National Artist for the Visual Arts Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera is featured in the Art section of TIME Magazine, in an article entitled “Print Charming.”
The story highlights BenCab’s artist-in-residence at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) in 2005.
His works during the residency and eventually for the exhibition were described as, “beguiling, though they are images of despair, isolation and poverty,” it featured etchings, woodcuts and paper pulp works. The paper used for all the artworks were created at STPI by master papermaker Richard Hungerford using abaca pulp.
Another artistic partnership was forged, this time with lead printmaker Eitaro Ogawa, who worked with Bencab for the etchings and woodcuts. Opting for a more spontaneous approach, Bencab would sketch directly on the etching plate and the result was a series entitled Nude Studies.
Images from Larawan, a series from his works in the ’70s, were the subject of monoprint etchings. Stark impressions from the turn of the 20th century still resonated deeply with the Filipino sensibilities in the new millennium, especially when presented in Bencab’s large artworks.
“His work has always had this double edge: underneath the pop nostalgia is seething social commentary. One would think that Bencab, through his works, steps over the task of the historian more forcefully and, mercifully, with less words,” said historian Ambeth Ocampo.
STPI’s renovated exterior
It is interesting to note that though Bencab is more popular for his works on canvas, the artist is far from being a stranger to printmaking. Among his first ventures in the field was through graphic arts and his STPI stint was, in a way, a rediscovery of a lost love.
“I enjoyed working with Eitaro, Richard and their team of printmakers and papermakers. It was really a collaborative effort between the artist and the STPI creative/technical staff that resulted in this new set of works that I would not have been able to do on my own. I am used to working alone, in the confines of my own studio. Having the privilege of working with the state-of-the-art facilities at STPI gave me the freedom of creating works beyond my boundaries,” Bencab explained.
Finding new friends and rediscovering old ways to create new works, Bencab’s approach to his art and his life makes him an artist that his patrons would find joy in continuously following his work. Indeed when it comes to Bencab, it is safe to say that anything is possible.
He will return once again for a second artist in residence at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute in mid- 2010.