Purveyor of Knowledge and Emerging Publisher of Content and Visually Driven Books
April 14, 2024

William Gaudinez over the years

by: Christiane L. de la Paz

June 2013-- William Gaudinez came to public attention during the 1984 Metrobank Painting Competition. Early in his career, he painted vendors, fiesta and childhood scenes but over time found a way to integrate his paintings, love of sculpture and his narrative gifts in crafted mixed media urnas and retablos using capiz and coconut shells, carabao bones and horns, colored beads, jade, mother of pearl and kamagong hardwood shaped into leaves. With this approach, Gaudinez aimed to explore the customs and ritual practices of the indigenous Filipinos and restore the art making traditions of craftsmen in inlaying materials that were often used in carving and embroidery. His work is generally seen as aligned with folk art as he carved, collaged, painted his urnas and retablos with historical and socio-political-cultural-religious vignettes to satirize contemporary society. In both closed and open doors of his urnas, Gaudinez often took up the themes of globalization to make known his call for change. His images were the poor, the working class, the indigenous people as they provided the honest, simple way of life and an appropriate setting for nostalgia. William Gaudinez discusses further the creation of his art, his growth as an artist and the development of his artistic philosophy in this June interview to reinforce the value of folk knowledge and its place in modern day society.

1Sinaunang Binalikan (2010)

Graduating from the University of   Santo Tomas  in 1982, how was your life like when you are starting in your career?  

I  worked  as  a  designer   and  layout  artist   andillustrator   for  tourism  guide books,  job  tabloidsand  gossip  magazines .  I  didn’ t  have an  inkling  that  I  would one  day  end  up  as  a  painter  and  sculptor  although  I  loved  to  draw  and  color   my drawings  and  was  very fascinated   with comic  books  and   animation   Disney  style .

2The Twin Destiny (2008)

Was Fine Arts your first course?

Fine  Arts  was  my  first  course although   I  asked the  advice  of  my uncle  Angelito  Antonio  for  the  best  course   I  should  seriously consider   to  take  up  in  college.

3Sa Mata ng Bundok Banahaw (2010)

And his advice to you was?

He  told  me  to  take  up   Advertising  art because it was  a  practical  choice   that would  put  food  on  my   table  and  feed  my  family. 

4Ang Retablo ng Dalawang Amo (2010)

How are you related to Angelito Antonio? 

My   mother  is  the  eldest  sister   of  my  uncle   Angelito  Antonio.  My  aunt   Norma  Belleza   encouraged   me  to  take  up  the  brush   and start   painting .  I  would  like  to  say  that  I  am   what  I  am  now  because of their   generous  support ,  encouragement  and   faith  in  what I can possibly  do  in  the   future. 

5Panata ng mga Taong Putik (2010)

Who are your contemporaries in UST?

Rowena  Bancod  Gaborni  , Arnel  Cruz , Janau  Saldariega , Tess  Pasola  and  Tony  Gonzalez.  Tess  and  Tony  are  currently    one  of  the hottest  designers  in  crafts  making  using  handmade  paper  today .

6Niluto ng Kasaysayan (2011)

After graduating, what was the first job you applied for?

I was  a  staff  artist at the  Hotel  Las  Palmas  in  Ermita, Manila  where  I  did  all  print  and  layout  requirements  in  ads,  handmade streamers,  posters, etc..

7Pag-ibig sa Magkabilang panig ng Mundo (2011)

After this stint, did you have another job?

I  also did  layout  page  designs and  package   designs  for tourism   guidebooks   and  a  new  novelty  product  called   Shrinky  Dinky   with a  sister  company.

8Urna ng Walong Filipina (1994)

You first entered the art scene in 1983. What was the status of the art scene during those times? 

The  art  scene  had a preference for oil  on  canvas  or  acrylic  on  canvas -all  Western  oriented  subjects and themes. Young artists embraced    the  Western  mode  of   art making . The  most  prominent  first  group  art  exhibition  which  I  joined  was   with   my  cousin, Marcel  Antonio  and  Cesar  Llamas  in  Vigan, Ilocos Sur. 

9Pag-ani ng Tubo (2004)

What did you show in this exhibition?

I  presented   folk  art  themes   such  as  vendors , childhood  scenes , fiestas. 

10Si May-i sa mga mata ni Nostradamus (2010)

Painted in a realistic manner?
In   my own   expressionist   paintings   in oil   on  canvas   folksy   in themes and settings. 

How similar or different are your works from your cousin, Marcel?

Marcel  is  a  great  artist but  his  works  are  influenced   by  Marc  Chagall, Balthus  and  R.B.  Kitaj . I  realized  that   there is  a  lot  more  to rediscover   to  finally   come  up  with  my  own   direction  visually. 

