Second Sight – Randalf Dilla’s “Tribute to Luna”
Randalf Dilla – Tribute to Luna
One of my collectors commissioned a painting about our national artist Juan Luna, so I conducted research and decided to create this tribute to him. Luna is a famous Filipino artist whom many artists admire. I decided to make a tribute to his work The Parisian Life because it was one of his most controversial works – not only because of the important people portrayed in the painting, but also because it was sold in auction at a high price by a government agency, which had an issue at the time.
I grew up in Batanes, a small island in the most northern part of the Philippines. I only knew Luna’s work through photos. When I moved to Manila to study, I was able to see his works in person. I was so amazed, especially by his huge painting Spoliarium, which received an award in Spain. I also made a painting tribute to that. Even though Luna may have been the most well-known Filipino artist, he had a dark side. He killed his wife and mother-in-law and wounded his brother-in-law out of jealousy.
Luna’s Spoliarium may be his most famous painting, but many artists have already paid tribute to that. I decided to make a tribute to his work Parisian Life because it portrays a great controversial story. In the actual painting, you will find three important personas in Philippine history: Jose Rizal, Ariston Bautista Lin, and Juan Luna. They were all revolutionary activists in Spanish colonial time in the Philippines. In the painting, they are staring at a white woman in a cafe in France. According to historians, she is a prostitute, some said she was a mirror image of the Philippine map, some said the necklace is symbol of the struggle of our country. Luna used prostitutes as his models. In my painting, I created an illusion which brings you back in time as you look at Luna’s painting. The floating figures are the characters in Luna’s painting, and the tied male figure at the bottom symbolizes the Philippines in the Spanish Colonial period (1521 to 1898).
Batanes is the smallest province in the Philippines consisting of 10 small islands. Only three of these islands are inhabited. I was born and raised in Basco, the capital of Batanes, before moving to Manila to study. Batanes is small – you can recognize almost everyone. You can track down what town someone came from just by knowing their family name. It is a beautiful place with great landscapes and seascapes, as well as a peaceful place with zero crime. I visit when I have the chance.
Before I went to study fine arts, I already loved art. I always liked drawing when I was young. I started painting when I was 14 years old using acrylic house paint because we didn’t have access to art materials in our province. I remember using only five colors at the time: black, white, red, blue and yellow. I had to learn how to mix these colors on my own. My first time using oil paint was when I moved to Manila to study, and at that point I knew oil paint would be my primary medium. In recent years, I have also incorporated unusual objects, such as wire and wood, into my paintings to make them more interesting. I will not give up painting, however, and I always want to be known for my paintings.
I painted Tribute to Luna: the Parisian Life in my studio here in the Philippines. My studio is quite small and messy like other studios. I think there is nothing interesting about my studio besides my two cats. I am always in my studio working from 12 p.m. to midnight, or sometimes later. I don’t have an apprentice and I make everything by hand, even stretchers. I am very slow in doing my artworks – I can only finish 3×4 feet in one month. A bigger painting takes more time, so sometimes I finish fewer than 12 paintings in a year.
My cats’ names are Frida and Fiona. They are both good cats and have not yet made any big trouble in my studio. Despite this, their fur sometimes sticks to my painting or paints. I painted Frida in some of my paintings before we adopted Fiona.
I like Salvador Dali’s thinking and Johannes Vermeer’s technique. I saw their works for the first time when I was in Germany in 2014. It was truly amazing seeing their works in person. I don’t know who I admire most among living artists because there are so many great artists nowadays, both locally and internationally. I admire artists who work hard and passionately. If I look at a painting and feel an unexplainable sense of appreciation, I believe it is a successful piece of work.
I believe there are more young artists here in the Philippines who are interested in representational art nowadays. It may be because of the influence of Ronald Ventura, who is one of the big names in the Philippine art scene.
I use Winsor & Newton and Gamblin. I also use Norma, a German brand. I usually use bristle and nylon brush for my underpainting and filberts for detailing. I do my underpainting in detail, which can take many days or weeks, then I let it dry before I do the final layer of the painting.