OPEN STUDIO. It’s always a privilege to enter an artist’s studio. Art books on a corner shelf give clues about their influences. Photo albums containing mini-prints of the their previous works and scrap books containing invitations and news clippings of their past shows tell stories about their artistic journey.
As the artist speaks animatedly about every unfinished and yet unsigned artwork in the studio, we are drawn to their openness for sharing the creative process behind their coveted masterpieces. This openness is particularly vibrant in artist Alexander Jorge ‘Aljo’ Pingol.
A RELIC FROM CUBAO. One Saturday we met Aljo and his family in Valenzuela City. We brought with us the table top from Joaquin’s study table where Aljo agreed to paint his art on it. After lunch, Aljo led us to his art studio located across his family home.
Even before entering the studio, Aljo’s interest in things that tell stories about our local culture is obvious. Inspired by the Ifugao tradition of displaying animal skeleton on houses, the carabao skull near the studio’s entrance was recently acquired from Farmer’s market. According to Aljo, it took three months for the relic from Cubao to completely dry under the sun before it ended up greeting visitors entering his studio.
ARTISTIC ZONE. Music from the opera Cyrano de Belgerac fills the spacious studio. This gives us clues how the artist sets his mood and to what music influences his creative process. Having this spacious studio was a dream come true for Aljo where he spends long hours listening to lively classical music while creating his art.
Neatly arranged inside the studio are paint brushes and art books stacked in a corner self. This is unexpected from a prolific contemporary painter like Aljo who admits that he feels uneasy when things are disorganized in his artistic zone.
PORTFOLIOS. Aljo showed us photo albums made thick by mini-prints of the his works as a Fine Arts student at the University of Sto. Tomas and photos of his recent works. He diligently documents his creations so that he can keep track of his development as an artist.
Aljo’s major influences in art were Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. He admires the works Alfredo Esquillo and Ronald Ventura.
TINTA AT KULAY. Aljo graduated college already supporting a growing family. He worked as a cartoon animator for Toonworks Animation House and accepted commission portraits. He did portraits for then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and champion swimmer Eric Buhain. His pen and ink were printed on textbooks while his paintings on canvas ended up in stylish homes.
Aljo went through the difficult stage in his career when he have to peddled his works. The late Mario Alcantara of Heritage Gallery introduced Aljo to the local gallery scene. In Aljo’s voice: Nabuhay kami ng pamilya ko sa tinta at kulay.
ANG PINGOL. In one occasion, actor Joey De Leon, known for having a massive collection of Ang Kiukok paintings was attracted to Aljo’s artworks while at a mall-based gallery. In one of Aljo’s one-man shows, the actor and wife Eileen de Leon showed up revealing to Aljo that their home looks happier because the Pingol paintings that are displayed side-by-side with works of the National Artist.
In Joey’s voice: Hindi lang Ang Kiukok meron kami. Meron din kaming Ang Pingol.
EPILOGUE. As Aljo speaks animatedly about his personal history, the condition he is going through and the kind of future he envisions, we are drawn to his openness in giving credit to the Divine Art Director as the source of his creative talent.
Aljo lets the radio playing as we leave the studio. The strong vibrato and melodious staccato from Cyrano de Belgerac opera spills outside the spacious art studio as if a voice resonating from the Divine Art Director as the Giver of talents and the Maker all things beautiful.