11Kalooban (2010)

Tell me about your first exhibit. 

I  launched  my  first  solo  art  exhibition in Galeria  Mia.  I focused  on  painting the Edsa  Revolution  as  the  central  theme. Everything went very  smoothly. I had a lot of paintings sold.  Only three to four pieces  remained  out  of the twenty-five pieces I mounted.

12Ang Sigaw (2005)

What was the first gallery that carried your works?    

Heritage Gallery and  Galeria Mia.  

13Globalisasyon Gene-e (1999)

Do these galleries require you to submit a proposal for your exhibit? 

No. They  simply  asked   me  to  do  what  is   simply  familiar  and  colorful   to  the  eyes. 

14Yakan Interlude (1999)

For the ideas of your own exhibitions, how do you try to be different in concepts and executions? 

In  conceptualizing and  executing  each  mixed  media  retablo   and  urna,  I   do  research  on  severalurnas  and  retables  done  by unknown artisans.  I  also try  to  be  flexible  on  the use  of inlaid  materials  which  I  engrave on  hardwood   or terracotta   such  as   carabao  bone , carabao  horn , mother  of  pearl , jade , stone,  coconut   shell  chips , colored  beads, kamagong   hardwood   shaped  into  leaves and glow in  the  dark   cutouts  which  I  use   for  inlaid  stars.  I  try  to  conceptualize  and  execute  new approaches  on  how  the  form  of  the urna  or retablo  would  look  like  on both  closed  and  opened  doors   since  the  doors  have   pegs  which  can  swing  on  wooden  hinges.  I  also try  to  explore   indigenous  practices and rituals as well as colorful festivals celebrated by indigenous peoples.

15Sa Baybayin ng Lemuria (1999)

Tell me about the imagery you paint in the urnas. 

Some  of  my  urnas  have   narratives  to  complement  my  paintings that are socio -political,  socio-cultural , socio-religious   in themes. Oftentimes,   I  utilized   stories that are   familiar  to Pinoy  audience  but are universally addressed to an international audience including globalization,  environmental  destruction   caused   by   multinational  companies,  the  vast  influence  of   Western   civilization  and  its   materialistic   lifestyle     that have  contaminated and  changed  us. 

16Kasal (2005)

Sometimes there are also texts painted in your urnas like scriptures. What are these texts about?

Yes. I try to expand  the  concept  of  comic books.  Instead   of   putting thought   bubbles,  I  utilized  texts   to  put forward my statements and concerns.  Oftentimes, I  give hints of what I want to  say. 

Do you make us of old urnas or you make your own urnas?

As  much  as  possible,  I  make  my  own  urnas but  there  was  a  time  that  an  art  collector   commissioned  me  to  do  a  retablo  with  an  antique  gradas  (the feet of  ancient  retablo).

17Ang Mga Tala ng mga Manobo (2012)

Where do you source your hardwood and carabao bone inlays?

From    people  who  have   a  large  collection  of   old   hardwoods.  My  inlays,  I  get  them  from   various   sources   outside   of  Manila . 

What made you decide to pursue mixed media urnas and retablos?

I  was    fascinated  with  the  visual  possibilities   of  making  my  own  versions  of  the   ancient  retablo  and  urna  and   at  the  same  time   fusing  the  nearly  extinct   folk  art  practice  of  inlaying   carabao  bone ,  mother  of  pearl,  colored  beads, hardwood and carabao horn, among others. 

18Ang Mga Mukha ng Buwan (Subanon Phases of the Moon) (2012)

When you are in the process of working, who exactly is the viewer you have in mind?  

I don’t focus on  the viewer. I  concentrate   on  how  I  can  better   present   and  enhance  the  subject  matter.  If  I feel   that  certain  details   need upgrading to make  the  subject  matter  as contemporary  and  familiar   to  the  viewer  then  I   develop  and  enhance it  prior  to actual sculpting  and  painting .

Do you agree that the first exhibit of a painter could make or break his career? 

I  just  went  on and  enjoyed   my  transition  period  from  canvas   to  mixed  media  assemblages .

19Bakunawa Rising (2010)

Are you a member of any artist’s group?  


Have you ever won any important awards?  

I’m  thankful  that  all  that  hard  work,  persistence  and  determination  I did paid  off . The  most  recent  award I received was  a  finalist  for the  non -traditional   components  category   for  the  Guild  of  Philippine  Jewellers /Hiyas  Jewelry  Design   Competition  2012.The Parangal sa  Sining   at  Kalinangan   Award   for  sculpture   2011  given  by  the Manila  City  Government   as  part  of  their   440th   anniversary. 

