As the maddening crowd slowly gathers along Lacson Street and the Bacolod public plaza for the impending citywide celebrations of the MassKara Festival 2017, I found myself snaking my way through a lonely back road made verdant by tall trees on both sides. I was about to meet the big guy himself, the legend and Bacolod’s pride, critically acclaimed and award-winning director, Peque Gallaga.
Though I took a Grab Car, I did not know where exactly to stop so the driver had to go slowly forward. Finally, I reached my destination, secured by a tall green gate and surrounded by plants and trees. A respectful male household help opened the door for me, asked for my name, and ushered me across the no-nonsense driveway towards the living room where I had to wait for a short while, as he called his master.
I settled down on their plush sofa and looked around. It is a nice and humble home, with old fixtures, painting, and some knickknacks. One thing I noticed, it was very quiet out here–the perfect abode for a reclusive retired director to indulge his creative genius and passion in drawing.
After a few minutes, Direk Peque emerged from his room, dressed casually in neutral gray tones but whose entire ensemble was punctuated by the bright red case of his tablet. He greeted me with a wide smile and a firm hand shake. Needless to say, I was in awe of his presence.
Gathering my wits, I asked him about his artworks that will be featured at his one-man exhibit that will open this coming October 28, 2017 at the Art Cube Gallery in Karrivin Plaza. Entitled Gray Locutions, this collection of 21″ x 27″ artworks are all drawn in pencil on bristol board and framed for ready display. There is a total of 31 pieces, all drawn in a period of two years, after his successful first solo exhibit in April 2015.
All of Direk Peque’s works convey a story, depicting faces and scenes of young people. But these are not random, candid scenes. These are well-thought out images, directed by the master himself. His son, Wanggo Gallaga, aptly puts this situation into words: “His vast experience as a director comes into play as he sets each scene: facial expressions, adjusting the lighting, infusing the still image with meaning. When I look at the entire set of pieces from Gray Locutions, I see the meditations of a person who has seen and done much trying to make sense of human relationships and how people interact with each other.”
The collection is classified into three sets, namely, I Don’t Want to Play Anymore, ContraSelfies, and I Don’t Want to Pretend Anymore. I Don’t Want to Play Anymore depicts realizations about self-consciousness as young boys and young girls plunged head on to pubescence. ContraSelfies, meanwhile, confronts the innocence of youth through sincere portraits. In contrast to selfies where young ones act before the camera, ContraSelfies are a series of portraits of young people who are in front of the camera and are very aware about it capturing their images, but according to Direk, they are not performing before the camera. In the last set, I Don’t Want to Pretend Anymore, tells us that even children hide behind masks, even amongst each other. Wanggo says of the collection, “I cannot turn a blind eye to the vision of an older artist instilling meaning and creating an unfolding drama in the still images of the collection. The use of children as a metaphor — whether at the moment when child-like relationships shift into the complex dynamics of the adult world (I Don’t Want to Play Anymore), the stripping down of pretensions (ContraSelfies), or the revelation of what is really deeply hidden behind the masks we wear everyday (I Don’t Want to Pretend Anymore) — reflects the artist finally grasping the changing world around him.”
Direk Peque studied anatomy and line drawing about 12 years ago under Tony Tejado at the La Consolacion College-Bacolod. He spent a semester studying these two subjects and how to bring them together in his drawings. I saw one of his earlier works, which he did while he was still studying, and there is a noticeable difference in his strokes. He brought me to his library that also serves as his studio and showed me his style–crosshatching. I found it to be too tedious, as each layer of the different shades of gray are made up of hundreds of interwoven pencil strokes–all applied with varying pressure from his hand. I was amazed at his control of the pencil while the artist finds it very fulfilling and therapeutic.
How Each Artwork is Made
More than an artist, Direk Peque is a director and his instincts to direct scenes is still intact despite retirement. I first met him about 25 years ago when I took up Production Management under the Negros Summer Workshops that he founded. He is still as authoritative as a director then as he is now. But today, he arranges scenes, takes endless photos, and fixes them on the computer using Photoshop. Sometimes, he digitally composes scenes using photos of different subjects. When he is satisfied with his composites, that is when he starts drawing. Each artwork takes between three to seven days to draw, depending on how intricate the subject is. He usually works in the morning.
So where does he get his inspiration? The director says that ideas come all the time. But the trick is to be able to identify which one is valid enough to follow through. All these 31 artworks have enabled him to express all his ideas and his soul is satisfied. For now, new inspiration for the next series is yet to come.
At a ripe age of 74, Direk Peque is still very sharp–mind, eyes, hands, and art. Age hasn’t dimmed him, in fact, his works have become sharper and more in-depth. Wanggo says of his father, “The vibrancy of his ideas and his sense of humor kept him young.” And even in the short time that I spent with him, I have noticed that, too. He may have packed up the film set after making more than 40 movies in his active career, but the director’s chair hasn’t been folded yet. Direk Peque has now comfortably shifted and settled in his new medium. He has found a new arena to direct.
Catch Gray Locutions from October 28 to November 14, 2017 at Art Cube Gallery in Karrivin Plaza, 2316 Chino Roces, Makati, Philippines. The exhibit is co-presented by Flogelind’s Cookie and Tipsy Juan.