In celebration of International Women’s Month, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation honors four women alumni of the Shell National Student Art Competition (NSAC) who shared their stories and insights in their journey to become the finest artists in the country today.
Changes and movements
Self-realization and dedication to one’s art can mean throwing off some remnants of the past, says Rosario Bitanga-Peralta, Shell NSAC 1957 winner in the watercolor category. “Earlier art was based on traditional, Western modes, with local adaptations and variations often misunderstood. Today, art is more free, unlimited, and no longer holds on to traditional schools of thought but is more on self-inspiration,” she adds. Bitanga-Peralta went on to become the country’s first woman abstractionist after winning Shell NSAC.
PintaPH founder and Shell NSAC 2013 grand prize winner Katrina Gosiengfiao is keen on developing a stronger art movement that can fuel “a country that is economically successful enough to fund its cultural and heritage conservation sector.” She echoes Bitanga-Peralta on the aptness of the timing as more “schools of traditional art are springing forth and taking the spotlight while Philippine traditional art becomes integrated into universities.”
Shell NSAC 1993 winner Mailah Baldemor-Balde believes that the ability to connect with like-minded artists can power up Philippine art even more in the digital age. She says, “Thanks to the help of social media and the Internet, artists can now connect to each other, and see and learn the new trends in art in a more spontaneous way. The themes and subject matters continue to be timely, like climate change and public health.”
Baldemor-Balde is an example of a female artist who recognized and reached for her dream early in life. She comes from a family of artists and learned color harmony before she even knew how to write. She competed in the art scene at an early age before winning a full scholarship for her Shell NSAC entry “Lahar Country”.
This is also true of Davao-based artist Vyankka Balasabas, the 3rd-place winner for her first stop-motion video in Shell NSAC 2015. She was 14 years old when her father bought her a camera. “I would take pictures of myself in different moods, characters, and themes, and it made me learn how to convey ideas and put them into one image. At that point, I knew I wanted to pursue an art career.” Currently, Balasabas dabbles with creating crypto art that is focused on showing complexities of human emotions and fantasies.
Gosiengfiao advises young artists to create art that is rooted in purpose. “Commit to improving and honing your artistic practice indefinitely—it may bring you to places you never imagined of going. Do things conscientiously and with purpose.”
Bitanga-Peralta exhorts the youth to refine their craftsmanship and rise to the challenges in the global scene: “Persistence, creativity, production. Study and train on the basics of art, learn art history, and keep up with the world around you. Be aware.”
Alumni and support
One way to learn and improve is observing and interacting with Shell NSAC alumni. Balasabas emphasizes the benefits of interaction and sharing among artists. She says that Shell NSAC alumni “are what they are today because of their persistence and support of each other. It is also important to connect and surround yourselves with artists alike.”
The Shell NSAC is a strong platform that can support artists in their journey, says Gosiengfiao. “I think it gave me some courage to pursue my career even further,” she adds.
Baldemor-Balde affirms the life-changing opportunities that Shell NSAC has provided her as well as the promising, fulfilling journey it offers upcoming participants: “Shell NSAC helped me fulfill my dream. It gives young artists an opportunity to pursue the arts, and it challenges them and tests their artistic abilities.”
With its decades-long history, the country’s longest-running student arts competition, Shell NSAC continues to be a platform to develop and nurture young Filipino visual artists. To learn more about Shell NSAC, click on http://shell.com.ph/juanartnation.