The Alliance Française de Manille (AFM), with the support of the Embassy of France, present Flamboyance, a solo art exhibition by Franco-Filipino artist Victoria Abad Kerblat.
A biologist by training, specializing in tropical medicine, Kerblat—from a family deeply rooted in Batanes—left her country in 1979 to work in refugee camps, initially in Thailand, where she met her husband Bernard Kerblat. She then worked, traveled, and lived in 3 continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.
She is currently living in Manila and is strongly associated with all the art projects of Fundacion Pacita in order to perpetuate the legacy of her late sister Pacita Abad, a well-known international artist. It is her sister who encouraged her to pursue a career in art. Over time, she undertook art courses in Thailand, France, and Switzerland.
Her career as a painter developed further when she went to live in France, near the Swiss border of Geneva, where her growing sons pursued their education. While in France, her grandmother Paulette Blanchenay (Bernard’s grandmother), also a known artist, influenced her to do watercolor.
Her painting is characterized by constant evolution in styles and patterns. She began with portraits of refugees from the hill tribes of Laos, and was then greatly influenced by the colors of Southern Africa – soil, land, vegetation, skies, light. After exhibiting in many countries, she explored and experimented in different art media. This is when Asian materials and using natural pigment, were incorporated in her paintings and realized in Europe. She now introduces recycled materials with the intent that younger generations will appreciate the inherent beauty of it.
Facing the open and imprevisible seas of Northern tip of the Philippines, then Batanes islands are inevitably attacked by typhoons, violent winds, heavy rains–all these calamities are well known to the Batanes inhabitants. Their houses today continue to use local stones, providing a unique type of construction and architecture.
For an artist, these are beautiful sceneries – the violent waves, the high rocks, the terrible whiffs of the wind, the stone houses, and the strong-minded islanders.
For Kerblat, it has become an obligation to make her hometown Batanes known to the outside world, a work of preservation and testimony. After years of works and paintings abroad, experimenting with gold leaves, local weaving, natural pigments in various formats and themes, she now reflects on the relation between the habitat and the force of nature in her native place.
There is no room for despair, despite the adverse conditions and the difficult access. On the contrary, her vision of a rich land transcribes in her use of strong colors (predominately reds and yellows), whereas people’s usual perception of rice paddies, palm trees, coconuts, hinges towards greens and browns. Again, the colors of life for the earth and soil. She instills the feeling that the man in such grandiose and agitated places, is only a small element – using only a reduced space for his daily needs, the habitat in the paintings are scattered, does not encroach where it does not belong.
This new series of works by Kerblat shows an artistic maturity and brings serenity to the passer-by who can sit on a bench and contemplate a world at our door, almost intact, devoid of cars, noise, pollution, consumerism.