‘When I got this place my directions were that it will revolve around art, so I made sure that every part of the house has art.’
Objects of art fill Robert Gonzales’ space, as his one-bedroom condominium unit houses a collection that he has amassed since 2012. Anywhere you turn in his 60 sqm living space gives you a taste of his personal aesthetics, one that is carefully curated. The eyes are drawn to several points of interest throughout the living room, ones that do not clamor for attention but instead come together as one cohesive piece that was obviously put together with great care.
As the dean of Globe University, he is a very busy executive, looking after the training and development needs of the giant telecommunications company. Coming home to his artful haven is what relaxes him from a busy day.
“I find my home very inspiring. I don’t know if it is because I am getting older, but I am very willing to simply spend long vacations cocooned at home. I can spend long weekends here without any qualms. I feel the energy that I get from the environment and it relaxes me and inspires me when I see my art pieces and my books.”
Gonzales begins his grand tour with his massive wooden bookshelf.
“When this (unit) was turned over, this was just a recess in the wall. Other homeowners would probably put in a closet for extra storage, or perhaps a large television.”
What he chose to put in was a bookshelf that holds his art and interior design books and a few small sculptures from his travels.
“You would notice that I have a Sto. Nino and a sleeping Joseph among my collection. I am a Seventh Day Adventist, while my father’s side has strong Catholic bearings. What I did was to not have them blessed, so they remain as statues and not religious figures. They are there, simply because I like them from an art perspective.”
The books are purchased from Amazon and delivered to his mother’s address in the US to be brought home when he visits, or sourced from local shops such as Fully Booked.
Resting, not hung
There are three paintings that grace his living room wall, not hung but rather, resting on a ledge that he had constructed, and supported with blu-tack.
“I live alone, and it is so hard to hang paintings—you have to drive nails into your wall and then make sure that they are hung straight. Since I rotate the paintings that I have on display, I wanted to make life easier for me,” he explains.
He has 60 or 70 paintings accumulated through the years, and the ones currently in his residence are done by artists Dante Lerma, with his whimsical figures and Jaypee Samson, with his bold strokes on canvas of a little boy holding his pets. The room also holds pieces by Isagani Fuentes, Jonathan Dangue, Francis Arnaez, and Roberto Feleo.
“When I got this place my directions were that it will revolve around art, so I made sure that every part of the house has art,” he describes.
Gonzales was rather serious about this directive, because even his bedroom and bathroom showcase his eclectic, evolving tastes. For example, a mural peers down on his bed, one of a man whose task seems to be to watch over his slumber.
“This was done by Pedro Felix Garcia. I wanted something on the wall, and I wanted to give the artist freedom about what to put there. I only gave him pegs, saying that I wanted a face or faces to be put there. This was the period I went through when faces fascinated me, as evidenced by what you can see in my living room paintings.” The mural has a startling effect, perhaps because of its starkness.
“Friends who have seen it joke, baka mapaniginipan mo yan (you might get nightmares). But as you know, art is subjective. When he drew it, nagustuhan ko (I liked it), that is why it is there.”
The mural in his bathroom reflects his changing taste.
“If you would notice, this is very different, in that it is modern, abstract, and geometric. This was done by Kris Abrigo, who made a huge mural here in BGC. I liked it, so I got in touch with him.”
He thought of putting a mural in his bath because he did not want to have a bare wall, but a painting will be damaged by moisture and there is no space for a sculpture. “Now it is like an addiction, much like getting a tattoo, yung gusto mo magdagdag ng magdagdag (you want to keep adding). I keep thinking of having more murals painted over the walls,” he grins.
White and wood as themes
From the very beginning, he told his interior designer, Mike Suque, that he wanted a minimalist place, with white and wood as themes because he wanted his paintings to stand out. Even his furniture is wood and locally sourced.
“When people think of local wood furniture, they think of large heavy narra baroque pieces, but I went with a modern feel.”
His designer had the bed and a large mirror made in Baguio. Chairs come from different shops—Mosaic Living, Philux, Triboa Bay Living—and “I have a Chiquita stool by Kenneth Cobonpue.”
“I also have chairs that I bought from the furniture stores at Market! Market! I like the mix of different woods and different textures as long as they go together. That is my commitment, lahat dapat gawa ng Pilipino (everything should be Filipino-made).”
Curbing his enthusiasm
He has some challenges with condo living and that is space.
“I have to curb the urge to keep buying things because I have nowhere to put them. Even small things like a blanket, I will have to consider the space inside my cabinet.” One solution he has was to turn what was supposed to be his laundry area into a storage space, since he has his laundry done outside. He also jokes about how undomesticated he is.
“I have a stovetop and oven but I don’t cook. I do have a rice cooker, though,” he laughs. “My cooking range was chosen primarily because of how good it looks.”
For new homeowners deciding on new art pieces to put into their homes, he advises “looking for something that you really like (because) you will see it every day.”
“People ask me about my choices, and my answer is always that a piece (has to) inspire me. Don’t worry or compare your art choices with (those of) others. Keep in mind, too, that your taste in art will evolve as mine did. I used to like people in my paintings, now I am leaning towards abstracts.”
“The best comments I get are from friends who say that everything looks put together, ‘pinag-isipan’ (thought about),” he shares. “If my home would talk about who I am, it would say that I appreciate creativity. There is this font panel by Patrick Cabral that celebrates artists, writers, and music makers. I may not be blessed with the talent for art, but I have the eye and ability to put things together. I want to be seen that way, as a person who can put together beautiful things.”