The 2006 TOYM awardee Michael Cacnio has consistently depicted wholesome Filipino values - respect for elders, close family ties and community kinship - for 15 years.
Meanwhile, this artist with a degree in Fine Arts from University of the Philippines in 1991 was experimenting with brass when it was not a popular medium.
Having decided that he was comfortable with his cut-and-solder method as opposed to molding, he began depicting children playing traditional Filipino games inspired by his own childhood in Malabon like sungka, luksong baka and tirador (slingshot); and his series of vendors, among them the magtataho (sweet bean curd vendor) and sorbetero( ice cream vendor).
He has also become known for poignant parent-and-child renditions ? ?Kodak? moments captured in brass. Most popular are his kite-flyers, which are still in demand, with the bobbing brass lines also featured in his fishing pieces.
As he neared his 15th year in the art scene, Cacnio began to include less-than-sunny aspects of the Filipino?s life and persona, a turn deemed natural by art critic Lito Zulueta:
?It seems only a matter of time for the young sculptor to turn to social criticism; his earlier works for which he has won acclaim are scenes of folksy idyll and bucolic romance. They basically betray the artist?s romantic temperament: a pining for things either vanishing or gone, a betrayal of panic as change and debasement become inevitable.
?The romantic feeling, of course, hides an undercurrent of anger for the despoliation of nature; it?s noble anger at the disappearance of noble savagery. So it is just a matter of time for Cacnio to turn his art into a mordant piece of social protest.?
That Cacnio has graduated to a more socially aware phase in his art does not affect his rustic scenes. In the same way that these works have won critical acclaim and have been showcased in sold-out exhibits here, the United States, Canada and Singapore, the newest additions are just as well-received and have earned good reviews.
The social commentary actually complements his earlier works. The works from the two phases become a testament to the evolution of the artist without jarring changes.
His Giacometti-inspired elongated figures are constant; Filipiniana garb is still hinted at, if not totally evident; and always, even when fueled by protest, the works bear a distinct countenance which encourages enlightenment rather than stirrings of dissent.
After his sold-out exhibit at the Philippine Center in New York in July, Cacnio now presents ?Philippine Perspectives,? a body of works showcased at the EC Berlaymont Building in Brussels, Belgium, as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of Asean-EU relations.
Cacnio?s current collection is very much similar to that which he presented in New York. It is also a comprehensive range of sculptures that spotlights his skill at rendering angst-free artworks-with-a-conscience.
The collection may be considered complete in that it showcases his well-loved traditional pieces and other subjects that may elicit nostalgia from the Filipino community abroad.
Cacnio renders with amusing detail a jumble of shanties; a cockfight; a beer bottle-clutching man almost sprawled on a bench; a father of three on the phone, presumably taking an overseas call from his OFW wife, who has sent home the newly opened balikbayan box.
In all of these scenes, Cacnio subtly tackles issues of poverty, gambling and vices, and maybe even the brain drain.
And yet, rather than perceive the images with gloom, it is almost certain that audiences will be won over more by the memories of home. This way, Cacnio is able to summarize a Filipino mind-set: resilience, making do and even making merry in the most grueling of circumstances, coping by seeing the lighter aspect of things.
The artist?s wishes are simple enough: ?I pray to be identified as the Filipino sculptor who has contributed to the preservation of the Philippine heritage, who is respected by fellow artists and who believes it is through God?s Providence that I am able to create my own sculptures.?
The artist focuses more on the bright side however biting his social commentary. It is commentary that invites both sympathy and empathy, and though the psychosocial bearings may breach borders and race, it is especially understood by his fellow Filipinos because it seems Cacnio has made a way for ?EveryJuan? to be somehow synonymous to ?everyone.?
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