The complete works of the late Filipino artist Romulo Olazo reveal a lifetime's achievement, which any artist with an expansive portfolio
spanning over four decades can be genuinely proud of. Born in 1934 and raised in a family of five children in the coastal town of Balayan
in Batangas province, life was not always easy for the young Olazo, whose father passed away when he was 5 years old. Coming from a humble
background, Olazo's successful ascent to the pinnacle of his profession is therefore a remarkable story of great talent, hard work and
perseverance. In 1951 Olazo enrolled at Manila's University of Santo Tomas to study Fine Art. Thereafter he embarked on an accomplished career in advertising, but creating art always played a role in his life, so he began exhibiting his work alongside his career.
He first exhibited with the Philippines Advertising Counsellors, and later joined in exhibitions with the Art Association of the Philippines. When he eventually transitioned to working as a full-time artist, his earlier exposure to the graphic arts, print-making and comic illustration, together with a solid understanding of fine art contributed to Olazo's experimental and avant-garde approach to painting. His experiences in advertising had broadened his artistic perspective and ultimately influenced his innovative style. Sensing the immense competition amongst artists in the capital, Olazo devised a unique technique of combining collography and serigraphy, with painting and mixed media, to create visually stunning abstract compositions and successfully forayed into the city's burgeoning contemporary art scene of the late 1960's.
Olazo joined the Saturday Group of Artists in 1972, spearheaded first by National Artist Hernando R. Ocampo, and later by National Artist Cesar Legaspi. The group included renowned Filipino artists such as Lino Severino, Ephraim Samson, Agustin Goy and National Artist Ang Kiukok who became his close-knit circle of friends. Regular on-the-spot painting sessions with them, as well as watercolour sessions with National Artist Vicente Manansala, provided an invaluable opportunity for the creation of many captivating figurative and landscape paintings. Nevertheless Olazo is best known for his striking abstract works, which he was passionate about, as can be evidenced in many of his painting series. For example, his longstanding discourse with the Diaphanous Series was quite the undertaking for over 40 years. Tackling varying canvas sizes and formulating a range of hues, the artist carefully applied a glazing technique where he constructed layer upon layer of fine oil paint to build up a composition of depth and volume that maintains a fragile and ethereal appearance, intensified with a translucent light that permeates and suffuses the canvas.
The Swirls Series is a small segment stemming from the larger Diaphanous Series and as the title suggests, the central circular pattern conveys a sense of completeness and resolution that is most satiating. Olazo's father used to construct pin-wheels for him to play with, that seized the contracting and expanding rays of light; one can see the magical childhood influence of this in the paintings. The Swirls Series is a variation of the nuclear Diaphanous Series within Olazo's oeuvre, and it portrays a resoundingly playful, jovial and altogether harmonious collection of paintings that capture the alluring characteristics of colour and light in a spectacularly uplifting fashion.
Hailed as one of the Philippines' most outstanding artists, Olazo has amassed a large following of collectors and admirers locally and on an international level. His fellow countrymen considered that he should have been nominated for a recipient for the Order of National Artist for the Visual Arts of the Philippines. He represented the Philippines in Sao Paolo for the 12th Biennial in 1973 and at the 11th International Biennial of Prints in Tokyo in 1979, for which he won an Honourable Mention. Olazo's paintings have frequently appeared on auction at Christie's and sold well over the reserve price. He participated in many solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe, Asia, South America and the USA, almost annually since 1969 marking over 45 years of total dedication to his art. Even before his recent death at the age of 81, Olazo wasn't looking to stop, or even pause with his painting projects, of which there were plentiful in the pipeline. Many can attest that he was, in fact, rather enjoying the exhilaration that comes in the latter stages of a life-long commitment, the sort that Olazo experienced with his fortuitous career in art, and he was ever grateful that the journey had been a whirlwind of incredible experiences.
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