Serendipity and serenity

The art of Lolita Valderrama Savage

Dominique Padilla Gallego
November 21, 2013

I first encountered Lolita Valderrama Savage through a painting in the dining room of an art collector whose assemblage included Matisses and Picassos. I was both surprised and pleased to discover that the artist was Filipina. After my first encounter with Valderrama Savage’s painting, I was fortunate to meet her in person and view more of her work. The openness, peace and optimism of her paintings indeed reflect her, as those who see her work at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi will surely experience.

 

Valderrama Savage’s artistic journey began when she was a very young child. She did not choose to be an artist. She knew instinctively that it was her destiny. She could spend hours at a time drawing and her mother granted her this pleasure. She studied fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), the oldest university in the Philippines, where she had access to art by Philippine masters. After UST, she then studied in Florence (as a pioneering Italian government scholar at the Accademia di Belle Arti) and Sweden (with Staffan Hallström) to hone her techniques and immerse herself in the work of European masters and popular contemporary artists.

 

Today, along with nurturing her family, she manages to carve out highly cherished time to lose herself in creativity harnessing the intensity of the present to capture the beauty of what she beholds on canvas. Valderrama Savage prides herself in being a ‘fine’ artist. Trained in the traditional painting techniques of the masters, she enjoys the hard work of painting like them, while personalizing these techniques with her own vision of the world.

 

To see Valderrama Savage’s paintings is to meet her. She entrusts a piece of her soul to each work, and each one subtly mirrors her in some way. As they were growing up, her children were often possessive of her work, sad whenever one of Valderrama Savage’s collectors acquired a painting, as if part of their mother was going on a one-way trip, to be lost forever. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, ‘true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant its flow.’ The same can be said about Valderrama Savage: her dedication to her work reflects true love. Every collector who acquires her work shares in her limitless joy.

 

While artists of all types can be limited by personal biases and cultural predispositions that restrict their appeal to wider audiences, Valderrama Savage’s work contemplates a global consciousness, influenced by her personal journeys around the world, her cross-cultural family and her diverse set of friends. Valderrama Savage’s paintings simultaneously reflect tranquility and color. Her brush strokes evoke subtle but constant movement, reflective of her life journey. Her bright color palate is reminiscent of the artist: her paintings resonate with an irrepressible optimism imbued with serenity. They feature landscapes that invite the viewer to quiet, calmness and contemplation, and, sometimes, to imagine stories. Roussillon Tree (1994) depicts a tree in the splendor of autumn and reflects an exuberant burst of energy such that one can imagine Romeo recklessly declaring his love for Juliet beneath the tree’s branches. French Forest (1981) evokes the dreamy lands of fairy tales; one envisions the uneven, remote landscape as part of an ancient kingdom whose leader recently triumphed in a battle over evil. She paints evocative figures as well, such as the Knitting Lady of Iceland (1980); the woman could be anyone’s no-nonsense grandmother, at peace with herself and the world.

 

French Forest

Artist and viewer may have different interpretations of a particular work. One can look at Valderrama Savage’s paintings and simply appreciate the world tour: from Philippine farmlands to Florentine gardens, from the American Northeast to the forests of Scandinavia. One can look at them as an invitation to bask in the warm, tropical sun, to explore the mysterious forest pathways or to simply reflect on being, the beauty of nature and how nature itself is the artist’s ideal.

 

From the hopeful light of daytime scenes to placid sunset seascapes, beach frolickers and a knitting grandmother, the thesis of beauty as part of life and nature, from beginning to end, resonates.

 

 

The Art of Lolita Valderrama Savage

From December 3, 2013 to January 2, 2014

Palazzo Medici Riccardi, via Cavour 1, Florence

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