“Capturing the Beauty of Spanish Colonial Era Houses”
by Jennifer Bichara
Fidel Sarmiento’s interest in colonial houses has brought him to various places where surreal step back to the times when streets were made of cobblestones and houses were built with brick. Their collective charms were stemmed from his initial college work while taking up an architectural degree course at MAPUA Institute of Technology. These places are a living panorama where the rich colonial heritage dialogues stoutly with the present in which much of this interaction resides in Sarmiento’s old house paintings.
Colonial Spanish in this era, the nipa hut or “Bahay Kubo” gave way to the “Bahay na Bato” (stone house) which became the typical house of Filipino aristocrats. The stone house followed the nipa hut’s arrangements such as open ventilation and elevated apartments. The most obvious difference between the two houses would be the materials that were used to construct them. They were made out of brick and stone rather than the traditional bamboo materials and are a fusion of native Filipino, Spanish and Chinese influences.
Fidel Sarmiento’s paintings have very polished architectural details and strong interaction of light and textures. He does not only capture the mood of the morning light, he essentially paints the light. Sarmiento paints directly onto the canvas while studies are done perceptually only using photographs as a point of reference. He injects details like plants, animals, and human figures to sensationalize contrast between what is old and what is new, a subsidiary insinuation to the generation conflicts between the past and the present.
He presents both the interior and exterior views of provincial ancestral houses, whether full or cropped, depending on the dictates of the composition and the corresponding mood, as the artists wants to intensify. There are also street scenes to properly situate the houses and their vicinities. There are also pigeons, cats and other pets thrown into the conformations to respire life into the paintings.
Sarmiento, having gained the recognition of his fellow artists, was elected President of the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP) for three consecutive terms. He gave new horizons for the members by nurturing relationships with the artist’s groups in other Asian countries and reassuring art competitions sponsored by both private and public companies.