Artists Get Closer to Nature with How Green Is Your Muse? Exhibit

Paintings by Filipino-Canadian artists reveal ways to preserve and protect our environment

Filipino-Canadian artist Broderick Wong, posing beside his three paintings at the nature-themed exhibit in the Surrey Art Gallery on Nov. 23. (Nicole Gonzalez-Filos)

Filipino-Canadian artists will be showcasing their artistic muses in a nature-themed exhibit at the Surrey Art Gallery which is running until Feb. 2.

The exhibit, titled How Green Is Your Muse?, was a celebration of nature and a cry for climate action. To create it, a dozen Filipino-Canadian artists explored and expressed their relationships with the environment.

The free exhibition was presented by the Filipino Music and Arts Foundation in partnership with the Philippine Consulate General in Vancouver.

During the opening reception on Nov. 23, many attendees were able to admire various paintings while enjoying mouthwatering Filipino dishes, the most common one being pancit canton.

The organizer of the event was Lenore RS Lim, a Filipino-Canadian-American artist who specializes in printmaking. Her artistic technique includes a vibrant mixture of printmaking and high technology.

Lim and her husband founded the Filipino Music and Arts Foundation 40 years ago. She says her team decided on the theme because they are deeply concerned about the environment.

“In Vancouver, where everything is so beautiful — the landscape, the gardens …. We thought that [the environment] would be affected in many years, but we are already seeing it now,” says Lim.

“Some people can respond better when they can see a work of art, better than seeing it in writing.”

Broderick Wong showcased three paintings at the event. One of them, “Bay Watch”, featured Manila Bay. Back in 2013, Wong used to live there, and he remembers that it was polluted and covered with garbage. But in September of this year, people gathered to clean up the area.

In “Bay Watch”, he shows the bay with crystal clear blue waters and smooth, peachy sand. Birds glide peacefully around white clouds in the sky.

“If Manila Bay were a person, I want to tell people, ‘Look at her now. Look at the beautiful glow in her complexion without all this garbage.’ Wouldn’t it be great to see this every day and not just once a year?” he says.

Another Filipino-Canadian artist, Chito Maravilla, is an art director, playground designer, and graphic designer.

For Maravilla, painting is a way of documenting his life in Canada. His collages are made with found objects which symbolize the decay of the environment, while simultaneously showing beauty.

Christine Faron Chan, an attendee and first-generation Filipino-Canadian, says that events like How Green Is Your Muse? provide an opportunity for greater public exposure to Filipino artists.

“Growing up, I didn’t have the same kind of exposure to Filipino artists the way that … we are seeing now,” she says.

Danvic Briones is an expressive arts therapist and visual artist. During the exhibition, he showcased art made out of recycled wood which was inspired by his childhood memories in the Philippines.

“Right now, [younger people] are more into technology … basically anything that’s manufactured,” he says. “But for us, we use nature as a part of our playground.”

His painting “Nature Climb” features a shoeless boy climbing a tall, thick, brown tree while yellow leaves gently descend from the branches. The boy is grabbing his sandals with his hands as he wraps his body around the trunk. A multicoloured bird flutters past him.

Artist Ileta Buenaventura participated in the exhibition for the second time in 2019. One of her paintings on display depicts an old, Indian man with a long grey beard wearing a white turban and quietly sitting alone on a bench with his arms folded. The painting captures the man in a park on a sunny day.

Another attendee, Evelyn Victoria, was grateful to participate in the event.

“There is a lot of talent in the Philippines and here, and it’s about time that their works are introduced and exposed to the rest of the community,” she says.