VANILLA BYTES

Painting the Tuesday Group

Painting the Tuesday Group

Roy Q. Lagarde

In 1992, a small group of Filipino artists decided to tear down the disarray among local visual artists, and organized an umbrella group called Visual Artists Cooperative of the Philippines (VACOOP). Otherwise known as the Tuesday Group of Artists, the office of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), situated at the heart of Intramuros, has been their sanctuary every Tuesday for seven years starting a bold movement in art that introduced a Filipino style of painting. Sculpture Napoleon Abueva and the late painter Jose Joya, both national artists, were just some of the pioneers who helped break down the barriers and paved the way for the creation and promotion of the group.

When Joya, the group’s chair, died in 1995, their shiny beginnings was met with an impasse—either to continue what they have started or otherwise fold up. A misunderstanding among its members later cropped up until they got finally divided. “Many insisted that we have to continue with our art activities,” says artist Angel Cruz-Cacnio, one of the group’s pioneer members.

When the group went disunited, it wasn’t long before plans emerged to build another group. Later that year, the Wednesday Group of Artists was born and has been making an impression of their own. Cacnio continued teaching other artists to discover their talents and was later offered a position to chair the core group.

In steering the group, Cacnio wanted it to become a strong group of artists endowed with the passion of helping each other in developing their creative talents. “When these artists are improving, their feeling of inferiority vanishes and so inspires them to continue the art activity—a character that artists should have at present.”

In 1999, they transferred to the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ compound where they hold their activity every Tuesday at the cafeteria—an outdoor studio for still-life paintings and a venue for workshops and consultations for various techniques.

Cacnio envisioned such forum to be of great help for artists in honing their craft, as well as generate the much-needed interest on Filipino art. He has since then impressively rallied or harnessed the members’ enthusiasm and active participation in their chosen craft.

Cacnio being a renowned artist is a fact. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in 1953 and, like Abueva and Joya, he already received much recognition as early as his college years. Among his achievements was bagging the first prize in the Shell National Students Art Competition in 1953.

His honors are not only limited to the academe. In 1964, he also triumphed in garnering the top place for the Mabini Centennial Art Competition. Then in 1981, he was commissioned to design the country’s twenty and 100-peso bills circulating until now.

He has also launched many exhibits here and abroad. In the period of 1960s to 1980s, he was regularly sent for competitions abroad to represent the country. “Actually, he is one of those being considered to receive the national artist award”, says Elmer Gernale, vice-chairman of the Panel for Art Authentication of the National Museum.

In the past 11 years that Cacnio guided the group, he retains in his heart a passion for helping people. It is innate interest that has kept the group going, he admits. “It’s not that easy.” In reality, he said, local artists have to manage on their own because the government never cares. “If you are not famous, you are nothing,” he quipped. Yet, undeniably, many foreigners are indeed appreciative of the indigenous talents that Filipino artists have. “It’s just that there’s too much politicking in the country,” he said.

If only his financial resources permit, Cacnio envisions to help other artists hone their talents and achieve their dream of gaining public recognition and appreciation. “I believe the pleasure of our artists is just simple. They just want their work to be appreciated and recognized,” he declared.

“Many are dying as forgotten heroes,” he said. “I want to help my fellow artists. I want them to experience what we have experienced before.”

That is why Cacnio and other veterans of the Tuesday Group are wasting no time giving encouragement not just to their members but to other artists as well. The group, which currently has around 35 members, helps each other to promote their work through exhibits in and around Metro Manila, as well as by collaboratively soliciting or sourcing for interested buyers.

“We want to inspire them and help them develop their identity,” he said. If there is another thing he hopes to pass on to other members, it is also the pure and simple enjoyment creating something that starts in the imagination and is then transformed into a beautiful work of art.

Cacnio has just turned 75 this month. He said that most pioneers of their group are not that active anymore. Some are too old and some have already passed away. “But I have to continue,” he said.