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Marissa Gonzales introduces… A new kind of art

As an artist, Marissa Gonzalez is like any other in that she creates pretty pictures. Yet, she paints not on canvas or paper, but on jusi, the fabric commonly used by Filipino designers in making gowns and barong Tagalog. Marissa is the granddaughter of the late Elpidio Quirino, one time President of the Philippines and sister of Louie Quirino-Gonzalez, ex-husband of singer Kuh Ledesma, Marissa was born in the Philippines but later settled in Europe where she formally studied photography, drawing, watercolor and oil painting. When Marissa began to seriously pursue her art, she tried out different material—including silk—until she seized upon the idea of using jusi for her paintings. It was very challenging for her as an artist. Marissa described the process of painting on jusi. “[As a fabric], it is delicate, but [is actually] very strong. It’s made for us to wash, starch and iron. [When painting], you must have to work very fast because watercolor dries very quickly on jusi. Sometimes you have to work while certain parts of the fabric are still wet.” Marissa has traveled around Europe and the US, exhibiting her work and sharing this unique art form with others. She is in Manila and has a solo exhibit of her hand-painted jusi wall hangings titled The Road to Silence at the Ayala Museum (ground floor) across Greenbelt 5, near Balenciaga and Massimo Dutti, Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street. The exhibit will run until tomorrow. Like the other exhibits she has done, the Manila show will help introduce people to this kind of art. It has become some sort of advocacy for Marissa who lived abroad for many years and sees this as a God-given opportunity to help focus the world’s attention on the beauty and strength of indigenous Filipino fabric. Whenever she does one of her paintings, Marisa begins by sketching the design on paper. It also helps that she dabbled in photography. Because of this, her eye is trained to see colors, shapes, and even the smallest details, which become magnified when viewed through a camera lens. Marissa also received helpful advice from other artists such as Sonia Ner, who became her first mentor. Ner advised Marissa to work with a given theme. “That is the hardest part,” admits Marissa, “Once I decide on a theme, the rest just flows.” Her first collection was titled String Instruments. The  process of how it came to her was rather unusual,  recalls Marissa. She came up with the idea during that  period between sleep and wakefulness. In her mind, as  she was drifting off to sleep, she saw a violin, and  heard a voice telling her, “That is what you will paint.” She started painting in the trompe I’oeil style, using silk as a canvas. Then she discovered jusi, and became  attracted to it and started using it for her paintings. Now, Marissa has built up a big collection of artworks and continues to share these with people. It really has become an advocacy for her to showcase not just her own talent as an artist, but also how versatile this traditional Filipino fabric can be.
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