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Plastics and Colors of Youth

Fernando Sena

April 1 - 29, 2023


Fernando Sena, considered as one of the masters of the still life genre, revisits his toy series in his solo showcase, Plastic and Colors of Youth, for Art Cube. Showing no loss of figurative skill and vitality, Sena once again depicts the joyous tumble of toys and their parts, all commingling together in their varied shapes and hues, so much so that no single piece asserts dominance. The viewer, regardless of where they look at the canvas, is treated to an eye-catching pop of color and shine, with the toys’ harmonious configurations being at once accidental (their arrangement in a box) and intentional (as the artist has devoted his attention and chosen to paint them).

When Sena began this series two decades ago, it was meant to celebrate his bond with his then-young sons who showed encouraging inclination toward art. The artist raised them single-handedly and made ways to compensate for the loss of their mother, such as playing with them over the toys that Sena so meticulously painted. With his sons all grown up, these recent works take on a nostalgic veneer and a bittersweet tone as they mark the memories of togetherness that the father and the sons shared—a testament to the enduring nature of parental love.

To a great extent, these works also mark a time in which children were encouraged to use mechanical toys to help them develop essential cognitive, motor, and social skills. Toys were not just objects of play and entertainment, but powerful tools in shaping psychological growth and development. With more and more children playing with tablets and phones instead of handheld objects, Sena’s paintings serve as a reminder that tangible, physical toys are still a necessity in childhood, as they encourage the use of hands and the imagination, establishing a child’s direct relationship with the world around them, which no digital plaything can replace.

What is compelling in this suite of works is how Sena renders these toys descriptively, as if the viewer could easily pluck a piece out from any of the clusters. Just like in the early versions of this series, the artist has employed the top-view perspective to render the richness and diversity of the toys, without neglecting the layering and the sense of depth that makes these paintings so credible. As models of the still life, they testify to the genre’s infinite possibilities, of how ordinary objects achieve an extraordinary quality in the hands of a master such as Sena. Plastic and Colors of Youth is a beautiful and heartfelt exhibition that celebrates the enduring nature of parental love and affirms the centrality of Fernando Sena’s place in Philippine visual arts.

Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

Fernando Sena is known as the Father of the Philippine Art Workshop, sharing his knowledge and talent with the less fortunate, he was born in Tondo Manila to a family of humble means. At a young age, he became aware of the social conditions in his community.

Sena started his career by attending a free summer art workshop conducted by the Children’s Museum and Library Inc. he was given a painting scholarship to the School of Music and Fine Arts of the University of the East where he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Painting in 1971.
After finishing college, Sena started volunteering and conducting free workshops for indigents, orphans, deaf and mute, cancer patients, and children with disorders.

He is adept in using different mediums and can shift from one style to another, from being a cubist-pointillist to a realist-impressionist. Sena is recognized for his exquisite still lifes such as his trademark pandesal and toys but also tackles a whole range of subjects, such as landscapes, portraits, religious icons, and everyday people.

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