As a young boy, he worshipped at the altar of abstractionists like Kandinsky and Rothko for whom color had sound and emotion.
This year marks the 110th anniversary of when Wassily Kandinsky made his first abstract paintings in 1913. A pioneer in modern art and the Bauhaus movement, Kandinsky believed that colors and forms could express music and emotions. Colors had sound to him. When he painted red, he heard a violin; yellow to him was a brass trumpet; light blue was a flute and dark blue was an organ.
Kandinsky believed that color is “a power which directly influences the soul.” His shapes on canvas, on the other hand, influenced a movement that freed art from having to be only representational of reality. He also helped free generations of painters that came after. Feelings were now shapes, not just facial expressions; and people were not people but forms that might not have been seen before on canvas.
My own experience with abstract expressionism started with skepticism until many, many years ago when, as a young journalist, I happened to wander into a room full of Mark Rothko’s Seagram murals in London’s Tate Modern. I was so struck by his massive red and somber paintings that I was overwhelmed with feelings that ran the gamut of emotions from joy to despair.
So influential were Kandinsky, Rothko and other abstract expressionists to generations of artists, so revered by collectors yet still often misunderstood—as abstract art is in general—even by art lovers who see themselves as knowing a thing or two about art.
And so we come to this young artist, Joel Reglos, 28, who as a young boy worshipped at the altar of Kandinsky, Rothko, Joan Miro, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Paul Klee whose paintings evoked what the artist had always believed: that one eye sees and the other feels.
“They became my influence, which is why I went with abstract expressionism,” Joel says. “Like other abstract artists, I also started with representational or figurative style as a foundation.”
After all, you can’t deconstruct something until you know how to construct it.
Abstract expressionism came to him after a lot of exploring and experimenting, then he started joining art competitions and won several times. “That’s when I started exhibiting my works in different galleries in Manila. I felt that this was my style because I could express my true joy and freedom, my feelings and thoughts better than with any other style.”
When Joel paints, he is cocooned in his own world of creating, a moment that he describes as departing himself from reality. “Every piece I make represents a story from my life. I make my painting as if they were my diary.”
“Art has been my passion since I was young and I was drawing everything that I saw. I was creating my own little world without knowing it. But even back then I really wanted to be recognized worldwide, to have a signature style that I can claim to be my own. I pushed myself to practice a lot, starting with drawing faces and human figures, then I used different mediums. Since I am a self-taught artist, I took the initiative to read art books that would help me.”
After graduating with an IT degree, he chose to be a full-time artist so he could start early in the art scene. What he loves about abstract art, he says, is that it is interpreted solely by the audience. “How it speaks to them is what it is. I don’t need to tell them exactly what the painting is about to match their interpretation. It’s a bonus to me if they feel the same way as I do when they view my art. Art for me is something we are free to do and to think what we want to think.”
What can we expect from him in his upcoming show? These days, he paints from his everyday experiences, his emotions, his life decisions. “I make my paintings as if they were my diary. Right now my works are inspired by my positive outlook in life, as well as my love and belief in God who is the reason for everything we have in the world. My works are full of hope in life and faith in His words.”
If you don’t see that, maybe you’re not standing close enough to his paintings.
Joel Reglos is part of a group show of abstractionists that will open on June 3 at Altro Mondo in Makati.