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Deconstructing Aimee Bernardo

Pixie hair; large, thick-framed glasses on a delicate face; and a wide smile that reaches her eyes. Aimee Bernardo could pass for a twentysomething ingenue with a talent for art, but she surprises and delights with every revelation about her life, her past, her inclinations.

Walking into her sanctum – fondly called Factory 505 at Parc Royale Condominium on Jade Drive, Ortigas Centre – one catches that first glimpse of her personality. Huge canvases cover most of the walls, but the size does not overwhelm the senses.
Instead, there is a sense of lightness and well-being in the space, as if the surfaces consumed with spots and colors and textures and shapes were celebrating, not blowing up, the cornucopia of elements.
“Pat’ak-pat’ak” is her style, she tells the Daily Tribune, and this is part of the title of her second collection, “Seasons of my mind.” Patak, in Filipino, means ‘droplet’ – and on her canvasses, one sees these drops of paint layered in seeming randomness. Yet at a glance they form a cohesive whole – stories of their own that catch at the heart.
In her canvasses, you see, Aimee Bernardo is an “open book.”
When she speaks, her whole face is involved. Her mouth quirks up at the corners when she recalls a moment in the past or laughs at something she shares about herself. She talks about getting paint on her hair and on her clothes as she leaves the privacy of her artistic space, seeking sustenance. It doesn’t take much to feed herself, she says. An apple and a banana and she’s happy, her eyes twinkle with glee. Only fifty pesos, she adds.
She can laugh at herself now – there was a time when she went through a very dark period in her life and, for years, could not even talk about any of it without breaking down.
Now, Aimee is happy. She is “in a good place,” she reveals.
And it shows.

Beautiful mess
From her receiving room, where we talked about her beginnings and middles and ends, Aimee ushers us into her a bedroom, which also houses her work area.
Her computer , where she created her website, looks massive (well, considering her petite frame), and her desk has a battered look to it. On the surface near the keyboard she had splashed some round spots of white paint and put little plastic eyeballs on them. They look like a smattering of cartoon faces, with a variety of expressions, which bring a smile to our faces. “I talk to them sometimes,” she laughs. Aimee had become recently enamored with eyes – her next collection will feature these windows to the soul, we are told.
A few of her art works from her first collection hang in the other room, where we first sat down to talk. Her style was distinctive even then, but the colors she uses for her second series are different, and she adds new elements like dried leaves and flowers, which have retained their color because of a process she has discovered as a flower business owner.
“I transform paint texture and found objects into a kaleidoscope of color and vibrancy, and sometimes
different shades of grey that the viewer can absorb in a subconscious manner,” she explains.
Aimee presents all-new works all completed in her studio. She tells us each work is a different experience each time – she never knows when a work will tell her if it’s done.
At the far end of the room from the main door, near sliding glass doors blotched with paint, the floor is a beautiful mess. It is obviously the space where she does most of her painting. It can almost be an art work in itself.
“My conversations with my canvas are my escape in this concrete jungle we live in and while they energize me as I attack my canvas with vigorous gestural expression, it leaves pockets of contemplation and I fill them with colors and textures and abstract forms,” she writes in her Artist Statement.
From all these visual clues, Aimee Bernardo emerges as the nature lover that she is. “I am a country girl, raised before the Internet and cable TV. My father was a farmer (in Bulacan) and my childhood was filled with the wonders of catching dragonflies and chasing chickens. I have fond memories of the start of the rainy season, the symphony of sound coming from the frogs brought my village to life,” she writes.
“My cousins and I would scamper around catching as many as we could, and together with abundant snails—we would carry them to the pots and pans of my Great Aunt, who would create many wonderful and delicious dishes to savor. Looking back, I find it ironic that I was raised on a diet of frog legs and escargot.
“I miss those amazing childhood days, climbing trees and wandering through those fields of gold. What a canvas I had.
“While my father was away tending his flock, he would write to me to share his thoughts and
feelings. In my childlike way, I would respond by sending him sketches and notes of my memories of
those precious times. It is those moments, which are still with me today, that inspire me every time I
put brush to canvas—I express my feelings in an abstract way. Sadly, my beloved father passed away at an early age, through my art, I feel connected to him. What was said and what was not said, comes out in my art.”

Ongoing conversation
“I am 40 years old,” she tells us, much to our shock.
“Yes!” she exclaims, “I have two children. We have a house in Greenhills, but this condo is where I work,” she reveals. Sometimes, she adds, she lives there, too, when she is engrossed in her art. Her kids fully support her passion.
She didn’t start to paint until much later in life – after she had gone through a separation, the loss of her old life and her old possessions, when she had nothing, when she had to start again. Painting helped her get through all of it to a triumph of renewal. Through her art, she found independence and peace.
“I worked as a photographer for 11 years and that work is still important to me. My years of experience as a photographer allowed me to work with different cameras and lenses, operate related software to process an image, how to play with light and shadows to create texture on a flat surface, and to execute my projects on time.
“As I move between the camera and canvas, I follow my intuition. A picture conveys more than words
are able to express. Through my lens, a sunset can mean many things, it can radiate feelings of
peace, joy and contentment, or even melancholy. With my painting, I am having a conversation with
my canvas.
“My painting is, in effect, an ongoing conversation with my hopes, dreams and ideas—it is where I right
the wrongs of my past, converse with my beloved father and express an imagined future.”

•••
Aimee Bernardo’s second solo exhibit, “Pat’ak-pat’ak, Seasons of my mind,” is on view at her studio at 505, Parc Royale Condominium, Jade Drive Ortigas Center, Pasig City, Philippines. It opened on February 22 and will run until March 13, 2018.
The exhibit is curated by Melissa dela Merced. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit aimeebernardo.com.

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