November 23, 2005

Sanso's love affair with art
Paolo Nicolas

UNKNOWN to many, painting is a very tiring physical and mental effort. The artist has to express in his art everything that he “eats, breathes, and feels” as Juvenal Sanso explains it. “You have to express yourself totally or else it is best not to paint at all.”

Sanso even compares the act of painting to a form of psychoanalysis because it is “showing to the public what you are inside out.” “So if you cannot give it your all, it is best not to paint at all,” says the Catalunian born artist.

“The best way for me,” says the soon-to-be 76-year-old artist is “to keep painting for as long as the mood goes on,” he says describing his work habits. When that is done, he keeps the painting first, unfinished as they are. After that, he goes on to work on the older paintings that are one-third to two-thirds finished. These may have been started anywhere from three to 20 years before. He works on these until he feels saturated about them and then he puts them aside when he is no longer in the mood to work on them.

He then goes to old or even much older paintings that are 85 to 99 percent finished. “That,” he says, “is the most delightful part of painting—the starting and the finishing,” he says with the characteristic Sanso smile. “It is the middle portion that takes very hard work,” he adds.

He can even go back to a painting that was started more than 20 years ago. “The most important thing,” he says, “is that I never allow myself to be bored because I only work on the paintings that excite me at the moment.”

He compares his painting to that of a love affair. “You can never predict how one’s painting is going to turn out. Some days it’s like playing the piano with boxer’s gloves on while on other days it is like pure magic.”

His works are part of the collections of top museums in the world such as the Musee d’art Moderne in Paris, the Rosenwald National Gallery of Washington, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the art collection of the City of Paris, the Royal Academy of Madrid and the Cultural Center of the Philippines and many other top museums of the world. His list of collectors include Jean Cocteau, Elsa Schiaperelli, Nelson Rockfeller, the Rothschild family, Vincent Price, and Joseph Pulitzer Jr. His other collectors include the Soeharto family of Indonesia, Prince Michel of Greece, Princess Chubhot of Thailand and many prominent Filipino, American, and European families.

At the 20th anniversary auction of Sotheby’s Southeast Asian Art on Singapore last October, a 28.75” x 36.25” still life by the artist was included and sold at double the original estimate. As a celebration of this event as well as a tribute to the distinguished artist, his collectors and friends have organized a fitting tribute to him. The show, which will feature 40 works, is entitled “Felicitations.” It opens on Saturday, November 26 at the main activity center, 2nd floor, The Podium.

The exhibit is being coordinated by Galerie Joaquin Podium. The group chose “Felicitations” as the title of the exhibit. It is French for “congratulations” since it is a fitting way to celebrate Sanso’s accomplishments and timely birthday greeting for the artist who turns 76 this month.

Twenty-four works will come from collectors while the rest will come from Galerie Joaquin’s collection. Galerie Joaquin Podium is located at B12-13, lower ground level of the Podium in Ortigas center. For inquiries, call 723 9253 or visit

Through experience, he has learned to appreciate the delicate balance between composition and chance. Composition being his primary concern, he points out that elements like rhythm, color, form, light and mass should be structured in such a way that would hold attention of a viewer. Composition, according to him is the determining factor whether a painting is good or bad.

Afterwards, he believes that everything is a matter of chance, though provoking it is an ability acquired through time. “Like life, you let it flow,” he relates, “but you shouldn’t keep looking and being conscious of what you’re doing or else the effort shows and the painting will look forced.”

What Sanso has learned to do through the years is to keep on exploring and expounding on his vision of a particular subject and stops only when he really feels the artwork is complete. For this accomplished artist, the greatest challenge continues to be how to produce artworks as well as he possibly can.