abstraction, particularly his Diaphanous and Permutation series.
The paintings completed in 2014—titled “Diaphanous Anthuriums” and “Diaphanous B-CCXXXV”—were two of the last works Romulo Olazo did before passing on in 2015. Both works can be viewed for the first time and at the CCP until September 8.
These two paintings, together with 30 more of his works ranging from 4 x 5 ft. to 8 x 20 ft. in size, are part of the ongoing Olazo Large-Scale—the first major exhibition organized after Olazo’s death.
Olazo was 81 years-old when he passed on in August 2015. He was born on July 21, 1934 in Batangas and was already 25 years-old when he moved to Manila to study Fine Arts at the University of Santo. Tomas in 1959. Here, his teachers included National Artist Victorio Edades and Diosdado Lorenzo. National Artist Ang Kiukok was one of his classmates in UST.
In 1972, Olazo was among the first painters to be given the 13 Artists Awards. He has exhibited in local and international galleries and has received various international awards for his works.
Olazo Large-Scale was curated by his son Jonathan who is also an accomplishd visual artist. “We tried as much as possible to bring in works that would represent the body of work of Romulo Olazo,” he said of the exhibition.
The body of work featured in the exhibition were sourced from corporate and private collections including those lent by Bangko Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Metropolitan Museum of the Philippines, Paseo Gallery, and PLDT.
The exhibition is a homecoming of sorts for the late Olazo who had his first one-man show at the CCP in 1974 and a second one in 1982 with a similar title, Large Scale Paintings.
When asked about the artist’s affinity to create large scale paintings, Jonathan recalled how he used to ask the same question to his father how he always got the same reply: “Gusto ko, eh (Because I like it).”
“He was very fascinated with the billboard painting industry,” Jonathan added, noting that his father started as an artist in outdoor advertising.
Sharing more anecdotes about the late artist, Olazo’s wife, Patricia, said that her husband found it challenging.
She said, “He was fascinated by space, and the challenge it poses as an artist.”
Although known for his abstract works, Patricia pointed out that Olazo has also mastered nudes and figurative drawings.
Patricia noted, “Many would often ask why he does abstract works when he is so good with drawings. Figurative paintings are like discipline for him—to hone his skills—so that when he does his abstract painting, when he faces the canvas, it (the forms) would automatically come out.”
“I think, for him, abstraction is the sense of form,” Jonathan added.
On the late artist’s influences, Jonathan said that National Artists Cesar Legaspi and Vicente Manansala made an impact on his father with the latter as his mentor.
“He just sits down and draws and draws,” Patricia said, remembering how her husband would make hundreds of sketches before facing a canvas.
“Saka noon, kapag magpe-paint siya, ‘di niya iniisip kung mabebenta ba ito or hindi. Basta paint lang siya ng paint,” Patricia also shared.
[“His attitude when he was painting before: he would think whether his work would be bought or not. He just paints and paints.”]
Olazo made more than 25, 000 works. According to Patricia, for classification purposes, the family decided on a size of 4 x 5 ft. as the smallest of the large-scale works her husband has done.
“Based on our first inventory, all of the paintings with that size upwards number about 267, and out of those big paintings, about 93 of those he did in the last five years of his life. The biggest are the two 8 x 20 ft. (paintings),” she shared.
The two 8 x 20 ft. paintings were Diaphanous Anthuriums and Diaphanous B-CCXXXV. Initially, Olazo planned to make three paintings of this size–each for his three children. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish all.
Jonathan also has fond memories of the late artist as a father. According to him, he owes his exposure to art to his father.
“We were close. He’s not that talkative. He was supportive; he was going to my shows. He is very encouraging as a father,” Jonathan shared, adding that his father would just allow him to discover what he wanted to do as an artist.