(Philstar) A degree of inevitability must attend a man’s capacity for wearing many hats. At some point, he becomes a remarkable painter. Or keeps becoming one. Such may be said of Raul Deodato Arellano, whose solo exhibit “Island” at Altro Mondo Creative Space ends its three-week run on Oct. 24.
In his late 50s, Raul has been there, done that. Raised in Davao as one of seven siblings, he started scribbling at five. A few years later in elementary school, he drew stylized comic characters influenced by a local palabunutan game. At 13, a gift from a cousin had him raising chickens as a small business, exchanging his profits for art materials.
Moving to California, he took up fine arts at El Camino College in Torrance. His first job was as a security officer in a nursing home, where he ceaselessly sketched the patients. He also worked as a forklift operator before joining an assembly line of painters for the mass production of artworks for hotels.
He auditioned as an actor and performed on stage and for films. While studying film in the Art Institute of Chicago, he found himself drawn to a life painting class, which he couldn’t help but join.
Lineage helped determine his life course. Growing up, he had only heard about his grandfather, the master architect and painter Juan Arellano. It wasn’t until he turned 21 when he first laid eyes on Lolo Juan’s art.
“It came as a very pleasant surprise,” Raul says. “It was worth the wait. I am very thankful that I possibly inherited his natural inclination for painting.”
The sense of pedigree was reinforced when relatives who also became notable artists told him that his own brushstrokes resembled those of the patriarch. Further back, another forbear was the Katipunan propagandist Deodato Arellano, who is now honored as a middle name.
Starting in 1999 while abroad, Raul exhibited his art at Pomona Gallery Soho, Palos Verdes Art Center, Angels Gate Cultural Center, and as a member of Plein Air Artists of Riverside and Diamond Valley Arts Council. It wasn’t until 2018 when Altro Mondo first asked him to join the Allegoria group show in Makati. Later that year, he had his first local one-man exhibit, “Stroking the Light,” at Picasso Residence, also courtesy of Altro Mondo.
After several visits, Raul returned home for good. He set up his atelier in a farm in Calaca, Batangas, near the boundary of Nasugbu and Tagaytay, where he trains gamecocks.
While he never joined local art circles, his art has drawn sustained interest and support.
Writer and fellow artist Tony Perez notes how the five large paintings in the current exhibit are mostly “landscapes of the artist’s mind. They are of the artist’s retirement home as seen through his eyes. Unlike his paintings done abroad with furious colors and deliberately jagged lines, there is something soothing and graceful in these new works. There is no more anger, only passion, and you know that this man will be producing more astounding paintings to his dying day.”
“It is uncanny… that while the visual language of Arellano is of its own species, it converses with the repertoire of his grandfather, the prolific architect-painter Juan Arellano whose temperament absorbed and re-articulated the repertoire of both the Neo-classical and Art Deco forms. It looms quietly radiant on the horizon of the art of the grandson, although the latter deems this not a deliberate citation… It evokes a sense of structure that holds the painting together in ways that a frieze, for instance, disciplines the choreography and iconography of the vital parts of the sculptural theater within an architectonic scheme.
“… But this is not solely a legacy of architecture via the elder Arellano. It could also be from the younger Arellano’s practice as an actor who faces both a live audience and a camera, a translation of staging in the dramatic arts and the sharp delineation of the aperture that seizes both vista and persona, perspective and action. Whatever it is that has helped the formation of his artistic syntax, Arellano commits himself to enhancing the potential of a tableau, on the one hand, and the screen, on the other: posed, yet kinetic.”
The observation is confirmed by legendary filmmaker Raymond Red: “I have worked with Raul Arellano as an actor from the early independent films I made, namely Bayani (1991) and Sakay (1993). Raul is a consummate actor; there is no small role for him. He truly immerses himself in the character required with intense introspection. That is why I specifically cast him in the lead role in Himpapawid in 2009, which I now could not imagine interpreted by anyone else.”
Incidentally, Raul won an URIAN Best Supporting Actor award for his role in Lav Diaz’s much-awarded Batang West Side in 2001.
“He calls his style fluidicism. It certainly looks like it, the way his colors flow into each other. He has practiced plein air but now relies mostly on his subconscious, rather than copying from nature. An image suddenly emerges in one corner. You glimpse it before it becomes whole, leaving only suggestions.”
The largest of the oil-on-canvas works on exhibit is a cruciform-shaped triptych that measures 48 x 109 inches, with a center height of 60 inches. Undulating shapes, mostly of muted viridian, barely conceal human forms that aspire to be part of an unusual landscape. What could have been a central obelisk affirms the writhing mass before it too is topped by a curlicue that suggests a cloud bowing into a question mark.
The subconscious negates any hint of density. Saturation of both spirit and pigment is allowed to play a sport of gentle assurances amid soft binaries.
The same is true with “Earthbeat,” another landscape, of brighter colors. The other three paintings are in vertical format — “Self-Portrait” with its proficient touches of homage to Picasso; “Submission of Man” with its curtseys to mythic allegory; and “Alpha,” a pair of males resembling bulols in a naked stand-off, mediated by what could be a central sun. All raise questions as to fluency of meanings.
“Inside my studio, drawing and painting without reference makes me wonder and feel challenged. Creating different shapes always appeals to me, as it provides a sense of reason and order. It allows me to see the connections between things that did not seem connected before. In the process I use them expressively to generate new perceptions and metaphors in two-dimensional art.”
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“Island” by Raul Deodato Arellano is showing at Altro Mondo Creative Space along with two other solo exhibits — “In Search of Soul: A Journey to the Black Moon” by Raphael Daniel David and “Akut Ikut Ikat” by Indonesian artist Agus Kama Loedin.
Altro Mondo Creative Space is at 1159 Chino Roces Avenue, Brgy. San Antonio, Makati City.