Thursday, April 14, 2016

Watercolor is a medium that is perfect for genre — art that depicts everyday scenes of life. The nuances and details of markets, streets, and similar environs and more importantly the people that are in these scenes are captured in a poignant style that renders them not only nostalgic but utterly captivating. It is no wonder that watercolor is the preferred medium of the so-called “archival painters,” pre-dominantly European, who are sensitive to the need of recording his surroundings for posterity.

Erwin Mallari (b. 1979) is an artist that combines both the European proclivity of using watercolor as a topographical archiving platform to capture the zeitgeist, with an Asian respect for the potential of the medium. Hailing from Malabon, the colloquial “flood capital” of Metro Manila, is perhaps an irony for the University of the East-trained artist. However, the poignancy of his environs have led to the rich tapestry of life his paintings seek to capture and preserve.

Mallari will be exhibiting such works in a one-man exhibit entitled “Life on Water” at the Centre Gallery of Galerie Joaquin in San Juan City. Opening on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, at 6:30 pm the exhibit which runs until April 22, brilliantly captures the practice of one of the most sought-after painters and one of the very best watercolor artists in the country today.

“I want to preserve my timeline, who I am as a person, and my surroundings,” says Mallari of his work. This need to archive — the “preserve” as he calls it — leads to an aesthetic that is hyperrealist, capturing the life scenes of an urban landscape that is as gritty as it is beautiful. He points to an interest in photography as the catalyst for this approach, and this hyperrealism is apparent in his paintings.

Mallari started his journey in art in high school, where he would doodle using a pencil and ballpen. When it came time to apply for university, a neighbor of his introduced him the Fine Arts program of the University of the East, where he studied from 1997 to 2002. It was during college that he developed his signature hyperrealist aesthetic, preferring to “enjoy the details” and seldom stopping until everything was brought out.

After university, Mallari worked a variety of jobs in graphic design for companies such as Destileria Limtuaco and Chris Sports before deciding to become a full-time artist in 2014. In the interim, he dabbled in art part-time, and it was a particularly fruitful year in 2011 that Mallari started to gain attention from award-giving bodies: including the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Award, where he was a semifinalist in 2012, and the Kulay sa Tubig Art Competition, which he won in 2014.

This inherent characteristic of watercolor also serves to highlight the subjects that Mallari depicts. “I choose subjects that are high contrast. Not all subjects have the same visual appeal in watercolor that they may have in, say, oil. But I like the challenge. I use studies to figure out the right technique for the subject, to figure out the right tones and colors. I usually start at eight in the morning, then I finish at four in the afternoon.”

This attention to detail combined with his passion as an artist who most successfully captures the intensity of his surroundings and the people in them makes Erwin Mallari a unique figure in today’s contemporary visual art scene.

Galerie Joaquin is located at 371 P. Guevarra Street, Addition Hills, San Juan City.

They may be reached through their landline at (632) 723-9418, or email at

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