Books & Art

Malang's Women: Over Two Dozen Unseen Works Will Be Revealed at Art Fair Philippines

Drawings and paintings made during the artist's most prolific period will be exhibited and be up for sale at Art Fair Philippines.
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About 25 drawings of the late Mauro “Malang” Santos, which have never before been shown to the public, will be part of a special exhibition at Art Fair Philippines.

The late Mauro "Malang" Santos

IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Soler Santos, the acclaimed artist’s youngest son, and himself a visual artist, says there are still many others stashed away in their gallery’s stockroom, but for the Fair, he has selected pieces spanning the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, with the ubiquitous women found in many of Malang’s works as the main subject.

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Woman-study, gouache, 9x5.5 (2001) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Figure XII, oil pastel, 28.25x20.25 (1994)
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Fruit vendor, ink, 13.5x11 (1991) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Three women, oil pastel, 5.5x9 (1998) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Two women, gouache, 25x19 (2002) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Woman, watercolor, 8.75x5.5 (1994) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Executed in charcoal, ink and gouache, the illustrations were done during the years when Malang was said to have been most prolific. According to Soler, his ever-optimistic “Tatay” never drew with the intention of exhibiting his creations; he just simply loved doing it.

Putting pen to paper was something he did as naturally as breathing in and out. “Umaga pa lang, nag-dawdrawing na siya. Sobra siyang masipag sapagguhit. In the late ‘80s, noong parating may brownout, nagpapalipas siyang oras sa malapit na McDonald’s sa Quezon Avenue. Doon siya nag-drawing ng marami; kahit sa mga tissue nag-drawing siya.” (“He would start drawing early in the day and kept at it. In the late eighties when long power outages were the norm, he’d often go to the nearby McDonald’s restaurant on Quezon Avenue to draw in comfort. He even drew on napkins and scraps of paper.”)

Malang at work in his studio. According to Soler, his ever-optimistic “Tatay” never drew with the intention of exhibiting his creations; he just simply loved doing it.

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IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

It’s no wonder then that the family has amassed a collection of sketches and illustrations numbering in the thousands. Soler says Malang was interested in making his art affordable to more people, so he made several series of serigraphs. There was, however, always more demand for his drawings and paintings—something Soler observes to generally be true when it comes to Philippine collectors. 

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Above the family’s West Gallery showroom in Quezon City is the Malang Room, serving as a sort of repository for the family’s private collection and where Soler has purposefully created a loving tribute to his father’s legacy and passion for art.

Putting pen to paper was something he did as naturally as breathing in and out.

IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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On display is a varied sampling of the artist’s creations: There are his early works dating as far back as the 1940s when he worked as a cartoonist for the Manila Chronicle, a number of vividly colorful paintings done in his signature gouache, some works done in oil, charcoal, and ink. On one wall is a charming series of collages made out of playbills collected during a trip to New York, which shows Malang’s whimsical side.

At the start of his career, Malang’s art featured structures like nipa huts and barung-barong (shanties), and the women characters did not figure prominently in them. 

Later on, however, women became the focal point of almost everything he created. According to Soler, his father must have been inspired by his own mother (Soler’s grandmother), who worked as a tindera (vendor). Perhaps the traditionally garbed women were fashioned after her.

Crossed arms, oil pastel, 8.5 x 5.25 (1994) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Tsismis, gouache and oil pastel, 11x8 (1997) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Woman, charcoal, 13.25x10.5 (1984) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Woman, charcoal, 8x5 (1980) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Woman, gouache, 24x18 (1975) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Woman, ink, 11.5x8.25, undated IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Woman, ink, 12x9 (1986) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Woman, oil pastel, 5.5x9 (1998) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

Woman, oil pastel, 5.5x9 (1997) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Woman-study, gouache, 9x5.5 (2001) IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos

He expresses regret at not having interviewed his father more about the women that inhabited his creations, in the years his father might still have remembered. He did ask him about the wife of Kosme the Cop in the comic strip he did in the early days, and if she had a name. Malang replied that he’d never given her one.

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Several years before his passing in 2017, Malang was diagnosed with dementia and gradually lost all interest in painting and drawing. Soler sadly remembers, “Naisip ko na gawin itong Malang Room habang buhay pa siya, dahil alam ko magugustuhan niya ‘to. Pero noong umakyat siya dito, wala nasiyang reaksyon sa nakita niya.” (“I thought of dedicating this room to him while he was still living; but by the time I’d brought him up to see it, he couldn’t really appreciate it anymore.”)

IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
IMAGE: courtesy of Soler Santos
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Soler is hopeful though, that with the flourishing art scene and the youth becoming more interested in art, that Malang’s lifelong passion will live on for generations to come.

Art Fair Philippines will open to the public from February 22 to 24. Tickets are currently available on the official Art Fair Philippines website for P350 per day. Students with valid IDs may avail of a special rate of P150, while students from Makati may purchase a ticket for P100. Tickets will also be sold on the 4th floor.

For more information, visit artfairphilippines.com and follow @artfairph on Instagram and facebook.com/artfairph on Facebook.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountry.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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