Alfredo "Ding" Roces: A Hundred-Carat Diamond

Manila Bulletin, December 30, 2013 | Go to article overview

Alfredo "Ding" Roces: A Hundred-Carat Diamond


[caption id="attachment_69400" align="alignright" width="300"] Alfredo "Ding" Roces (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)[/caption] Multi-faceted Alfredo Reyes Roces is an activist, artist, art critic, anthropologist, book illustrator and designer, columnist, historian, journalist, nationalist, and photographer. At 81, he continues to accrete more light. He blogs and finger paints on a laptop. A brilliant diamond, in other words. But no one with the same time and talent can ace his alchemy. This modern Renaissance Filipino is also very proud of his familys patriots whose Spanish patriarch arrived in Manila in the 1830s. This historical lineage adds carat and character to his accomplishments as an artist and author. "I believe in an elitism of the mind," he says. "I am baffled by the specialist. My approach is: there are so many tools to create, so many expressions why not use them all; There are so many songs to sing, why not sing them all. (Yes,) I have more than enough on my plate". Yet, this multi-focused serial achiever has a list of areas he has not yet covered. "One major failing on my part is promoting and marketing my own work. I am happy to do that stuff for the art of my colleagues. I am inhibited when it comes to pushing myself. Im a lousy businessman. I (also) love music but cannot play a note. I have never been able to write fiction or poetry." [caption id="attachment_69401" align="alignleft" width="234"] Nude Painting on Ceramic, 2012 (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)[/caption] Advocating the perfection of the artist like a well honed artwork, he says in a didactic strain, "One may have accomplished many things, but if he neglects to develop himself to the fullest, then he has to account for such a failing." "Compulsion," he says, is the root of his prolific output. Snubbing fame: "I have never willfully pursued goals; I make the most of the opportunities that the Divine Hand sent my way; and lifes destination does not matter, (because I) savour (more) the (artistic) journey." But award-giving bodies have always been on his side. Multi-Artist Peaking early as an artist, Roces found the style of the Impressionists much to his liking; was open to fusion of different mediums and the use of found objects to create harmonious (and not disjunctive) forms; and experimented with pottery and sculpture. He was also an art mover among peers. After covering Chinas Cultural Revolution as a Manila Times correspondent in the mid-'60s, "I returned to the Saturday Group (of Manila artists) and introduced the concept of interaction, where an art work is the product of collaboration between creative individuals." His early mentor, Dominador Castaneda,was Fernando Amorsolos contemporary. Then he went on to finish a Fine Arts degree (minor in philosophy) at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1954, shaping not only his brush but also his mind. His post-graduate studies from 1955 to 1956 under George Grosz at the Students League in New York sharpened his sense of satire. Art studies also prepared him for discerning, sensitive, and serious art criticism. [caption id="attachment_69399" align="alignright" width="300"] Bahay Kubo Matabungkay, Pastel, 1972 (Photo by Pinggot Zulueta)[/caption] In the Philippines, Roces racked up 19 one-man shows from 1963 to 1994, capped by a 20-year retrospective show of his drawings in 1974. His art was not imprisoned when he moved to Australia to escape Ferdinand Marcos' martial law rule that started in 1972. A one-man show happened there in 1982, a two-man show with an aboriginal artist in 2009, several other group shows followed, and preparations for one-man homecoming shows in Manila continued. His eight art awards include a grand prize for painting from the Art Association of the Philippines in 1972; and citation as Artist of the Year by AAP in 1972. Unlimited Writing The 17 books that Roces has written from the late 1960s up to 2013 include 12 art books, 10 on artists, two on political cartoons. His varied topics include analysis of his own drawings from 1954 to 1974 (published in 74); Fernando Amorsolo (75); Juvenal Sanso (76); Filipino Nudes from Tabon cave pottery, Ifugao bulols, to the 18th and 20th century artworks of Filipino artists (77); political cartoons of the American Era with Dr. …

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