Jenny’s Serendipity’s featured artist, Ronna Mannansala, is the granddaughter of the Philippines’ National Artist in Visual Arts, Vicente Manansala, a painter and sculptor. Her years of childhood were spent with fond memories of her family in the Philippines. Weekends and summer vacations were spent in the house of her Lolo (Grandpa) Enteng.
She was never allowed by her Lolo to go to his studio, being his sacred place, she would peek from the attic while she silently watches and observes her Lolo’s masterly strokes and moments of creation. She remembers these as her moments of curiosity and wonder, to be one, yet at a distance with her Lolo in pure appreciation of every masterpiece.
As the granddaughter, Ronna Manansala naturally paid homage by interpreting her Lolo’s style that departed from the rural idylls of Fernando Amorsolo for the realism of rural and urban life after the Japanese occupation. She picked female themes of mother and child, grieving Virgin Mary, market vendors, gossiping women, and family meals and stayed close to his style that departed from analytical cubism or the intentional breaking down of subject into near abstract form.
In terms of interpreting his themes, Ronna opted for her progenitor’s time-related representation instead of adapting in current terms. However, Ronna did not choose a direct interpretation of his style but opted to do it in the opposite manner, through bold colors and sure brushstrokes in the broader concept of the original cubism that is unmistakably her own. They are not delicate but brash, preferring to continue his use of decorative linear planes that run counters to her femininity. If Vicente Manansala was almost feminine, Ronna is near masculine.
She also pursued a parallel career in the arts, as a ballet dancer. It was where she was happiest, yet painting was never forgotten. Her series of Ballerina paintings blends her love of painting and dancing. As she moves to new styles of painting entirely her own, she remembers her grandfather, as a child sitting on his lap, hearing his stories and kind words, sharing in his love and joy.
Here is what she shared to us:
How does it feel to be the granddaughter of a National Artist? Is there any pressure? You’re now into art as well. Describe your journey.
It is not easy to be a granddaughter of a National Artist. When I was just starting, a lot of people were putting me down kasi daw (because) all I did was copy my grandfather’s work. Of course I did when I was just starting. It was my way of discovering my momentum. But of course later on – I found my own identity. Nobody even wanted to include me in group exhibits, that is why I decided to go back to school to pursue masteral studies in Fine Arts.
Your lolo was into the Visual Arts. Is that your goal as well? Do you dream of becoming a national artist on your own right too, someday?
I am into visual arts though not even thinking of becoming popular, more so of becoming a National Artist. I do what I do because I love doing it.
You are also a ballet dancer. How does that work for you? How does performance art intertwine with your visual art?
I used to dance ballet but not anymore for a long time. It is something that will always be close to my heart. Having that in me is enough to be inspired in doing my art.
Reading your bio, it mentions that you have a penchant to paint into the feminine. Is there a conscious effort? Expound the logic or the vision behind taking on the feminine form in your art.
There is no conscious effort. Maybe, it’s because I was closer to the women of the family.
It said in your bio too that you have adaptation versions of your lolo’s works and that of Amorsolo. Why did you do it? Is there a line-up of other artists in the future whom you intend to cover?
No, not of Amorsolo but only of my grandfather. I did it to find my momentum and later on to discover what I really want.
Among your art work, which is your favorite and why?
I guess, it’s my ballerinas because it is also what I used to love doing.
You are taking up masteral studies now in UST. Do you intend to teach in college or is that for promotion in the corporate world?
The only reason why I am back in school is for self-betterment, hoping to learn more. Teaching is something that I might consider but maybe only on a part-time basis. My goal is just to be better and learn.
How many siblings do you have? Are you the only descendant who inherited your lolo’s love for art?
With my mom, there are only three of us and yes, I am the only one who loves art. I guess because I was the only one who pursued it.
Why do you use bold strokes in your work? Describe your trademark as an artist in contrast to that of your lolo, Amorsolo and others?
I am more comfortable in doing so. Gusto ko kasi yung parang walang limitasyon yung mga (I like it that there seems to be no limitation in the) lines.
Who are the other artists of today that you look up to and why?
Marami (A lot) – my classmates in school, my co-artists in my various art group kasi (because) I learn a lot from them.
What is the future of your art? Any grandiose plans you want to plug?
I would not know but for sure, I have no plans of giving up for more self-betterment.
All images are courtesy of Ronna Manansala.