"Church Portraits" Artist Al Perez On The Art Scene Today
“I was raised in the province by my grandmother. She’s a sort of manang there. You know, that group of old women always hanging around the church,” renowned artist Al Perez said in jest. We were discussing the reason for his fascination with the colonial period churches found in the islands. Al has an air of nonchalance and confidence not atypical to veteran Filipino artists.
“In the province, she would always bring me to our local church. Tangay-tangay niya ako lagi. Eventually, I developed a deep fascination with the designs of the churches. Especially the facade of the structures. In fact, one of my first doodles, when I was very young, was that of Sta. Elena Church.”
The artist hails from Hagonoy, Bulacan, and is best known for his paintings of old churches.
His works differ in medium—from watercolor, oil pastel, even pen and ink—but the theme of his oeuvre remains largely the same—that of deep spirituality and a passion for the Filipino soul and identity. “I love working with different mediums. I do it to keep my artistry from becoming stagnant. To keep it alive and healthy.”
Although the artist is well known for his church paintings, Al also does portraits, still-life, landscape art, metal and wood sculptures, and even scrap art. “You’ll laugh, but I also do nude,” the artist said with a smirk. “My fellow artists jokingly teased me that I only do churches, old houses, and other wholesome stuff. So I showed them that I can also do the human figure. I contacted 12 female celebrities—Ara Mina, Osang, and 10 more. So I painted them nude and exhibited it in the art section of SM Megamall. Suffice it to say, the event was a big hit, and I showed them all (my critics) what I can do,” the artist then had a spirited laugh.
The Bulakeño graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Fine Arts. Al then further improved his craft by studying at the Artist League of New York in l984 and at the School of Visual Art in New York in 1986.
Towards the end of the interview, we asked the veteran artist about the art scene today, and how it has changed since he first started exhibiting his works.
“The art scene is very much alive and flourishing. Buhay na buhay. And today, everything is accepted. All kinds of mediums, experimentations, all are welcome. Skulls, even paintings made from the imprint of a live turtle. Everything is possible. It’s an exciting time to be an artist now.”
Discover the art of Al Perez at Rustan’s for the Arts, located at the 4th floor of Rustan’s Makati and at the 3rd floor of Rustan’s Shangri-La. Visit rustans.com.ph Photos courtesy of Rustan's