|PAINTER ELMER BORLONGAN (LEFT) COLLABORATED WITH POET VIM NADERA (RIGHT) FOR RIZALPABETO WHERE THE FORMER CREATED FOR CANVAS "LETRAS Y FIGURAS" USING IPAD IN HONOR OF DR. JOSE RIZAL|
Vim Nadera: You had your first solo exhibit before you had your group?
Elmer Borlongan: I had several group shows before I had my solo exhibit in Boston Gallery. Most of my contemporaries did not want to have a solo show until they have won the major prize in the Metrobank Painting Competition. It is one of the rules of the competition not to have a solo show yet before they could join.
VN: How special were Aki (1993) and God Bless Our Trip (1994) to you?
EB: Dr. Joven Cuanang, our good friend and art patron, gave me the opportunity to exhibit solo in his Cubao gallery. Aki is my first solo exhibit at the Boston Gallery. The theme is about children. I was a volunteer art teacher to street children in Palanan, Makati during that time. “Aki” is the Bicolano word for child. God Bless Our Trip is my second solo exhibit focusing on my experiences and observations of daily life in my hometown Mandaluyong. Bencab bought one painting from this show titled Sundo which now hangs in his Baguio museum.
VN: What can you say about the other Thirteen Artist Awardees chosen with you by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1994?
EB: All of them are cutting edge artists. They are innovators on their chosen media.
VN: How did travel grants and residencies here and abroad help you grow?
EB: Travel grants and residencies are first-hand exposures to contemporary art. You get to meet and make new friends in the international art scene. I became more confident talking about my work in public. This is also good for network and contacts for future projects and exhibition abroad.
VN: Did your life, particularly the romantic, changed when you became an artist-in-residence in Casa San Miguel?
EB: The human figure continues to be the focus of my works. The sound and the fury of Manila street scenes have been the fitting accompaniment to the figures that have graced my works throughout the years. My move to Zambales in 2003 has changed all that, dramatically.
I paint in a studio in the middle of a mango farm surrounded by the sound of a sometimes wailing sea and the chirping of the birds. My immediate environment within the home and in the outskirts of the farm presents an engaging scenario of various characters that I have mingled with. Not to mention my exposure to all my brother-in-law’s pupils at CASA San Miguel, around the farm on Sundays. And the spots I discovered under the trees to practise their instruments have now figured prominently in my recent works. The grass that my neighbour never fails to burn every summer is a worrisome incident that has unified the barrio people. They converged into my space to protect and empathize with me. There are religious rituals that give pomp and circumstance to the practice of the faith. And of course, there is the sea, a character in itself, that is sometimes disconcerting when my wife worries about "imagined tsunamis in her head" but is a refreshing blue field of delight on hot summer days.
VN: How are you as a husband? As a father?
EB: I will let my wife Plet answer that question. Mahirap magbuhat ng sariling bangko.
VN: What are the pros and cons being married to another artist?
EB: I am lucky to have a partner who understands my work as a full-time artist. Even if I am not painting, she knows I am conceptualizing my next work. Although, drawing everyday is a habit of mine. We have a policy between ourselves not to make a comment on each others’ work until it is signed.
VN: What lessons did you get from such “conjugal artistry” as Bolipata and Borlongan: Two-Part Invention, among others?
EB: We support each other in many ways. Art is a big part of our life and we will continue creating until we get old together.
VN: How do you compare it with our project Rizalpabeto with The Center for Arts, New Ventures, and Sustainable Development (CANVAS)?
EB: I used the iPad to create the artworks. The new technology was a big challenge considering this is my first project in digital painting. CANVAS did a project before on the writings of Apolinario Mabini but this is the first time to produce a letras y figuras on the the life and works of our National Hero.
VN: What did Jose Rizal teach you before, during, and after your Letras Y Figuras through iPad?
EB: I've learned a lot from Jose Rizal. He is an exceptional man. Inspiring new generation to pursue their dreams. The impact of his works continues up to this day. His quest for knowledge seems to have a purpose to his personal life and to the struggles of the Filipinos. He is the best planner to make things happen. He sacrificed for his country and died believing in the truth.