Portrait of an art collector: Edison John Arriola

·4 min read

There are art collectors, and there are art collectors. Some collect art pieces to show them off, and others collect them as investments. Then, there are art collectors who are drawn to a painting for its beauty, for what it invokes in them; for the connection, the meaning they feel seeing a particular piece of art. Such an art collector is lawyer Edison John Arriola.

Edison, while walking inside Ayala Center Cebu, passed by a stall selling unframed paintings of the Sto. Niño. He would have wanted to buy one but ladies who were nearer the paintings bought them all. Thus, began his search for a Sto. Niño painting which led him to become a serious art collector. He later on realized how “such a big message could come from so little material: a piece of canvas and paint.”

SunStar LIVE! (LIVE!): Since when have you been buying art? How many pieces of art do you now have? By whom?

Edison John Arriola (EJA): “I started with an acrylic on canvas of the Sto. Niño with deep set eyes against hues of pink and purple. This was during the Sinulog celebration of 2019 when exhibits of paintings and icons of the Sto. Niño were aplenty. It was never my intention to purchase any painting until one exhibit reminded me of a style that had appealed to me some years back. I asked the curator of the exhibit if I could see the previous works of the artist and was able to confirm my suspicion. I must have checked over a hundred other paintings online before deciding on about 10 to choose from, and ending up with ‘Akong Niño’ by Cesar Castillo. This was the one that moved me. I thought that was it, but soon I realized that this was not the case in art. In two years, I have been privileged to acquire select pieces of Castillo, Kimsoy, Pepito Vidal, Cacnio, Cristobal, Normandia and Abellana (Jonathan). Most of my paintings are not yet displayed and are scattered in several places.”

LIVE!: How do you choose the paintings you buy or are they the ones that choose you? When you say the painting moves you, what exactly do you mean by that? How does it make you feel, owning that painting?

EJA: “There must be something special about the painting before I part with hard-earned money. This usually takes more than just one visit with the painting, with me trying to find a reason not to acquire the art. I agree with the cliché that something must talk to you. In my case, the painting has to do more than just talk. It should scream at me and pull me toward it. A couple of pieces in my collection had to haunt me in my sleep before I purchased them.

LIVE!: Do you have any preference for the style of the painting and the medium of the painting that you choose?

EJA: “None. But I have found myself gravitating toward subjects that reflect my life, family, faith and advocacies. Based on the art I have acquired so far, works of watercolor on paper allow me to clear up my mind because of some sense of purity I sense from it. Those in acrylic and oil help me meditate, promoting better introspection. Recently, I have discovered that pastel on a watercolor painting enlivens it in a funky, primitive sort of way, reminiscent of cave art. It is such a happy combination.

LIVE!: How does knowing the artists of your paintings make you feel better or good or better satisfied with the object of your choice?

EJA: “I believe in liking art beyond the artist. Knowing about the artist only helps to better appreciate the art you already have. It deepens the experience. I won’t deny, though, that I have developed a bias for artwork of artists I already know, specifically members of Cebuano Artists Incorporated (CAI) because of the experience that goes with collecting their art as I see them grow.”

LIVE!: You mentioned CAI artists. Are there other artists that you may have met and from whom you bought paintings?

EJA: Yes. I participated in a public auction for the benefit of our health workers when the pandemic hit Cebu and got an oil painting on environmental protection by Normandia. I also got pieces from Cacnio who is based in Luzon.

Arriola is an ex-seminarian who has been in law practice for 15 years “with practice revolving around areas of corporate management, labor, energy, intellectual property, data privacy, estate planning, contracts, election and dispute resolution.“

He also teaches at Cebu Doctors’ University and is managing director of Global Village Consulting Asia Pacific Inc., a subsidiary of Gevity Consulting Inc. based in Canada. He is married to an ophthalmologist, Dr. Lyll Karen Bigornia Arriola.

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