Czech touches on a PH National Artist’s canvas


Hanging in the historic primed walls of the National Museum of Fine Arts are twenty of the most beautiful art textile works by Filipino National Artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz, one of the renowned household names in the art world for his diverse talents in visual arts, painting, sculpture and mixed media.

Among Aguilar Alcuaz’s prized art are his rendered abstract unwoven tapestries. He made use of a unique technique of creating unwoven art works which was invented in the 1960s by a team from the Wool Research Institute in Brno, the second biggest city of the Czech Republic. Aguilar Alcuaz learned the patented process where fleece wool is stitched by a machine onto a fabric backing after being layered by an artist. The technique was aimed originally for apparel fabric production but was soon used mainly for creating distinct artworks, and was suitably named “Art Protis”.

Among Filipino National Artist Federico Aguilar Alcuaz’ (top photo) prized artworks features a technique invented by a team Czech research team

Art Protis was artistically developed by famous Czech artists Jiří Trnka, known for his illustrations and animations, and Antonín Kybal, known for producing textiles to appease the stylistic demands of modernist architecture since the late 1920s. Kybal merged his background in painting with a deep knowledge of textile production and handcraft, and became the single most important promoter of Art Protis locally and abroad. The works he created with the Art Protis technique were prominent in the parts of Czechoslovak pavilions at World exhibitions, where they were awarded gold medals, both at EXPO ‘67 in Montreal and EXPO ‘70 in Osaka, and were eventually recognized by the art world.

Aguilar Alcuaz was a wide-eyed wanderer of the globalizing art world even back then. After finishing his studies, he stayed on to live and familiarized himself with the art and culture of Europe where he became colleagues with other Filipino expatriates and was able to work with world-class talent. He visited Prague in 1968 where his interest was immediately caught by the Art Protis. In Brno where Alcuaz mostly traveled for months, the one of a kind collage technique was introduced to him in the premises of Vlněna textile company, where the special stitching machine was located. By then, Aguilar Alcuaz fell in love not only with the art but with the city as well. His steadfast work for two decades was celebrated during his fortieth birthday hosted by the Vice Mayor of Brno. His works were highly favored not only for its refinement and European flair but his ease and pleasure in conveying “uncluttered playfulness” with constant fluidity.

The National Museum of Fine Arts exhibition presents works from the GSIS collection, which were conceived, designed and executed by Aguilar Alcuaz in Brno. In this set of Art Protis, he made art in an unconventional manner, creating nonwoven tapestries by first preparing wool which comes in raw sheets dyed in different colors. The prepared wool is then cut to pieces and placed on top of one another like a collage. The finished layers were then pressed through a machine and stitched together on to a canvas. His audacious view of art making, resulting in expressing his perspectives on reevaluating art, continues to be admired by his peers and followers. With Art Protis, Aguilar Alcuaz mastered creating a painterly abstraction with an uncommon medium.

Although majority of foreign artists who were coming to work in Brno were from neighboring countries in Central Europe, a few artists from farther parts of the world flocked to the city to learn the distinctive technique. French artist James Coignard, American Robert Freimark and Australian Errol B. Davis, who also exhibited his Art Protis in Manila are to name a few. But, Aguilar Alcuaz is undeniably and artistically the most important creator of Art Protis outside of the former Czechoslovakia. ”I hope that the Filipino artists will be inspired to follow Alcuaz’s footsteps and create such paintings with fibers”, utters Czech Ambassador Jaroslav Olša, jr., “as after Art Protis lost popularity in the 1990s, it is great to see its revival and how it gains popularity among contemporary artists and new audiences today,“ he added.

The Exhibition will run at the National Museum of Fine Arts until the third quarter of the year and was officially opened by the National Museum Director Jeremy Barns and Deputy Director Ana M. T. Labrador, in the presence of the members of the Alcuaz family, fellow dignitaries and government officials, as well as Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Philippines Jaroslav Olša, jr., who gave the introduction on Art Protis to the Filipino public, a unique art technique near and dear to himself as he grew up in a home decorated with Art Protis while living in the Czech Republic.


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