Bayan Ko

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2007, 12:00am

Philippine Consulate General

Ends April 19

Most people celebrate their birthday with a cake and a wish. Noel de Guzman marks his 40th today with an exhibition of paintings created to inspire and promote the love of his native Philippines.

In Bayan Ko (which translates as 'my country'), the artist, who has lived in Hong Kong for 13 years, shows 14 acrylic, oils and graphic on canvas. The pieces were inspired by the media's coverage of negative stories about the Philippines. De Guzman decided to try to change this image through thought-provoking art.

'I read stories about the Philippines and every day the negative and sad news overwhelms Filipinos overseas,' says de Guzman. 'What can I do? I'm not a politician or a government official - but I can paint, so maybe I can scribble some words and show a positive side of my country.'

The works are a departure from his trademark style of abstract paintings created with his palm and fingers, which have been exhibited in Manila, Hong Kong, Singapore, Melbourne, Dubai and Washington, DC.

The publishing company art director incorporates positive Tagalog words and Filipino catchphrases to advocate good values in his work.

'About 10 per cent of the population works overseas, so there's a breakdown of families and delinquency among the youths left behind.

'I wanted to make art to remember values of respecting your parents, the elderly, being disciplined and industrious.'

All of de Guzman's painted words are positive, such as 'let's join hands', 'study hard', 'work hard', 'love your parents' and 'love your children'.

In Bayan Ko #9 (above left) the black-filled figure ingests words into his system. De Guzman says his mouth is open because he needs to share good ethics and words such as talino (knowledge) with others.

Bayan Ko #7 (top right) features crowded white letters, some filled with reds, blues and yellows on a black background. Translated phrases include 'People in a state of hardship shouldn't lose hope' and 'To be successful, you have to work hard'. In Bayan Ko #5 (above), the outlined head shows the word 'Bangon!!' stamped on the side of the face. It means to stand up and go. Floating around the canvas are multi-coloured symbols of houses, cars, fish, stars and numbers that may dance around a person's thoughts. By the crown of the head, de Guzman has written the national anthem, while the national pledge of allegiance (recited in schools) is written at the base of the neck.

'I'm turning 40, and my life is a reflection of what I am - hopefully with more meaningful and socially relevant works,' de Guzman says.

Opening reception today, 6.30pm; Sun- Thu, 9am-4pm, 14/F United Centre, 95 Queensway, Admiralty. Inquiries: 2823 8536