It was in 2010, when I first saw the works of the young artist from Nueva Ecija, Gromyko Padilla Semper.
I can still remember that it was a stormy night and the traffic going to Parañaque is quite heavy. But to see the works of a young genius like Semper is worth the difficulty; and the Kulay Diwa Gallery‘s walls are turned into wide spaces of meanings and metaphors as they bear the “icons” created by Semper himself.
A Library of Meanings
Semper’s works are not your simple paintings.
They contain the most interesting series of meaning, usually as a testimony of his disgust on what he calls the abomination and the absurdity of the doctrines of the Catholic and Orthodox churches.
In a long article written by Sylvia Mayuga, the critic has to say:
That season of artistic frenzy at 18 coincided with his conversion to the Baptist faith. Now he saw – not only was he a born artist, he was also a Filipino iconoclast afloat in a sea of Catholic dogma.
His knowledge about the myths, history, philosophy, and the metaphysics had empowered Semper to create outrageous works that are noteworthy for they are in itself are the artist’s take on things: the mundane and spiritual things.
Just like the curatorial note that Vicente-Ignacio S. de Veyra wrote for his first solo exhibition called “Minotaur’s Recompense: Sacrae Particulae et Nihilo:
Semper’s art pieces aren’t lovely as a hare’s portrait, that’s obvious, but are snake-like in their charm. They actually appropriate religious and other humanist mythologies via their iconographic imagery and instantly parody (or generously twist) these. And the way Semper parodies ‘em all! He actually enters the art of iconography, goes through the religiosity of ceremonious patience in creating details, as if he were one of those craftsmen called by the Mughal to decorate the Taj tiles or by the Jesuits to Mexicanize Santa Maria Tonantzintla Church’s ceiling.
He used the myths, religious and social figures, among other things to create works that will expose the hypocrisy of the society and some religious and cultural institutions, reveal the truth about our own existence, and most of all, will teach us to see beyond things and read between the lines. To simply put, his works are his takes to crucial issues not only about aesthetics, but also on the social, political, and spiritual issues that affect humankind.
The Art That Will Make You Think
For me as a critic, Semper’s art is not for the “pleasure-seeker,” or the people who only appreciate art because they are “beautiful,” “nice,” and “colorful.” They may be in the borderline of fantastic and the surreal, but they are not what you think.
His works are for the intellectual souls, whose main pleasure is to understand the world and the universe, using different lenses. Moreover, his works are not for the faint hearted; they are for the strong-willed, the ones who can swallow the truth that may leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Of course, it is up to the audience if they will take it as it is, or just walk away and dismiss the whole thing as the artist’s pomposity. But for if you are a serious student and appreciator of the arts and culture, you will realize the Semper’s works are worth of your time, and it is worthy of some mental exercise.
Waiting for the New Visions to Come
In the coming days, we are expecting more of Gromyko Semper and his “visions” appearing either on canvas, on board, or whatever materials he chooses to be the medium that will immortalize his visions and his understanding of the world, of the nature of mankind, and the cosmos.