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A pas des deux between a lens and canvas

EDNA VIDA and Nonoy Froilan photographs and paintings presented in ‘Of Art and Wine: Duets’ at Conrad Manila

DANCERS and partners Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan had been residing in a condominium with a good view of the Makati skyline since 2009. But it was not until the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) lockdown last year that Mr. Froilan found inspiration from its view of the outdoors. Ms. Vida, in turn, was inspired by the solitude of staying indoors. It was then that Mr. Froilan picked up a camera to shoot photographs of clouds from his window, while Ms. Vida started painting images of dance movements. They took up these new pursuits separately, with no exchange of ideas.

The photographs and paintings were eventually matched in pairs and are now presented in “Of Art and Wine: Duets” at Conrad Manila’s Gallery C. It is the couple’s first art exhibition together.

Ms. Vida and Mr. Froilan have worked together for years as principal dancers of Ballet Philippines, co-choreographers and re-stagers in many dance productions, actors in several plays at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and collaborators in performance art projects.

“This art exhibit has been an exciting and challenging project for me to curate,” said Nestor O. Jardin during last week’s onsite and online launch. “Marrying two different visual art forms — painting and photography — was difficult enough, but working on two diverse subject matters such as dance and clouds proved to be another matter,” said Mr. Jardin, the former president of Ballet Philippines and the CCP, and a longtime friend of the couple.

“It took me several days to pour over hundreds of Edna’s paintings, and hundreds of Nonoy’s photographs, trying to see points of similarities and confluence in their artwork. But from the perspective of style and form, I finally saw some points of convergence [from which] was born the dramatic curatorial idea for ‘Duets’,” Mr. Jardin added.

INSPIRATION IN LOCKDOWN
Mr. Froilan said that while at home during the lockdown, he appreciated the view of the skyline from the windows and noted what time boats would pass by — a routine he barely noticed for 11 years prior to lockdown due to his busy schedule. This is when Mr. Froilan picked up the camera to take photographs of cloud formations.

“It has the kind of surrounding like a dancer performing,” Mr. Froilan said of his chosen subject. “Whenever I take video and photographs, the best photos are where you are at the moment.”

Ms. Vida found solitude conducive to painting and most of the time finishing two works in a day during the long period indoors. Rekindling her painting practice, which she started in 1989, Ms. Vida found herself dancing with ink and on canvas.

“[Being] imprisoned in a state of obscurity is the best time to be an artist. And this pandemic’s proverbial box of rebirth and transformation, made us rekindle the child in us.” Ms. Vida said.

“The lockdowns changed me and Nonoy a lot. We were suddenly at home 24/7, and we went into our own space to do our own projects. Nonoy with this camera. And I on canvas,” she said.

A SEPARATE DUET
Despite living under one roof, the couple worked separately and had no communication about each other’s output. It was only when the works were to be showcased that Mr. Jardin matched them and classified them into thematically.

The pairs, which Mr. Jardin described as “25 pas des deux” are classified using words of emotions and perceptions, movement and stillness, energy and tranquility. The pairs include Solace, referring to a dance centered on being alone; Quarantine, referring to a period of isolation; Boxed In referring to the shapes of the figures in both the photograph and painting.

Since dancing ballet has its strict rules and techniques, Ms. Vida found painting a more liberal art form.

“I get my inspiration from the fact that in the visual arts, everything is free; not like in dance in ballet… Ballet, particularly was so full of rules. It was very strict, and we had to follow a particular kind of technique to perform well on stage. But with painting, there are no rules — at least for me,” Ms. Vida said.

She also added that she can freely chose colors and make mistakes. “And sometimes, mistakes are the ones that are beautiful.”

As an artist, the pursuit of perfection comes with uncertainties.

“I have been performing at the Cultural Center of the Philippines for two decades. Every time we step on that stage, it was like walking on a tightrope. There were always doubts and uncertainties in our dancing,” Mr. Froilan admitted. “We have honed our dance skills for years, and even if we made mistakes, we never show[ed it]. We will not reach that perfection in art, but still we did [dance].

“I got that feeling when I was starting to do [photography again], but after a while, I got used to my camera, and the camera likes me. Because sometimes I would say, ‘The camera takes better photos than I’,” he added.

“But anyway, a good yardstick for success is whether people like our work well enough to hang it on the wall,” he said.

“Of Art and Wine: Duets” by Edna Vida and Nonoy Froilan is on view until Jan. 9, 2022. The artworks can be bought separately and in pairs. To view the online brochure, visit https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/65894297/of-art-and-wine-duets. For inquiries on the artworks, call 8833-9999 or e-mail conradmanila@conradhotels.com. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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