MANILA, Philippines — He’s been a lyricist. A bass player. Advertising executive. Filmmaker, jingle writer, editor… the list goes on and on. And now, Dennis Garcia takes on a new role as painter and artist.
Better known as Hotdog’s lyricist, Garcia has provided stories to the soundtrack for Filipinos during the tumultuous ‘70s. His lyrics are funny, poignant and timeless. Although most of the songs were written at the height of disco and Martial Law, current listeners are still able to relate to Hotdog’s music.
Garcia is also an advertising executive, beginning with his first job when he was 17 at the Philippine Advertising Council. The first and only job he’s applied for, Garcia was pirated by several advertising agencies and went on to become creative director not just for agencies in the country, but all over the world as well, spending years in Guam, Jakarta, Malaysia and Los Angeles, California, among others.
His experience abroad, especially his stint in Indonesia, led him to explore different skills, including directing, editing and graphic design. “I learned Photoshop, I learned editing, I learned camera angles and all that. I wanted to be self-contained because of my experience in Indonesia. It was so hard to get people to do the work and all that,” Garcia says.
It was another trip to Indonesia, Bali specifically, that would lead Garcia into his newest incarnation. While on vacation with his family, he met a Dutch artist who painted using his hands and fingers. Garcia signed up for an intensive one-on-one, two-day workshop with the artist. “We spent the whole time just talking and painting. We were using oil but it’s so hard to use because it dries so long. So I shifted to acrylic,” he recalls.
While he says he doesn’t know how to draw, his interest in art grew after his experience with his Dutch mentor. He read about Paul McCartney’s paintings, learned all he could about graffiti artist Banksy and fell in love with Jackson Pollock’s style.
“I started liking Jackson Pollock. I read about his life and how he was a troubled mind, in a way, and this was his outlet for relaxing. I felt, like all creative people, they can associate with Pollock. The troubled mind, the uncertainty and insecurity,” Garcia says.
His first collection, ‘Rakenrol,’ puts into pictures the volatile and often, ego-filled temperaments of not just the music industry, with which Garcia is very familiar, but also the politicians and personalities who give Filipino society its flavor.
Colorful and Controversial Subjects
The majority of his work features colorful and controversial subjects, mostly his clients. He puts together personalities on one canvas, almost as if daring his subjects to do something crazy. But he is the instigator of the craziness, and using his brushes and hands, makes them bigger than they already are.
It is without fear that he puts together President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and 2010 presidential candidate and PNoy’s cousin, Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro on one canvas. They stand side by side, clutching microphones, their faces made to look as if singing to the crowd. All around them are the Pollock-like paint splatters, accenting and highlighting this almost unbelievable scene.
Another canvas has Vice President Jejomar Binay with a microphone, poised and ready to rock ‘n roll. The paint splatters emphasize the energy of the piece, as if it were a snapshot from a concert VP Binay was headlining. It is also in this collection where we see Ninoy Aquino bathed in yellow light, strumming a guitar that, instead of music, has paint coming out of it.
Garcia tackles not only present politicians, but also the ones from the past as well. He has President Manuel Roxas posed as a guitarist, strumming away on his guitar. On another canvas, Marcelo H. del Pilar bangs away on drums, paint flying out in all directions.
He says, “I felt that our heroes, they have the temperament and volatile personality of musicians. So imagine if they were musicians, if they were alive today and young, I suspect they’d be musicians also because of their temperament.”
Garcia employs the giclée technique, which is a process of printing onto canvas. He manipulates the images of personalities – for example, making Steve Jobs’ photograph look like a watercolor painting, which are then printed onto canvas. Then he paints over and around them, adding the splatters and paint drippings.
Although the personalities are frozen in time, there is dynamism to these images. The subjects are posed as if they were ready to walk out of the canvas at any given time. The blobs and dots of paint that surround them accentuate the movement and the volatile temperament of the personalities.
More interesting are Garcia’s hand paintings, pieces which he made using his hands and fingers instead of paintbrushes. Soft and expressive, they remind one of the Impressionist to Post-Impressionist artists. Garcia’s choice of colors range from bright to muted pastels, with each piece coming into its own.
The subjects in this set of paintings are still music-related, as seen in his first ever work, ‘Lumang Tugtugin,’ and its gramophone. He also has portraits of Stevie Wonder, Pepe Smith and John Lennon. “‘Stevie’ I did with my hands in one sitting. No sketch, no nothing, out of memory only. On the spot,” Garcia says of how he made the painting.
Manny Pacquiao makes an appearance on one of Garcia’s canvases, also made without sketches or planning. Garcia says, “I made laro my imagination. I had no guide to it. I’m not an illustrator. What I feel, I put together.” For someone who claims to have no knowledge in drawing, Garcia is able to capture the spirit of his subjects and make them come alive on canvas.
Two of his newest and unreleased songs have also been reinterpreted as paintings. Using the same hand and finger style of painting, these two pieces invite the viewer to stay a little bit longer so they can discover what they’re all about.
With two songs brought to visual life as paintings, Garcia’s popular songs are not far behind. He says, “All the music I’ve written are like a Viva film, a three-minute Viva film. There’s a beginning, middle and end.” With the rich imagery of the lyrics, the songs are more than suitable to be translated into paintings,
And despite everything Garcia has achieved and made, he’s not ready to rest just yet. He has taken photography lessons at the New York Institute of Photography, and is currently taking lessons in After Effects so he can venture into animation. “I’m restless kasi as a person. I like to do so many things at the same time,” says Garcia.
He continues to paint, his style evolving all the time. “I’d like to be not too colorful, degrade it a bit, because it’s too colorful right now,” says Garcia. He’s also interested in doing a documentary about music icons and do a painting series about them. There’s just no stopping him, even if he’s overflowing with achievements and acclaim.
Garcia puts the blame on his being a musician. “Musicians are hard to get along with. Take it from me, I’ve been a band leader for who knows. Because of all the egos. So you have to be better than everyone else. Otherwise, nothing will happen.”
‘Rakenrol’ runs until November 29 at the Galerieone Workshop, LRI Design Plaza, Nicanor Garcia St., Bel Air II, Makati City.