In  1994, I  received Third  Prize from  the  Letras  y  Figuras    III   painting  competition  at  the Instituto  Cervantes,  Manila. I was awarded one of the Best Entry in the same competition in 1997. In  1990,  I  received   the  Third Prize  from  the  NCCP-CCA   Painting   competition  in Manila. In  1984,  I  received  the  Best  Creative   Design  Award  for  the  Cosmetic  Invitational   Design  Competition   from  the Fritz  Walter Lange   Foundation. I   also  received   an Art  Residency  awards   from  the  Oceasie  Art  and  Cultural   Group  in  Nantes,  France.   I was the Philippine  representative  in  Asia  in 1996 and   also  another   Art  Residency  award  from    Uijae  Art  Studio   as  the  Philippine   representative   in  Woonlim-dong, Dong  gu, Gwangju,  South   Korea  in  2007.

20Divine Cross (2003)

Do you think a painter can become commercially successful without receiving any award in his career?    

Yes. Being  commercially   successful    depends  on  the intentions   or  goals  of the artist and  how the artist defines  success. 

21Heavenly Bodies Over Tawi-Tawi (2010)

Whose style are you drawn to painting during your student years?

I  was  fascinated   by  the  German  Expressionists, Max  Beckmann and  Emil  Nolde, among others.

22Hilot at Ibang Hindi Pangkaraniwang Gamot (2010)

Which local painters had an influence on your art?

I   admire  my  uncle,  Angelito  Antonio, my  aunt  Norma  Belleza,  Antonio   Austria   and  Mario  de  Rivera.

23Manobo Lumad (2010)

Any foreign influences who have fascinated your imagination?

I’m  fascinated  by  Mexican  folk  art    and  other  unknown   artists  who  havecreated  icons  and retables  with  religious  themes .  Their naïve renditions  often inspire  me  to   create  innovative   versions wherein  I apply   both  sculpting, carving ,  inlaying  indigenous  materials on  both  hardwood  and   terracotta.

24Cultural Parallels (2007)

Who handles the business side of your profession?   

I don’t have a manager  since  I  started   doing  art.  In God’s grace, art projects  just  keep  on coming   by.

25Ang Pagpapatuloy ni Gabriela (1994)
Do you have an idea of the profile of collectors who buy your works?  

In  my  recent  solo   art exhibition,  “Orasang  Pilipino”  at  the  Gallery  Indigo   in  Bencab  Museum, I  discovered  that  my  new collectors, much  to  my  surprise ,  comprised  of  a  famous  media  personality , businessmen, a  leading   attorney,  two  very  famous artists,  a Filipina and  an  Australian national. 

26Mawawala Nga Ba Ang Hakang (1997)

How do you think these collector display your painted urnas in their individual spaces? 

I don’t  have  any  idea.  When I displayed  my urnas in exhibitions,  they were installed   atop  some  pedestals   so  that  the  visitors  can  view them conveniently.  My thoughts are that they are most probably installed  atop   some  pedestals in their individual spaces. 


27Ang Sitangkai Bakcground (1999)

What has been the best compliment said about you or your work?   

I  overheard  a  very  prominent  visual  artist  and  a writer  telling  me  that  when  it comes  to  my  version  of  doing  mixed  media  retables and  urnas,  I’m  the  only one  who  actually  does  these  kinds  of  work.

28The Southern Spectrum (2001)

And what have you been criticized of?  

Some  critics  tell  me  that  my  works  remind  them  of  a  a  prominent  senior  artist  who does   wood  cutouts. For sure, no one can  say that he  owns   an  exclusive  patent   of a  certain  technique   or  style in art.  My  works  are  a  combination   of  sculpting , cutout and extensive  inlaying of  indigenous  materials on  wood  and  terracotta.

29The Tattooed Nightmare (2007)

Would you say that you are more of an artist or a sculptor with these kinds of work?

I am both since  through   sculpting  expressed  my concept  through  a dimensional   approach  in the same way as old   traditional   sculptors and wood   carvers   have done  in  the  past.

30The Tattooed Nightmare (2007)

Tell me about you.

I was born  on March  1960. I  had   a  difficult  time adjusting  to my   growing  up years   since   my  late   father    was a  drunkard and  a gambler . My father and I hardly talked   because he was sober. I  wished  I  could   gotten more  advice  from  him  during my younger years.

31The Tattooed Nightmare (2007)

What are some of your fond memories of your childhood?

Watching  colorful  cartoons   which  later   convinced  me  to   try  my  hand  in   video  animation   after  I graduated from college  at the University of Santo Tomas. I  also  made   my  own  versions  of   spaceships ,  sharks ,  after  watching  TV   shows  and  science  fiction movies.

32Anting Anting ng Panahon (1994)

What about your early life and education?

I  was  drawn  to   cartoons  and  comic  books   and  colorful    toys   as a child. I became   fascinated  with   how  I  can  create  my  own versions  of  toys  and  cartoon  characters . 

