Filipino Visual Artist

by John Benjamin Tesoro


Solomon Saprid, an Imuseño, is a multi-awarded artist in Philippine modern and contemporary art. During the Philippine “Art boom” in the mid-70’s of the last century, three sculptors were known to rise in prominence above the rest of their peers.  These 3 exceptional artists were part of a legendary sculpture exhibition appropriately titled, “TRIANGULO” held at the Hyatt Regent Manila’s “The Gallery” on December 16-31, 1977.……..From the trio, Saprid was famously known for his trademark sculptures such as the “Tikbalang”, a centaur of home grown “lower mythology” that symbolizes male virility, the iconic socially impactful “GomBurza” which is virtually composed of interconnected triangles representing our country’s three major islands of Luzon, Visaya and Mindanao, the religious themed “St. Joseph the Worker” in Malate Church and the universally loved “Mag-Ina” or  “Mother and Child” series, this master of “frozen motion”, a cliché the sculptor applies to his creations, “Mang Sol” as he was affectionately known has been raising the flag for Filipino relevance during the past decades by virtue of diversified major artworks stately displayed among various international venues in major parts of the world.  His significant works include: “ASEAN BIRDS” in Bangkok, a Mural in Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation Building, the “Bull Cancer fountain” at the Triumph International in Germany, a “Statue of Christ” at the Indiana University Museum, Mural and Statue at the Philippine Center in New York, a “Copper Statue” for the Australian Biennale in Sydney presently in the collection of Westinghouse in Philadelphia to name a few.  His pronounced versatility was enhanced earlier in his career by working for an animation project in the late 50’s.  In 1954, he acquired his Master’s degree in Education Major:  Mass Communication at the Ohio State University.  He was elected Art Association of the Philippines President from 1974 to 1976 and recipient of the “Outstanding Senior Citizen Achiever Award of the Philippines” (OSCAP) in 1996 by the Phil. Rotary International.  He adopted bronze welding as his natural medium of art, a style which became uniquely his.  Saprid’s “live” sculptures epitomize the artist’s depiction of corporeal demonstration and flamboyant display of “frozen motion”, which the viewer perceivably detects movement in an otherwise static object.  Through his art, he was able to portray Philippine folklore characters as well as historically consequential and religious figures manifested by his distinctive interpretation that became embedded in his repertoire.  As earlier mentioned, one of his most notable and trademark work is the “Tikbalang”, a beast with a horse-like head, and a human-like body.  More importantly, his masterful rendition of the 3 martyred priests clearly exhibits his ingenious level of encompassing the relevance of the GOMBURZA to our nation via subtle symbolism.  Displaying his usual discipline in respectfully adhering to anatomical accuracy regardless of scale, the three figures not only represent our archipelago’s main islands of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao but this “magnum opus” is composed entirely of individual triangles further exhibiting the sculptor’s prodigious comprehension & mastery of his chosen component encapsulated in his themes - Solomon Saprid has truly made a mark and a significant contribution in Philippine art and culture. 


According to a direct published quote by Alfredo Roces, an inductee of the “National Artist” award in the literary world, “A Saprid sculpture has a kinetic quality to it…a sense of arrested action.  The effect is one towards which the artist strives.  He refers to it as “frozen motion.”  I’m sure you experienced it as you viewed his work.”  Presently, there are several circulating metal sculptures available in auction houses that were predominantly influenced by the late master’s style but sympathetically lacking in skill and technique in its execution.  The aforementioned prestigious author also wrote in the Manila Times on March, 1969, “…on the whole he (Saprid) has produced sculpture of really fine quality, well crafted & imaginative, demonstrating intuitive feel for his material and medium.  Saprid has emerged…as a major sculptor of the local scene:  and with careful discipline and dedicated work, could finally place sculpture at the same privileged table as painting.”


There is also a short article written by Angel G. de Jesus in Business Day on March 8, 1979 which read, “In conversation with friends, the late Hernando R. O campo used to describe Solomon A. Saprid as “Philippines’ best living sculptor.”  The remark would embarrass Saprid and he would pass it off as the kind words not to be taken seriously, of a very good friend.  Yet, in his lifetime, Ocampo was never known to be insincere, and I believe that he meant every word of what he said.


His work (Saprid’s) is always original and never didactically based on formal sources.  Perhaps this is what drew Ocampo to him, for both are original artists whose inspiration derive from Filipino sources.  One sees this in wood, stone, copper, bronze and brass sculpture. His metal work is unique and has a blown-out look derived from strands and laboriously welded together to create work in which matter and space convey a feeling of airy, poetic beauty and grace.  The viewer’s eyes do not see the rough metallic texture, enamored as he is by the beauty of the composition, which is emphasized by the color of the metal.  It is remarkable how strips of metal can be so constructed as to produce such a feeling of movement and grace.”


Solomon Saprid reaffirms life through his mythical and none fictional subjects, each one unveiling for us situations and emotions so deeply entrenched in our consciousness and yet, quite identifiable within each of us that the effect is astonishingly stupefying.  In his sculptures, the objects are the exact antithesis of the conventional ideals of chic elegance and serenity, of seamlessness and rectitude of form.


For an artist virtually exemplifying dynamic masculinity, his sketches reveal a much softer side from such a formidable reservoir of abundant aesthetic abilities in portraying ordinary traditional themes to the most basic of human forms in all its uninhibited glory.


The Sculptor

I'll take 'sculpture' any time. It is very fulfilling because there is very little deception. The more dimensions there are, the more challenging it is for a sculptor."

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