"What? Nanalo yung mga multo? The ghosts won?"
The father of Ryan Cayabyab couldn’t believe that his 14-year-old son’s entry to a painting contest in 1968 won third prize.
“I used an old canvas and leftover tubes of paint to produce a painting that was mostly green and violet,” Ryan recalls about his entry to the YMCA National Art Competition. “And my dad said it looked like ghosts!”
Ryan won a cash prize of P50—a huge amount at that time—which he used to buy two cans of corned beef, two cans of Vienna sausage, sandos and briefs. “I gave the P20 sukli to my dad.”
Truth is, National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab might have developed an eye for art before he sharpened an ear for music. At Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall, I managed to snatch him for an interview amid swarms of friends and fans looking at his artworks on exhibit. And he explains his early exposure to art.
“I had two aunts and two cousins who were UP Fine Arts students. They lived with us and they were constantly painting. I was fascinated as I watched them work with their brushes and canvas ever since I was five years old.”
Fast forward to 2022 when the pandemic found Ryan wielding paintbrushes himself. He wanted to express his feelings during that lull. A closet painter for much of his life, he unexpectedly produced 53 acrylic-on-canvas paintings.
Does he do abstract or figurative paintings? I asked him to describe his art. “When I see hyperrealist paintings, I tell myself: I cannot do that!” Ryan explains. “My art is mostly abstract, geometric. Expressionist.”
I look at the blank canvas the way I imagine the blank sonic landscape. Although there might be a seed in my head, it continuously evolves, like catching a fast-moving train or a slow amoeba and latching onto it.
He laughs out loud: “I am spontaneous, careless, loud and full of fun as a musician. I use the same mode in creating visual art.”
His art exhibit titled “Tunay na Ligaya,” ongoing until Nov. 5 in Rockwell, is described as an offering of delight, joy, and exuberance.
“I look at the blank canvas the way I imagine the blank sonic landscape. Although there might be a seed in my head, it continuously evolves, like catching a fast-moving train or a slow amoeba and latching onto it,” says Ryan. “It doesn’t start until I make the first sound, or this time, the first brushstroke.”
Ryan adds that “the more spontaneous the creation, the more satisfied I am with the final product. It is the same when I start to work on a song —I don’t stop until I have completed the song in one sitting… with bigger works it may take days or weeks. I work like a machine that knows where to continue exactly where I left off.”
And, just like his music creations, “I am completely immersed and in love with my artworks.”
If his canvas could sing, what would it say?