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G L E N N A N G E L E S B A U T I S T A
‘AN ARTIST PAINTS IN SEARCH OF HIMSELF’
Born in 1947, G l e n n B a u t i s t a is one of the youngest Filipino painters to have achieved an international reputation. His was the unusual experience of having his very first painting win an international contest – – – the Christmas Art Contest sponsored by World Literacy and Christian Literature in New York in 1964. From a very early age, being raised in the home of a Methodist minister – he faced the question of the relation of art to Christianity.
(Recently the Patmos editors asked him about his art and his faith.)
Q: How do you understand your role as an artist in relation to the society you live in?
A: Whether we like it or not, we relate to society, at least, financially. I have made quite a number of exhibitions of my art work, what I sold I had to live with until the next show. I think it is likely that if I get too rich and profitable, I might become lazy.
Q: Do any of these considerations really count?
A: Well, it’s like this. Every human on earth has a role to play. As for me, I’m drowned by visions, by things I see, things I imagine – like ideas in art. These visions and ideas just come into my head. I have to let these thoughts out in the most effective form of expression I continue to discover. That’s the role I believe I have as an artist. Money is only a tool to allow me to express myself in art – to express what I have inside of me, creatively and meaningfully.
Q: Some have said that it is too easy to become successful in this country because there is not a strong critical tradition: would you say that is true?
A: It is too easy to fool the public. There are true statements in art and there are false statements. This is one task I have to work out and realize for myself. Whenever I do something, I do something new. I never go back to re-do what I have already done. I keep on changing. People cannot pinpoint something and say this is Glenn Bautista.
Q: Is it a temptation to keep painting something when you have found that it sells?
A: Yes, but I don’t paint to sell or paint because it sells. How can I do that? I’ll be violating myself.
Q: But how do you perceive your role in society?
A: Honestly, as an artist I do not think about society. I just bring out what is in me. I don’t know how that would affect society or patrons of art. An artist just expresses himself, learns from himself and continues to make an effort to understand himself. He paints not to make a statement, but is always in search of himself much like the show I had “In Search of the Divine”. Long before this show, I had talks with my father who is a Methodist minister. More often than not, we conflict in our ideas and lifestyles.
Q: Does he appreciate art?
A: Oh yes, but his appreciation is on the spiritual level. If anything I did was related to spiritual matters – about God, the Bible, the church, and especially to help propagate Christ, he would be very happy about it. And they have to express a message. Of course, I understand this now much better than I did before. It was merely self-expression and transfer of thought from a book or an idea to a canvas. It was mere execution. There was no spiritual involvement with the work. I was just a kid.
I would struggle to perceive my father’s message and I would try and visualize it with a painting. Often he would come up with several interpretations of my work. I can only understand them when he explains them to me. That’s how I got started. Those were very good and interesting experiences I had with my father.
Q: How did you come to understand things differently?
A: When I really began to relate my work with everything that I am. I became totally involved with my work.
Q: How would you describe this tension with your father over lifestyle?
A: During the time I lived with him, whenever I did any painting, I knew that he would appreciate it if it was religious. So, it was not “art for art’s sake. Now I don’t know the difference. I think art’s essence and Christ’s teachings are the same in truth, beauty and harmony. So whatever I do in art is Christian and religious.
Q: In what sense are they religious, say, if they have nothing to do with the Church?
A: Some basic doctrinal statements from different ideologies may fit into some Christian ideology -such as good and evil. Personally, I believe Christian doctrine defines everything as defined by Christ Himself, because Christ is everything. So, whatever we do is basically Christian. I think about the Christ my father preached about. When I was a kid we would meet every Saturday and argue. I didn’t have any personal relationship with Christ then. Time came, on my own I had to search other religions and cults only to end up embracing what Christ has long offered us – true salvation, everlasting joy, peace, and life.
Q: Does that show in your exhibition” In Search of the Divine?” Was that a part of your own personal search?
Q: Do you ever sit down and try to do something particularly Christian . .Christian symbols?
A: I have no fixed assumptions when I paint, I let go. I’m more involved with the process – and that’s it.
Q: Who have been some of your important influences? You studied here?
A: I took my first year at UST. Then I decided to move to UP where I finished Advertising. Finally, I took a two-year course at Brooks Institute of Fine Arts in Santa Barbara, California.
Q: Were you influenced by art in California?
A: I was really too busy to go out and see what others were doing.
Q: You were not interested in what others were doing?
A: No, I was interested in my own thoughts. Maybe when I was younger, looking around, I was stimulated, but no direct influence.
Q: You never keep any of your work?
A: No. I did not get attached to my work then nor did I tend to go back. I just wanted to go forward.
Q: If you didn’t get paid for your work and you knew no one would look at it, would you continue to work?
A: Oh, yes. That has happened to me. I have had shows where not one painting was sold. I just kept going. Maybe I would be sad if I find myself working for somebody one day. Where I am at now is setting up a workshop with all my materials where I can say or do whatever I want.
Q: You have made some commitment to Christ, is there any way you express this in terms of a fellowship?
A: That’s a natural thing for me. When I’m finished with my work, I see my friends. I visit them. We talk about things that matter. That’s how I have fellowship with others. I don’t have a schedule when I do that. I talk to the Father. I am in communication with him every day.
Q: Do you work with other artists? – – that Saturday group?
A: I know all of them, but I prefer not to work with artists. Sometimes I have craftsmen working with me.
We can work intimately together.
Q: There is never a time when you say: I’m going to do a religious painting?
A: I’m just expressing ideas – they belong to God. I cannot define a literal interpretation of the Christian life or doctrine in painting, nor can I define experience too. When I was younger, I was healed by a faith healer, Bob McAlister. I was allergic to eggs. He prayed over me one night and made me eat eggs. My allergies manifested again after eating those eggs. However, since then I have had no problems.