ed defensor
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Hubon Madyaas Group at SM City Iloilo,
World Sculpture News. Asian Art News: Hongkong.
Volume 6 Number 2 Spring Issue 2000
pp. 82-83.
Hubon Madyaas Group at SM City Iloilo

Alice G. Guillermo

Possibly the oldest and most basic medium of art is clay which, when molded into shape and fired, becomes terra cotta.  It is the art that makes use of the four basic elements of earth, water, air and fire, and is associated with the origins of the first humans on Earth.  But although an immense number of clay works have been produced in  all societies since the beginning of time, it seems to have made relatively slow progress here as a medium of art.

Up to now there still exist large clay deposits in various parts of the country, as in Pangasinan and Bulacan, if they have not yet been ran over by bulldozers into subdivisions, and grassroots communities of traditional potters draw upon these natural sources of clay.

For most of us, our common encounter with clay is through the rural palayok and banga for household pusposes.  Likewise, clay has been used as disposable molds for metalware in the cire perdue, or lost wax process, and thus had no essential value of its own.  But in recent times, a growing number of artists have rediscovered it and drawn out its large potential for figure sculpture, as well as for a large range of objects combining design and function.

It was only fitting that the rediscovery of clay for art began in grassroots community organizations, such as the Black Artists of Asia in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.  In its goal  to stimulate artistic production as popular expression, to encourage design in everyday objects, and to make use of indigenous and accessible materials, it adapted terra cotta as one of its favored materials.  Charlie Co, for instance, popularized genre figures drawn from the sugar-producing society of Negros.  Nunelucio Alvarado made small symbolic figures or icons as terra-cotta pendants.

But in Manila in the late '70s, among the first artists to do terra-cotta sculpture were Dalino Dalena and Julie Lluch.  It was, however, Lluch who consistently worked in the medium and reached a high point in terra-cotta art with her lifesize figure sculptures and bust portraits.

Another terra-cotta artist, though primarily a painter, was Aro Soriano, who conducted workshops in figure sculpture in an Obando potters community with the help of the late Maria Luisa Reyes Llamado, art sponsor and writer.  At present, Baidy Mendoza is giving new impetus to terra cotta through ongoing workshops in her Cubao studio.

The latest group activity in terra cotta was held in Mandurriao, Iloilo, by the Hubon Madyaas, a visual arts group founded in 1983 by Edward Defensor.  Their workshop in the medium aimed to "explore, experiment with and refine techniques with terra cotta as a medium for sculpture."

Funded by a grant from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the group came up with the exhibit Dihon Sa Lunang (Creations in Clay) held from February 29 to March 12 at the SM City in Iloilo.  The seven exhibiting artists who count among the most active members of the group were Joe Amora, Benjie Belgica, Alan Cabalfin, Ed Defensor, Fred Orig, Dado Tan and P.G. Zoluaga.  As long-time members of the Hubon Madyaas, the seven exhibiting artists have done works in other forms, such  as paintings, prints and wood sculpture, and have been recognized as the leading artists of Iloilo.