Art filled with energy, colour

January 22, 2004, vol. 29, no. 2
By Carol Thorbes

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It is not just the size of Bert Monterona's acrylic oil paintings that can overwhelm the viewer.

Executed on stretched canvas or bark-like tapestries, his works are up to five metres long or 2x3 metres in size.

But it is their intoxicating visual impact that draws the viewer to them, like a magnet.

Monterona's artwork is filled with brilliant colour, energetic lines and thought-provoking subject matter.

A Vancouver resident who hales originally from the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao, Monterona is exhibiting 30 of his works at Simon Fraser University's Burnaby campus gallery until Feb. 13.

Monterona is well known in southeast Asia, Australia and the United States for his surreal exploration and bridging of indigenous, technological, spiritual, cultural and political themes.

Monterona draws on the multifaceted nature of his homeland to create his visual narratives. Eighteen tribes, with different languages and cultures, populate his homeland.

Monterona uses colour, human figures, symbols and motifs to depict how his ancestral home has triumphed and failed to preserve its history and ways of life.

“I try to examine the present and rediscover the past in the hopes of building a better future,” says Monterona. “I believe that art as a ritual has a healing capacity and the artist as a healer can contribute to balancing the mind for a meaningful future.”

Monterona's handmade wall hanging-tapestries, 14 of which are in the exhibit, are particularly striking celebrations of indigenous culture, its myths and rituals.

Created from dye, textile paint and acrylic, the tapestries look and feel like hand woven cloths and artifacts from south east Asia's past.

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