Jose Joya

National Artist for Visual Arts (2003)

(June 3, 1931 – May 11, 1995)

Jose Joya is a painter and multimedia artist who distinguished himself by creating an authentic Filipino abstract idiom that transcended foreign influences. Most of Joya’s paintings of harmonious colors were inspired by Philippine landscapes, such as green rice paddies and golden fields of harvest. His use of rice paper in collages placed value on transparency, a common characteristic of folk art. The curvilinear forms of his paintings often recall the colorful and multilayered ‘kiping’ of the Pahiyas festival. His important mandala series was also drawn from Asian aesthetic forms and concepts. 

He espoused the value of kinetic energy and spontaneity in painting which became significant artistic values in Philippine art. His paintings clearly show his mastery of ‘gestural paintings’ where the paint is applied intuitively and spontaneously, in broad brush strokes, using brushes or spatula or is directly squeezed from the tube and splashed across the canvas.  His 1958 landmark painting Granadean Arabesque, a work on canvas big enough to be called a mural, features swipes and gobs of impasto and sand. The choice of Joya to represent the Philippines in the 1964 Venice Biennial itself represents a high peak in the rise of modern art in the country.

Granadean Arabesque, 1958 (Ateneo Art Gallery Collection)
Granadean Arabesque, 1958 (Ateneo Art Gallery Collection)

Joya also led the way for younger artists in bringing out the potentials of multimedia. He designed and painted on ceramic vessels, plates, and tiles, and stimulated regional workshops. He also did work in the graphic arts, particularly in printmaking.

His legacy is undeniably a large body of work of consistent excellence which has won the admiration of artists both in the local and international scene. Among them are his compositions Beethoven Listening to the Blues, and Space Transfiguration, and other works like Hills of Nikko, Abstraction, Dimension of Fear, Naiad, Torogan, Cityscape.

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