Filipino Painter: BenCab

 Tres Marias, 2003 by BenCab (1)

Benedicto Reyes Cabrerais, known as BenCab is considered to be the best selling painter for his generation in the Philippines. He was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines for Visual Arts (Painting) in 2006. He now runs the BenCab Museum in Tuba, Baguio, Luzon, Philippines. I highly recommend you check out his site at BenCab Museum.

BenCab is a professionally trained artist graduating from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in 1963. The painting Yakal Street Rooftops (oil on board) was created in the same year.  

Yakal Street Rooftops by BenCab (2)

I quote BenCab’s comments about this painting:

This is the view from the roof of our house, where I used to fly kites. We were living in Yakal Street, near the Bambang market. You can imagine nine of us living under one roof. That’s probably why I appreciate nature—I grew up in the city. You really look for more space. Bambang was a colorful neighborhood. I was sketching the barung-barong by the river, in a style influenced by Manansala. But I was also sketching scavengers, charcoal sellers, the people I saw around me.3

I don’t know when the painting below was painted but I think it is representational of the people BenCab was observing.

Credit: (4)

And these images also seem to be highlighting people from his world and who lived in his neighbourhood.

Credit: (5)
Credit: (6)
Credit: (7)

Sabel (below) is a major figurative subject that recurs through BenCab’s works. Apparently, one day when BenCab was in his apartment in Bambang, Sta. Cruz, Manila, he saw a bedraggled scavenger wandering the street who was wearing scraps of plastic. Cabrera, (BenCab) who was then working as an illustrator and layout artist for a magazine, took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and drew abstract sketches of the woman. According to him, the woman who he named as “Sabel” is a representation of not just a homeless woman but of any Filipina as well. “Looking at the way she moved, how her ‘clothes’ swayed, she could be an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), a vendor, a dreamer.” Moreover, the artist could see in the alluring image a certain fashion sense and surreal dance movements that inspired his later works.6

Sabel by BenCab (6)

BenCab has used the Sabel image as a way to explore shape, line, composition.

(Credit: (8)

The more you look at the paintings done by BenCab, the more Sabel emerges from so many of the images. The emotions unfolding literally emerge through the movement of the cloth. I love these images which appear to dance across the canvas.

BenCab’s style is termed Figurative Art which describes any form of modern art that embodies strong elements related to the real world and particularly to the human figure. In many of the works of BenCab, the fabric of the clothing takes over the message. As seen below the cloth has completely engulfed the human form revealing the raw emotions.

Credit: (11)

Tomorrow we will continue to look at more works by BenCab, especially less abstracted works and also his palette. I have read that BenCab is also a printer and sculptor so I will see what I can find.

A special thank you to R. of the Philippines for introducing us to this remarkable and fascinating artist.

Credits: (1); (2); (3);
(4); (5); (6); (7)
(8) (9) (10)
(11) (12)