Faces and Flowers from Jan and Gel

MANILA, Philippines - Jan Olympus Salvador ''Janos'' Delacruz, 26, is a non-stop and lightning journal-drawer, an award winning printmaker and an avid oil painter who thrives on dreams and images of pop culture, making him one of the most interesting artists to watch in the Philippines today.

The young Delacruz, together with his father, master printmaker Fil Delacruz, 61, and ''flower-painter'' Angelica ''Gel'' Bustos Jamlang, 34, have a show entitled ''Human/Nature'' at the Philippine Consulate Center on Fifth Avenue in New York, which will open on March 12 and end on the 24th.

In this show, the elder Delacruz has 10 oil portraits of his famous muses in monochromatic and earth colors; Jamlang, 20 oil paintings of provocatively designed voluptuous flowers; and the young Delacruz, 20 oil paintings of his neighbors - culled from the street where he lives with his dad - at Bahay Sining - in Soldiers' Hills subdivision in suburban Muntinlupa.

''My portrait of a doctor looks like Patch Adams (movie character); my portrait of a college student is half-Geek, half party-goer, just like Jekyll and Hyde,'' says Delacruz. Also included in his assemblage are other characters in the neighborhood such as the plumber, garbage man, lawyer, fanatic, priest and poker player, among others. He has enhanced them, in color and form, with images of pop culture, making them look like popular cartoon and movie characters that many young people are familiar with (the American culture).

''Doing the whole assemblage was like going back to my childhood or revisiting ''Sesame Street.'' I grew up with ''Sesame Street.'' When I was young, I got to know my neighborhood because of that TV show,'' he says. ''Painting the people in my neighborhood now began with talking to people. I wrote my interactions with them before I did my art pieces.''

The young Delacruz has been a peripatetic journal-keeper of his thoughts since he started expressing himself through drawings (pen and ink) and poems at a young age. His avid activity has resulted in ''notebooks of my mind'' that are expected to grow in volumes as he matures as an artist. In his notebooks are stuff of the invisible world such as dreams and feelings that he objectifies with forms, shapes and words (poems).

How does he do it? ''At night, I try to remember in my journal what I did and felt the whole day. When I wake up in the morning, I try to capture my dreams. I think my dream starts when I wake up. I mean, sometimes, for five seconds, as I chase my dreams in my mind, I keep asking myself, nangyari ba ito o panaginip lang? I ask my brother about that, too. My conversations with him (about dream and reality) are the things I draw in my journal,'' he explains

The collection of his daily thoughts which he calls ''surreal and autobiographical'' made a debut and was immortalized as art in 2000, when he was a 14-year old high school student, in an art exhibit at the Madrigal Arts Center, in Alabang town center, a southern suburban area.

''Surprisingly, the show was successful. I realized then that I could do art for a living; that I could do something that I love and that people appreciate me for it,'' he recalls his joyous moment at the time.

His dream of becoming an artist started to be fulfilled six years later, in 2006, when he was a fourth year college student. His 30 etchings entitled ''Tales in the Big City,'' were shown at the Crucible Gallery in SM, Mandaluyong. On 11'' x 14'' canvasses he drew people moving in and out the city, on a bus, going to work or going somewhere - to a destination.

''I'm really passionate about printmaking. To do graphic arts, one has to understand its machines, the chemicals involved in it, and the tedious process. Traditional printmaking involves a process that makes one a craftsman,'' he explains.

At 19, before he graduated from his art studies at the University of Santo Tomas, his litograph entitled ''Bulong sa Panaginip,'' which depicted a man whose mouth shines with a rising sun against a rich background of birds, plants, and waves of water, won first prize in the competition of the Printmakers Association of the Philippines (PAP) in 2005.

Just before his graduation, he won first prize in the Art Association of the Philippines' (AAP) printmaking category in 2006, for a litograph entitled ''Hari ng Kamaynilaan,'' which depicted a man with a crown, and the city - in his mind - rising at his back.

A digital work entitled, ''Tulog Na, Nena,'' which depicted an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who was wearing a rosary that looked like a noose, won second price in Shell's student art competition in 2006.

In an art exhibit entitled ''Salvador'' (his other name) at Artistsgallery in BF Paranaque in 2008, Delacruz showed prints that he meticulously edited and refined from his journals; he presented them side by side with the enlarged photocopies of the raw images from his journal. ''My artist friends and I liked the spontaneously- made raw images that were photocopied from my journals. But the buyers wanted the prints that I made (and refined) from these images,'' he explains. ''What I am doing is to enhance the spontaneous image, but I end up editing and refining it,'' he says, a revelation that spontaneity cannot be repeated at all.

Whether he is drawing in pen and ink, doing printmaking, or painting in oil and watercolor, his characters are always androgynous, without sex. Explaining this, he says, ''I draw people that are androgynous because I treat people equally. What I emphasize are the two sides of the person, that's worth looking into.''

After a group show in Singapore in 2008, ''I have been doing prints between 2009 and 2010 for collectors,'' he says about his growing popularity.

Talking about influences, the young Delacruz says, ''I grew up in a house full of artworks. I've been influenced by my dad. He teaches me, but he allows me to develop my own identify and my own colors; he allows me to grow as an artist. I see myself grow as a painter. I still have a long way to go in my career. When I see the body of works of my dad, I tell myself, if he can do it, so can I.''

Talking more about his family, he notes, ''When I am smiling, I see my dad in my face; when I'm serious and quiet, I see my mom,'' he says, with reference to his mother, a nurse who went to the United States in 2004.

***

After graduating from her art studies, majoring in advertising, at the University of the Philippines in 2000, Angelica ''Gel'' Bustos Jamlang started making murals of flowers as big as four by eight feet, for Sta. Fe, a family-owned construction firm. When she and her mother Cynthia established Pueblo as their own construction company in 2008, she continued making murals of flowers for clients who wanted more colors in their homes.

''They are offered as wish-list when we bid for contracts to build houses,'' says the beauteous Jamlang, now a flower-muralist of 12 years who knows intimately the voluptuous physiognomy of flowers that stare back at viewers one thousand times their real size.

Her paintings of calla lilies, hibiscus, magnolias, roses and tulips on the walls, doors, artificial columns, furniture and parts of ceilings almost rise and tiptoe like a quiet, elegant and sexy presence; they almost secrete a secret voluptuous smell in any room that she has lovingly decorated like a garden. ''Even if I add a wilting part of the flower, on the stem, or on the petals, the house owners don't mind it at all. They see the bigger picture,'' she says.

In 2008, when she and her mother established Pueblo, she also decided to devote her time to art - meaning to paint flowers in oil and on smaller canvas. ''In the 20'' by 20'' canvas of flowers that I am showing at the Philippine Consulate this March, I tried to create the so-called synapse of feelings on flowers - in a small scale, which was quite a handicap,'' she says.

Looking forward, she wants to go make large scale paintings of flowers, adding, ''Hopefully when I do that, I will not be making just big and pretty pictures of flowers - that there is something there (in the dark spaces of blooming flowers).''

In 2009, she married her long-time partner, feature writer Ron Regis, now a poker coach. They were divorced in 2010. ''We are friends now,'' she attests.

Her father Eliezer Jamlang, whose family owned Myra's Sporting Goods, established Artistsgallery on 190 Aguirre Street in suburban Paranaque in the '80s. Although he left for the United States in 1992, when she was still a high school student, she says, ''It was not something sad because I see him now and then.''

Yes, this artist practices her art in life, something that she has seen from her chosen subject matter - that flowers eternally bloom; they hardly die despite memories of their wilting.