Edwin Wilwayco 'converses' with Erik Satie
You would think that an artist who does ritualistic, gestural abstracts would be a man who paints while floorstanding speakers gush forth loud jazz fusion, new directions in music by, say, Miles or Ornette, or by some oddball German composer toying with odd time signatures and mechanized percussions. But if you are dealing with someone like Edwin Wilwayco, whose abstracts are elegant meditations on formlessness and the river-ring of color, then the soundtrack of his studio work would be music by Erik Satie (1866-1925), that eloquent French pianist-composer who described himself as a “measurer of sound.”
So, how did Satie’s music become the philosophical seed of Wilwayco’s latest show, which opens on Feb. 8, 6 p.m., at Galerie Roberto?
“I chanced upon an Erik Satie CD at Tower Records in Tokyo around seven years ago,” shares Wilwayco. He just saw the name “Satie” in one of the racks and was intrigued. “From June to October last year, I had been obsessed with listening to Satie’s music over and over, inspired by it, trying to evoke the physical sensation of those notes.”
The strategy was to establish a formal style of gestural lines, make the brush sway with movement and fullness of depth in an attempt to evoke Satie’s florid, contemplative music.
To say that Wilwayco is a fan of the French composer is an understatement. He talks about how he regards Satie’s piano pieces in groups of three: the Sarabandes, Gymnopédies, and the first set of Gnossiennes, which has become Wilwayco’s favorite.
“I have been listening to the pieces on my Denon CD player, as I find it too laborious nowadays to use a turntable,” he says with a chuckle. The “conversations” with Satie are a continuation of sorts of his series of “musical abstracts”: “Homage To Vivaldi,” “Homage To Gluck,” “Scherzo” and “Homage To Bach.” (Last year, he had an exhibition at Manila House that focused on the symphonic appeal of motley-colored jeepneys.)
“What differentiates the Satie series from my earlier homage to classical composers is the inclusion and exploration of a collage methodology — imagining myself to be in layers of leaves, twigs, branches, rocks and clouds,” explains Wilwayco. In each work, embedded within the paint is variety of mixed media materials, various-size fragments of paper, texture and fabric.
“These materials enhance my visual dialogue, giving the surface a feeling of sculptural tonality, hoping to evoke the surrealist notions related to the space and time of Erik Satie’s music. I want the viewers to approach the Satie paintings with romanticism and soft relaxation in mind, instead of hard logic. I want them not to think too hard, just follow the form, get lost in the depth, and sense the vibration of colors and shapes.”
Abstract art, for Wilwayco, has the power to stimulate unexpected freedom. He says there is no real time in his paintings. There is only a repetitive attractive playfulness.
“What do you see? How do you feel? Ask questions and enjoy the conversation. I am also inspired by jazz artists, but it is within the classical composers where I find ideas that direct my painting voice.”
Art critic Cid Reyes says that Wilwayco immersed himself in the music of Satie in order to conduct his so-called “correspondence,” and resulting works, however, “are not visual equivalences or transliteration, but are rather the fruition of the artist’s desire for his art to attain the condition of music.”
One look at, say, “Correspondence with Erik Satie No. 1,” and you would virtually hear ivory keys frolicking with ebony ones as a slow, stately dance of shapes ensues. A cosmic waltz. A mythological minuet. An architecture of chords erecting itself from Wilwayco’s Bose 901 speakers.
Edwin Wilwayco concludes, “With every note of the piano in Satie’s music — my hand responded to it. If felt as if I were interacting with the composer himself, or even playing chess with Satie where I had no intention at all of winning. Well, it was more like jamming with the master — Satie with his piano, mine was the brush.”
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Edwin Wilwayco’s “Conversations with Erik Satie,” curated by Liliane Rejante-Manahan, is on view from Feb. 8 to 27 at Galerie Roberto, Unit 4 Molito Lifestyle Ext. Building 7, Madrigal Ave. corner Commerce Ave., Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City. For information, call 809-1630, 0998-595-5764, 0905-314-6448, or email [email protected]