IT has been only a few months since I wrote Bernadette de Los Santos’s trees and flowers. The artist is known by her nom d’amour “Bidibidi”. The name, with due respect to that choice, cannot contain the passion that the artist exhibits with her work. She has a heart for artists and, one day, I requested that she share her thoughts on the creative process with my graduate students on Art Criticism and Critical Thinking. The course title is a mouthful and I know how artists—true artists—really dread articulating on art and the processes that go with that endeavor and enterprise
Still, Bidibidi granted my request. She was joined by the other Bikol artists whose works I have reviewed for this page: Boyet Abrenica and Nuns Bancanso. The venue was ¿Que Pasa?, a restaurant that has become a gathering of artists in the area.
Bidibidi was there because she was finishing up a project: to paint on the archivaults of ¿Que Pasa?. She was assigned the Mexican writer Laura Esquivel, who is noted for Like Water for Chocolate. We cannot speak of how tricky this task can be. To paint with the texts and ouvre of a particular literary figure in mind cannot be merely illustrative. One must be able to recall the persuasion of that work and her representative works, if there are any.
That evening, Bidibidi showed me on the lower portion of a curvilinear space flowers rich in color but with no remembrance of lust and desire. Lovely blooms they were in the soft tone of that modifier.
As I turned around, on the wall where the escutcheon of ¿Que Pasa? was displayed were small, unframed paintings. From afar, they were all about cups and saucers. They were engaging to the eye because of the soft hues.
Whose were these?
They were Bidibidi’s paintings. And they were quite unlike the mystical trees and forests that I had written about earlier.
For students of art, the still-life painting is the most accessible of academic exercises. Bidibidi, however, once more “problematizes” the label as she gives us cups and saucers and glasses graceful in their unwashed stages.
The pieces are about colors and tonalities. But the title is not about the entire tone washing the canvas but certain objects that stand out because of their placement. The pieces show the technical grasp of Bidibidi with regard to the medium and the message. The translucence of certain glasses are achieved. The weight of cups placed over each other is sheer vision of gravity and a sly work on physics.
The artist, as with her other works, is never scared of color. She mixes them, turns glasses and cups into crayola green and red.
All of these accoutrements are situated on tables with backdrops that are textured and lighted by unseen source. The direction of the lighting doesn’t promise transcendence. The artist has no plans to evoke sentimentality or any kind of emotion. That is what I prize about this collection. However muted the colors and the objects, one is made to think of the persons absent from the frame. But we know the humans behind the colors, the hands that placed the cups and the saucers, the mind that left those objects in such skewed placement. That is where the feeling of the pieces evoke. These are emotions that are so ordinary in that they are of the everyday.
In the works of Bidibidi, the quotidian, as that line from a poem states, will have its day. The cups become objects of sensation; the drinking glasses of different colors are there for contemplation. Art starts from these techniques and we are grateful for Bidibidi that, if in the past she allowed us into her forests and flowers, she now ushers us into walls and tables, with utensils that are magnified beyond utilization and into first lines of verses. The apples and the peaches are all there like friends to the ordinary persona of these things we use to drink water, milk and chocolate. Now, that is a wonderful feeling, nothing extraordinary but special anyway because of the rediscovery of the power of color and ordinary objects.