Wilfredo Alicdan: UNICEF artist and one of Asia’s most talented painters
Of all the painters of genre today, the art of Wilfredo Alicdan is among the most simplest and most recognizable Adhering to the principle of simplicity, he intentionally limits his work to a few elements. The challenge that he creates for himself is making art with the fewest of means: several, one or two figures, painted in bright, solid colors without tonal gradations. Beyond being simple, his art is also clear, possessing the particular merit of clarity which is pleasing to the mind and comforting and reassuring. There is also a general evenness to his art, an unquestioned harmony all around. A salient aspect of his style is the volume and rotundity of his human figures, male and female, and other props or accessories, animal or object thereby. In his earlier shows the human figures, evenly rotund, were composed within a square format. Even then, his painting was based on the striking visual contrast between the convincing illusion of three-dimensionality in the figures and the flatness of their backgrounds, plain primary or secondary colors evenly applied. In this present show, however, there are visible developments in the work of Alicdan. For this time he draws out more fully the lucid character of his work as a peculiar visual game. While earlier his genre figures acted and gestured against a flat background, now their background has become a boxlike cube, indeed a cubicle with an inner space, thus introducing a new interpretation of space or perspective which virtually contains or encloses his figures. It is as though they were in a viewing-box, with the fourth wall knocked down for the viewer. The space, often cube-like, has the appearance of a miniature theatrical stage that one can look into. Alicdan is able to do this admirably as he perfectly suits figure to the limited space, while allowing for acrobatic postures. At times, the artist also uses a kind of trompe-l’oeil effect when the border-lines of the floor do not coincide, upon closer look, with the corners of the wall, while the walls themselves may be of different colors or may be covered all over with fine stripes, slyly bringing out small visual tricks of perception.
Wilfredo Alicdan has created happy and colorful vignettes of family life. Referring to the unbreakable bond that keeps families together, he draws on his childhood memories of being an older brother to seven siblings. Below are some images of his available works.
In a way, his art follows a certain pattern. It begins with a solid background followed by dominant black circles to represent the heads of his faceless human figures. The large, rounded bodies make up the rest of the space often drawn as a tight unit affirming the close family ties prevalent in Philippine society. His works are cleaner, tighter, more focused, and truly breath-taking to behold. Indeed, his labors have born fruit in more ways than one.
Apart from the rounded figures, however, it is the vivid colors that Alicdan uses which make his works extremely easy to identify even from a distance. The colors, he explained, serves as a counterpoint to the solid black circles that represent the heads. He added that the most critical color choice with the solid background. It often dictates the colors that will follow next. Furthermore, the colors also soften the harshness of the perfect circles.
Perhaps Alicdan did not give his figures a distinct physiognomy in the belief that such would somewhat detract from his primary concerns of composition in space and expressiveness of body language. But although their facial features are elided, giving the impression that they are taciturn and inward-looking, yet there is clearly evident a human warmth in their many interactions. In such consists the lasting appeal of Alicdan’s unique vision.