The Underrated Expressionist Artist That Moguls and Insiders Love
Despite decades of accolades and artistry, Lito Carating doesn’t revel in the spotlight. Instead, the artist prefers to let his work speak for itself.
It’s an ethos Carating abides by, sometimes to the point of intransigence. His long-time friend and collector, development economist Shahid Zahid, affirms this. “Lito will never discuss his art with you. In some of his more serene pieces, I can tell that he's done them in a very calm frame of mind. Some of his later, newer works [where] you see explosions of colors, I can tell that he's done them when there’s probably something going on in his life or he's disturbed or upset about something,” says Zahid. “And we talked about it a few times, but I have no way of verifying it. He just says, ‘It’s there for you to see. Whatever you see, you’re welcome to it. I’m not telling you why.’”
Creating Nuance With Minimalist Abstractions
The two have been friends for over 20 years, meeting at one of the artist’s shows where Zahid ended up purchasing an untitled piece—the first that was sold from Carating’s collection at the time. The artist ended up selling four more pieces quickly after. Zahid narrates, “‘You’re my lucky charm,’ he said. I found that rather amusing, so I told Lito, ‘I don’t think so. I just think your art is very good.’”
For Zahid, Carating’s work represented a different style emerging in the Filipino art scene then. “To me, his work was sort of minimalist-expressionist, in the post-Second World War tradition. I must admit that he wasn’t the only person that I admired in that style. There’s Lao LianBen, who has a different take on it, with an almost Japanese sensibility to the idea of minimalism. There’s Gus Albor. To me, these three represented a different style that, at that time, was developing rather forcefully in the Filipino art scene. From the younger generation, there’s also Lindslee, who I think is extremely talented.”
From capturing the attention of critics and collectors with his dark surrealist work “Lamanlupa,” Lito has since progressed to other styles, including structured, minimalist abstractions that have made him a favorite in art circles. “I really tend to have more of a fondness for his minimalist works, especially ‘Blue Moon,’” Zahid shares. “It’s so simple and yet it has so much going on because of the textures.”
'Blue Moon,' 2006
His precision in technique and ability to bring out nuances in color has made businessman Manny V. Pangilinan a fan. Pangilinan, who acquired about a dozen pieces for his personal collection, has a large Carating canvas hanging in the sitting room of his PLDT office.
Reflecting a Multifaceted Artistic Journey
Not one to stay stagnant, Carating’s art has visibly shifted: You see less geometry and freer strokes, more color than sheen. Long-time collectors and new patrons are thrilled by the mystery that shrouds his work—you never know what he’ll come up with next.
In his new exhibition Vivace at Salcedo Private View, Carating showcases the breadth of his oeuvre, spanning the range of palettes, techniques, and themes he has explored over the years. Victor Silvino, Salcedo Auctions managing director, describes Vivace as a “mini retrospective of how his work has evolved over the years.” And with the versatility of pieces here, there will be something for everyone, from the experienced aesthete to the starting collector.
'Seventythree,' 2021, acrylic on canvas with pumice gel
The exhibit reflects Carating’s multifaceted artistic journey. Although he graduated with a Fine Arts degree from the University of the Philippines, Carating turned down a cushy advertising career and became an opera singer. He painted while performing and, later on, released the Lamanlupa series. He emerged as one of the first artists to experiment with acrylic paint when it was first used in the ’70s, and throughout his varying styles, he has painted pieces with a unique and personal technique.
Getting Inside the Mind of an Artist
“He does all of his paintings in one go. It’s not like he’ll do a bit of it and come back to finish the piece because he uses acrylic, a fast-drying medium,” Zahid says about his friend’s process. Zahid further shares how Carating doesn’t use paintbrushes but implements—tools resembling baking equipment that he designed himself, a “terribly creative, exciting and very interesting idea. To me, it was like getting inside the mind of an artist.”
'Black and Blue series #2,' 2021, acrylic on canvas with pumice gel
'Black and silver over bronze,' 2021, acrylic on canvas with pumice gel
While Carating’s pieces may come off as understated compared to the relative chaos of expressionist painters, it would be ill-advised to think of his work as simplistic. As Zahid explains, “What impressed me most about Lito’s work is he was actually developing a style that was coming from the more traditional style and honing it down, pairing it down to basically simple colors and forms. It was not something that he decided one day… ‘Oh, this is simple to do… let’s do it.’ He had arrived at his own style from a long practice from many decades.”
Whether you’re a fan of Carating’s early work or drawn to his more recent pieces hardly matters as his masterful stroke tones are evident in all his artwork. “As one of the senior, established expressionist artists in the country, Lito never fails to surprise his long-time and new clients with his pieces,” Silvino shares. “We believe that now is the best time for new collectors to discover and fall in love with Lito’s work.”
Vivace by Nortberto Carating opens on May 29 and runs until June 2021 at Salced Private View, NEX Tower, 6786 Ayala Ave. For inquiries, call +63 917 825 7449 or e-mail [email protected].