KUH LEDESMA: More than meets the eye

Art is a collaboration between God and the artist, and the less the artist does the better. ~André Gide

Kuh Ledesma commands attention; not just on the stage where she is known to stun audiences by belting out the most heart rending harmonies, but also towards any canvas that has been touched by her brush. It is on this canvas that she releases her talent in bold and stunning strokes creating works of art that not only moves, but also captivates.

At the heart of Mandaluyong City is Gallery Kuhl, the celebrated chanteuse' very own temple for the arts. A beautiful white house with massive trees, it was formerly a family home; now however it has been transformed into an inviting space that is set to house numerous paintings and countless works of art. Although mainly created to display the singer's discerning artistic taste, from years of her travel and exposure to visual arts, it was also set up to commemorate Kuh Ledesma diving passionately back into her arts after being pushed aside for a widely successful singing career.

''Forty years,'' Kuh answered when asked how long it has been since she last painted, ''and now I have 40 paintings.'' One painting for every year that was spent away from the canvas.

Indeed like everything else that Kuh has done in her life, she entered the art scene with a bang. In the past months that Kuh has enthusiastically worked on her pieces, she exhibits an advanced skill in her manipulation of the brush. While others toil over art books, the talent of Kuh, as in many of the things she has done, flowed effortlessly and naturally. As she faces the canvas, she meets its emptiness like an old friend and communicates her thoughts, her wisdom, her beliefs, her fire and her unique eye for aesthetics. In the emptiness of the canvas, she unleashes her unique style that is as striking and indubitable as her personality.

Done in acrylic, her pieces are mainly rendered in massive canvases, a fitting magnitude for the similarly immense spirit that is contained within Kuh Ledesma's art and ideas.

Kuh's long-standing love affair with art has persevered despite tumultuous times. It was a love affair that began when she was just a young girl. Starting from grade school, when she went to College of the Holy Ghost, now also known as Holy Spirit, all the way until high school in Malate Catholic School, sparks flew between Kuh and the brush, marking the early beginnings of an artistic career. However, amidst the toss-up between having a career in the visual arts and being a nurse, which was a vocation that was more in line with her parents' bidding, she discovered her talent for music, and soon enough the world discovered her.

The career of Kuh is distinguished and widely successful, garnering recognition for her undisputed talent from local admirers to international lovers of music. With countless concerts from all over the world under her belt she continues until now to gift the audience with her touching performances. A mark of a true musician, she seldom needs anything more than a microphone and her voice to create sweet music, performing with a presence that no one can divert their attention from.

However, the gift of Kuh did not just lie with her voice, it extended all the way to her hands where she has managed to create fine pieces that reveal another side to the glitzy persona that she would usually be associated with as a famous singer. Although her love of art cannot be denied, with years spent collecting works of her favorite artists, Kuh's visits to art galleries and museums during her travels around the world was not only for her pleasure, but it also served the purpose of expanding her visual repertoire, which she later applied to her own works. In diving into her artwork, the pieces that she has produced were remarkably mature and advanced relative to the time that she had spent rediscovering her familiarity with the brush. The products are massive works of abstract pieces that display circular and linear strokes and varied shapes. Although her work has been dominated by her love for the pristine and immaculate quality of white, she refuses to shy away from color, exploring fiery reds, emerald greens, among other daring palettes, even occasionally injecting it with gold. Her works reflectes the modern artists that she has come to admire over the years, masters of surrealism and abstractions, the likes of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst and Pablo Picasso. However, more than that, they also exhibit a metaphor for Kuh's renewed perspective in life.

''It's my God thing,'' says Kuh, in referring to her work. Becoming a born again Christian in recent years was one of the catalysts that led to Kuh reigniting her passion for the arts, ''It played a very big part,'' she adds.

The process of Kuh, resuming her artistic calling coincided with her spiritual journey. In the time that she has grown deeper in her relationship with God, painting became her manner of worship and offering to the One who has given her the gifts that she possesses. Perhaps this is what accounts for the fast maturity that her work exhibited despite the fact that she began her collection for her exhibit just six months ago. Her painting is an answer from a prayer to the Creator, to create herself. In her humility, she submitted herself in her capacity and allowed herself to be used, and touched by the Spirit she has managed to create art as the French Nobel Prize winner Andre Gide defined art to be, which is, a collaboration between God and the artist.

Her most recent exhibit at the Whitespace Gallery, which opened last September 13, 2012 was fittingly entitled, ''Unexpected.'' The show unveiled a side to Kuh that people did not know, and yet were delighted to see. With National Artists Bencab and Artuto Luz attending, along with other discerning artists, the 40 paintings that Kuh showcased were well received, proving that indeed, Kuh has stepped into the art scene and is a force to be reckoned with.

A monumental event for the Kuh as an artist, it marked her first solo show, and with the enthusiastic reception that she received from her contemporaries who are themselves notable artists, it is evident that it will surely not be her last.