33Diwa ng Babaylan (1994)

Where did you spend your primary and secondary education?

I  studied   in  Don  Bosco   Makati  Grade  School    for  my  primary  education  and   for  my   secondary  education,  I  studied at the Sta. Clara  Parish  School . 

Have you always liked art?

Yes  although  I   didn’t   really  had  an  inkling  that  I would one  day  end  up  as  a  painter  and  sculptor . 

34Paghahanap kay Perry (2011)

What made you decide to study Painting in the University of Santo Tomas?

I took the advice  of  my  uncle,  Angelito  Antonio   and   my  aunt  Norma Belleza. I  will forever  be  grateful   for  all  their valuable advice, help  and full support.

Who were some of your professors during your college years?

Mario Parial, Rhoda  Recto.  Prof.  Parial  had a  hand  in   helping   me  find what  i  really  wanted  to  do.  He was   a  very supportive,  understanding,  and  patient  art  Professor  I’ve  ever  had. Even after graduation,   he guided  me   and  gave me valuable   advice  which  to  this day  I  always   use. He said that   to become a  Filipino   artist, I should  instill   and  express   the   Filipino  culture,  psyche  and   persona in the  best  and innovative way. 

35Mga Pangaral na Nasayang (1994)

You have exhibited abroad many times in the past. How different or similar is it to exhibit in other countries?  

It’s a  beautiful  and  challenging  experience   to  exhibit  my  works  in other  countries   because   you  adopt  their   standards   which  is  not the  same  in   the  Philippines.   For  example,  their  manner  of hanging  paintings    requires  a   steel  wire.   They also  require  the artist  to use  acid  free  materials. 


What exhibit do you consider memorable? Yours or by other artists?

I  would  say   I  find  other  artist’s   solo  and  group   art  exhibitions   fascinating   but   of  course  I   also have  very  fond  memories   of  my own art  ventures.


Tell me about your most memorable exhibition.

It  was  the  OCEASIE  art  residency   group  art  exhibition in  1996, my first time  to  represent   the  country  and   launched  my  works   for the  French  and  Filipinos   in  Nantes ,  Cholet ,  Malakoff ,   St.  Nazaire  and   Paris. It was  also  my   first  time  to   visit  a  foreign  country . When  the  Philippine  embassy   contacted  me   to  help  me  in  making  a  proposal  to  launch  my  solo show  in   Espace  Beaujon, Rue de Fabourg   San  Honore, Paris   in  1997.  Before   the  opening, the consul,  Madam  Cookie  Feria   together   with  Ambassador   Villaruel   decided   to  make  it  a   3  man   art exhibition  together   with   Sandra  Palomar   and  Gaston  Damag.  The visual experience was  mind blowing as I did not expect  the   French  audience   would  be appreciative of  my  approach  in  doing  my  Neo-folk  art.  


What do you think is the best audience to have during art exhibitions?

Admittedly,   a  young   audience  is  quite   fun  to  be around and meet with  because   they  are  hungry  for   answers. They asked questions about our cultural history  which for now may be unknown  to  them.

You have been around the art industry for quite some time. Do you still get insecure? 

I have no reason  to  be  insecure  because  I  always find  inspirations   in  every  day  living.  I get  excited when  I  rediscover   unfamiliar details   which  I  haven’t  thought  of  and  I’ve taken for  taken  for  granted. I   know I can   innovate  and  fuse  it  to  new  concepts  and   eventually  to my  mixed  media  works. 

What is your view on the state of our contemporary art? 

I’m  quite  square  about it because  I  still   favor  a  conservative   direction  when  it  comes   to  art  making .  I get   depressed  and disappointed   when   some  artists  take   religion  as  a  subject  for example and   use  freedom  of  expression  as  an excuse   to  do blasphemous    works  which  they  can easily label as art. Artists   must   be  sensitive   to other  people’s  feelings   and  concerns.  In my case, after being hospitalized twice over and now living my third life, I am  blessed  that I still get to create  and  innovate through  my faith  and art.

Do you support exhibitions by other artists? 

Yes especially   if  I  find  that the  artist  has   an  established  record  of  achievement   or   if  a young  artist   has  a  promising  potential.  I root  and  support  them. 


Where do you think your art fit in the puzzle in contemporary art?

The  traditional   backdrop   that   nobody  has  thought   of  in  the  first  place   would   be   more  than  sufficient .  I  thought   that  if  I   come up  with  something   different  and  that the  audience   could relate  to it   in  terms  of   our cultural  tradition then  that  would  be   very  nice to have. 


Do you think your body of work holds a significant place in the history of Philippine art? 

I  would  let  the Filipino  collectors  describe  that  for  future  generations   to  come.