Boasting a collection of more than a thousand paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, installations, books and other artifacts; the Ateneo Art Gallery (AAG) is considered the premier museum of modern and contemporary art, in the Philippines. Starting with a donation of over 200 paintings by the artist and educator, Fernando Montojo Zóbel de Ayala (1924–1984), the AAG collection in now housed at the Areté, in the Ateneo de Manila University campus, along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City. Inside the AAG is a small collection of ceramic art, created by noted pottery artists.
Pottery has always played an important part of Philippine civilization, from the Pre-Hispanic era (before 1521), and many important historical artifacts have of prehistoric cultures are of pottery work; such as the Manunggul Jar (890-710 BC) from Palawan, and the Calatagan Inscription Pot (1400-1500s AD) from Batangas. Many local cultures build their communities around pottery, such as the Kalinga and Kankanay people of the Cordilleras, and the Spanish era (1565-1898) towns of Vigan and San Pedro de Macati. It was only in the height of Philippine Modern Art in the 1970s, when pottery was to become an artistic expression that crossed between sculpture and functional art. Listed below are some of the ceramic art made by Filipino Artists:
Nelfa Amante Querubin-Tompkins (born 1941) is a printmaker and potter, who originally hailed from the province of Iloilo, and now resides in the USA. Querubin showed considerable talent at a young age, and studied at the Iloilo School of Arts and Trade, then would transfer to Manila and continue her lessons at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU). While studying in Manila, Querubin began to work part-time as and architectural draftsperson for a government agency, and took printmaking workshops of the Philippine Association of Printmakers (PAP). Although Querubin was gaining recognition and awards for her prints, she would excel in pottery after taking a workshop under noted ceramic artist, Leonardo Villaroman. By the 1970s, Querubin returned to Iloilo to open her own studio and work with local clay sources. Later on, Querubin would later migrate to Colorado, USA, and would continue to gain recognition there. In 2015, Querubin published the book “A Passion for Clay,” which was co-authored with Patrick Flores and Imelda Cajipe-Endaya
Jaime de Guzman (born 1942) is a painter and potter, who hails from the province of Laguna. As a painter, de Guzman is known for his mural-size surrealist paintings that are commentaries on Philippine society. As a child, De Guzman graduated from the Ateneo de San Pablo, and would move to Manila to study economics at the Ateneo de Manila. However, the call to create art grew too strong, and De Guzman would take his formal art studies at the University of Santo Tomas (UST). Taking a hiatus from his studies, De Guzman would travel around the country, before returning to Manila and enroll at the University of the Philippines. After graduation, De Guzman would travel to Mexico to study mural painting under masters, such as David Alfaro Siqueiros (José de Jesús Alfaro Siqueiros, 1896-1974). In Mexico, De Guzman met the American potter, Anne Polkinghorn, whom he eventually married and moved back to the Philippines, to raise their family. Polkinghorn introduced De Guzman to pottery, and the family would move from Liliw in Laguna Province, Candelaria in Quezon Province, and Sagada in the Mountain Province; to work with local clays and teach local communities how to create their own pottery.
Jon Lorenzo Pettyjohn (born 1950) is a Filipino-American potter, who was born in Okinawa, Japan, and now resides in the province of Laguna. Taking an early interest in the arts, Pettyjohn first took up music at the New School for Social Research, in New York City. However, Pettyjohn discontinued his studies in American and moved to Barcelona, Spain, to study ceramic art at the Escuela Masana. Pettyjohn would return to the Philippines, to practice his art. In 1977, Pettyjohn would meet fellow potter, Tessy San Juan (born 1948), whom he would eventually marry, and build their studio in Laguna Province. The Pettyjohns would give workshops and exhibit their work, all over the country and abroad. The Pettyjohns also would travel to different towns to study and experiment on the local clay sources, and create new works.
Marie Lanelle Encarnacion Abueva-Fernando (born 1956) is a potter, from Iloilo Province, and now works in her studio in Antipolo City, in Rizal Province. Abueva first took her art studies at the University of the Philippines, before continuing at Padma Kanya College in Kathmandu, Nepal. Later, Abueva would take up pottery at the Uzumako Ceramic Art School in Higashi Ginza, Tokyo, Japan; while apprenticing under the Shokichi, Aoki, Hachijo-jima. Abueva would continue her studies in pottery under Jim Romberg (born 1943), at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities in Idaho, USA. Returning to the Philippines, Abueva would open her own studio in Antipolo City, which would eventually become the Crescent Moon Café and Studio Pottery, where she also conducts workshops.
By viewing the AAG ceramic art collection, visitors are exposed to how functional disciplines have been utilized in the pursuit of artistic self-expression. This will be explored further in the next article, where the mass production of the written word through the printing press has become explored to create a myriad of expressions under the skillful hands of the Filipino artists.