National Artist for Visual Arts (2006)

Benedicto R. Cabrera, who signs his paintings “Bencab,” upheld the primacy of drawing over the decorative color. Bencab started his career in the mid-sixties as a lyrical expressionist. His solitary figures of scavengers emerging from a dark landscape were piercing stabs at the social conscience of a people long inured to poverty and dereliction. Bencab, who was born in Malabon, has christened the emblematic scavenger figure “Sabel.” For Bencab, Sabel is a melancholic symbol of dislocation, despair, and isolation–the personification of human dignity threatened by life’s vicissitudes, and the vast inequities of Philippine society.*



Bencab’s exploration of form, finding his way out of the late neo-realism and high abstraction of the sixties to be able to reconsider the potency of figurative expression had held out vital options for Philippine art in the Martial Law years in the seventies through the contemporary era.

*from the citation

Selected works

Madonna with Objects, 1991
Studies of Sabel, dyptych, 1991
People Waiting, 1989
The Indifference, 1988
Waiting for the Monsoon, 1986

List of Awardees