Earthy Art
Posted:7:41 PM (Manila Time) | Jul. 13, 2002
By Rowena C. Burgos
Inquirer News Service. This story was taken from

LOVELLA Joaquin with her creations, "Paghandum (Longing for Someone)" and "Pagpaabot (Waiting)"

LOVELLA Joaquin is one of soil painting's flame keepers in Davao. The ray of hope she offers is further brightened by two other artists, Raul Bendit and Romualdo de la Cruz, who try to keep the same faith.

In her bare-all approach, Joaquin creates works that are simultaneously rough and lyrical. She makes jagged emotional landscapes in colors that range from earthy to bilious.

Joaquin uses yellow and red soil from Malaybalay, black from Samal, peach from Camiguin and green from Bukidnon.

"Using soil as medium is not that popular yet, but the technique is very easy," Joaquin says. "It's messy but no fuss. You don't have to use an easel, just ordinary brushes. Soil painting is cheap. It becomes expensive when you run out of soil and you have to travel to other places to get it."

Joaquin dilutes the soil in water and wait for it to dry. She uses glue so the hues of the soil won't easily fade. The finished work on thick "katsa" can even be folded or rolled without any danger of destroying the art piece.

The process and making people appreciate the medium are a struggle. "My friend Raul [Bendit] sells his works for only 1,000 pesos a piece so he can have the money to buy basic necessities," she says. "I try to help him uplift the art by selling his works on the Web."


Joaquin used to work with oil, watercolor and pastels. "When I finally found my medium, I found it hard to stop painting with soil."

Since she began her love affair with soil in 2000, she has taken the emotions and events that have come her way and fervently documented each passage, with all of their anxiety and struggle, in her paintings.

Joaquin's art is all about being a mother, daughter and lover, and the intense sweep of emotions produced by such strong attachments. Under these circumstances, one feels both "in control and out," as she has said of herself.

Although autobiographical in nature, the paintings are far from literal. Merging spontaneity and structure, Joaquin conveys her meaning through the use of loose brushstrokes and a wealth of abstracted images. Themes of life and death, resurrection and redemption have appeared in her work again and again over the years.

One cannot help but admire Joaquin for her ferocious conviction. Her works appear to be all about life and its struggles. But they may also be considered as nothing but an artist's determination to push soil and painting as far as they will go.

Joaquin manages to make paintings about love and beauty (or their absence) that are free of the taint of sentimentality. While the paintings are aggressive, their energy comes not from anger but strength, and they reveal, beneath it all, an endearing vulnerability.

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