The Utopian Dream
My friend, fellow painter and quite successful I might add, Omi Reyes, will be having a one man show in Singapore. As part of his exhibit, his wife, fellow classmate, Tutit Reyes, asked me to make a write-up for the show. I am reproducing it here for safekeeping. I am also attaching two of his former works for your enjoyment.
Man has always been in search of that ideal place where one is completely satisfied with what he sees, smells and feels to the point of a sensory overload. A place where a perfect socio-politico legal system exists, where one can communicate with God through His creations making His word translatable in all languages that leaves man without any ambiguities and where the gap between the rich and the poor is totally non-existent. This longing for the ideal is brought about by the awareness that we live in an imperfect world and is present with different cultures as attested to by literature that is replete with the concept that may have started with the Greek poet Hesiod and Plutarch extending to Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, or the German's The Land of Cokaygne and that ever famous work of Sir Thomas More - Utopia.
However elusive this dream of a perfect place has been, artist Omi Reyes has succeeded in giving us a glimpse of that world albeit within the confines of his canvass, thus illusory, making for at least a visual concept of a place we have dreamt of since time immemorial available and within our grasps, forever etched in the confines of our minds, giving solace to our desolate existence that is full of despair and want and fodder to our hungry souls. This he managed to do using his rich imagination translated unabashedly by flawless renditions of harmonious colors through excellent brushstrokes, hard work and a natural flair for what is truly beautiful.
As a painter, Omi Reyes has undergone several transformations starting from the simple finger painting technique which epitomizes a primeval urge to paint devoid of other implements but his hands, and yet, one can see the complexity of his creative mind for the images conjured by this seemingly raw technique is anything but simple. His landscapes alone can attest to his vivid memory juxtaposing a scene he once saw with his ideal world. The exuberant landscapes illumined by the sun are reminiscent of a stage play where a crafty lightsman distributes hundreds of volts into the right places to suggest a particular mood. This is usually accented by birds in flight making us feel free and unbothered by the pressures of our day to day problems. Echoes of the Valley and Threads of Light are masterpieces we know are teeming with the wonders of nature not of this world but from the rich mind of a master craftsman, a true artist. Through this style, one can feel that he truly knows his medium and speaks to us directly from the heart.
Then, there are those flowers that evoke a feeling of perfection. Once again, we see the mastery of the artist at composition, sometimes radial evoking a life continuum that goes on and on, sometimes linearly upright as if wanting to touch the heavens inducing one to remember his long forgotten dreams and ambitions. Omi has paid very close attention to detail that one can actually see the veins bringing life to his horticultural world. The brilliance of his rich hues is even more captivating than an actual bouquet of flowers one can almost smell the fragrance or feel the softness of the petals that one forgets it is a canvass one is looking at.
His semi-abstractions of multi-planed panels coupled with realism give us an idea of how he works his compositions. Unlike any other abstract artist, there are just no accidents in his compositions. There are no fortuitous effects one sees in Jackson Pollock or Franz Kline. Every single unit has been planned well. The textured background panels, the placing of the bird perched on a tiny twig and the contrasting colored appliques are well-planned that they succeed in taking us back to our ephemeral subsistence.
Lastly, there would have been nothing extraordinary with his attempt at music had it not been done on canvass. His musical instruments cascade with musical notes both lyrical and enigmatic in its execution. He need not play the instrument per se for his canvass is poetry put to music in its purest form. Looking at his Harmony in Still Life and Harmony in Silence can be compared to listening to Beethoven's symphonies or Chopin's Etudes.
If there is one common denominator throughout all these metamorphoses, it would be Omi's search for perfection and succeeding in attaining it. Omi has mastered all the techniques he had invented through sheer tenacity, perseverance and wit. He has given us a view of a perfect world defying the evils brought about by our shortcomings. Through his canvasses he reminds us that somewhere there is a place where there exists a balance between transcendence and reality, of abstraction and concrete, of imagination and fact, if only we look and work hard to achieve it. Going to an Omi Reyes exhibit has always been like living the Utopian dream.