Saul Hofileña Jr. on his HOCUS opus

(Part 2)

Daily Tribune (DT): The HOCUS exhibition was the most publicized art exhibition that I have seen so far. Why was the public so enthralled by it?

Saul Hofilena Jr (SHJ): Maybe because of its novelty and the way the National Museum presented the exhibition. Also, each time there was a HOCUS exhibition, I would write a book detailing the history behind each artwork, and lectures were conducted in the National Museum of the Philippines.  There was even a monograph written by the late Sylvia Mayuga and the historian Xiao Chua about HOCUS.
DT: What made you decide to shift careers?

SHJ: I am still a lawyer. Although in lieu of my regular teaching classes, I have turned to teaching lawyers in the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education program. I write about law in a national daily in a column published every Saturday.  So, everything is still about law.

Photographs courtesy of Saul Hofileña Jr
‘La pesadilla (The Nightmare),’ oil on canvas, 4 feet x 11 feet, on permanent exhibit at the National Museum of the Philippines

DT: Anything about history?
SHJ: I have recently released a book entitled Luna, Arquitecto which is about the life of Juan Luna’s equally brilliant son, Andres Luna de San Pedro.
A few days ago, I was talking to the renowned historian Dr. Danilo Gerona and he urged me to write more about history.  So maybe I will write a sequel to Under the Stacks, my first history book.

DT: Where do you get your ideas?
SHJ: I think in images. The solution to a problem that I am tasked to solve as a lawyer comes in images.  When I want to describe a certain event, the image of that event instantly flashes in my mind. So, all I need is to find the words to describe it, or the brush to paint it.

DT: The artworks of HOCUS are unusual because it was one person who thought of the images and another person who actually painted them.  Who, then, is the artist?
SHJ: I once had lunch with Eugene Tan, the director of the National Gallery of Singapore and the Singapore Art Museum.  A great guy, very well-educated and humble.  He asked me how the paintings were made, then he said that I am, in fact, the artist.

I told him that I cannot paint and that the real artist would be that hypothetical being, the anghel de cuyacuy, since it is the symbol of a joint collaboration.

However, when you analyze things, you will find that each HOCUS painting consists of four layers.

The first layer consists of the persons that the paintings depicted — either Jose Rizal, the friars who came here, or the other heroes of the story that the painting wishes to present.

Photograph courtesy of Saul Hofileña Jr
‘Dito po sa Amin.’

The second is the person who imagined the contents of the painting and who made the arrangements of the images and did the research.

The third is the person who took the pictures or painted the initial images which the painter used as the basis for the composition.

The fourth layer is the painter.

I occupied the second tier while Guy Custodio occupied the fourth tier in the HOCUS ladder.

So, each painting is the product of a collective effort.

DT: Who is the anghel de cuyacuy?
SHJ: He is the symbol of the HOCUS paintings, the avatar, to use a more contemporary term. You can call him a synergetic signature.
He is a Filipino angel wearing a gourd hat, sitting on a native bench and reading a book. He prefers to fight ignorance than Satan’s evil horde.

DT: Can a HOCUS painting be made without your consent?
SHJ: Even the Mona Lisa can be duplicated. But if it is signed without the anghel de cuyacuy, or a smaller copy is made, it can only mean that I did not participate in its making and the ideas have been stolen.  The painting will not tell the truth and art will be used to tell a lie. The artwork will not resonate with the truth.  The ideas presented would be stolen ideas.

DT: Are the HOCUS paintings registered with any government office?
SHJ: Yes. All the HOCUS paintings are registered with the Intellectual Property Office and the anghel de cuyacuy is a registered trademark.

DT: What made you embark on the HOCUS project?
SHJ: Because of the internet, people, especially young people, have become more visually oriented.  To catch their attention, you have to first present the picture then explain in text what the picture is all about.  That is HOCUS, it presents our country’s history in a way that people who see the paintings will be curious to learn more. When they become curious, I then tell them my story.

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