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SHERWIN PAUL GONZALES: Tears from the heavens

Gonzales, 45, who signs as “Paul Gonzales,” had to go through erasing his 8-by-15-foot mural entitled Eternal Love with only the face of Jesus Christ, his nailed palms spread, one bloodied, across the eternity of the stunning sunrise from the shoreline of his beloved Baler, Aurora, that served as background of the Adventist church pulpit.
A rare artist who boldly tackles Bible themes in the time of demonic subjects and sexual motifs, Gonzales has had a series of one-man shows that include “Saints and Martyrs” at Adamson University Museum in February 2015; “Verbo” at Art Asia, SM Megamall, in October 2016 and “Pasyong Mahal” at the San Beda Museum in March 2017.
Painted two years ago, the artwork was made for church board members who wanted a plain background for their upcoming anniversary.
When the time came, Gonzales hoped to hold back his tears when he obliterated his painting. He knows about shedding tears too well, after all.
Suffering from a risky psychological condition of chronic depression with suicidal tendencies, this condition is the biggest cross of his life. Although pathological, it is hardest to conquer.
He considers it a blessing that he can cry like a child, a blessing from some loosely remembered experience in a controlled condition. Born premature at the high risk of eight months, Gonzales spent the first few weeks of his fledgling life away from his mother in an incubator.
Smiling, but his heart in tears, the erasing pushed through. He shares, “It was the closest thing to suicide. I didn’t want to show them that I was crying...only when I got home and in the privacy of our room.”
With the work now a conceptual abstract with the new title, Secularism, the Spirit of Iconoclasm, Gonzales preaches against the iconoclastic mindset in their church.
“Still they refused to understand,” he confesses.
“I never thought for the longest time they were thinking of my painting as something that would confuse the youth and were looking for break to erase the image and change it into a Garden of Eden,” he expresses the frustration.
“The actual erasing was not that painful compared to the fact my brothers and sisters in Christ talked against my artwork behind my back. It started when someone commented on why there was an image on our pulpit,” he explains.
The real reason is the iconoclastic mindset of most Adventists. They base it on the third commandment of not making any graven image and worshipping it.
During the Reformation, its father, Martin Luther, was not against paintings at the pulpits. He even commissioned artists to grace his church.
“It was the fanatic Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt that started that iconoclastic mindset of burning images and paintings in the 16th century,” clarifies Gonzales. “Sadly this mindset stayed among some fanatical and conservative members. It is not even a part of our doctrines.
“Now they will be kneeling before the lord of secularism. One thing good about iconoclasm is it leads us to today’s culture of secularism. That’s the reason the more demonic and secular an art is, the more epic it is,” he sums up.
This extraordinary heart and mind and soul show in Gonzales’ answers to the 13 questions he picked:

1. As a visual artist, what is the one thing the public does not know about you?
Other people don’t know that I was legally blind. I got this condition when I went to an optometrist and had my eyes examined. After, she went towards the door and looked outside and asked who accompanied me. I told her no companion and asked why. She asked how I got to her clinic as I’m legally blind with 1,500 OS and 1,300 OD. What? She’s right! When I wore eyeglasses, I found out that the world is wider in high definition.

2. What fascinates you the most about art and why?
Its power to communicate, to express, to influence, to fascinate, to control, to motivate, to instill ideology, nationalism and emotion. The delicate power of art in a wrong hand gave us the holocaust as Hitler who used the symbol of the swastika to inspire and instill the superiority of the Aryan race.

3.Who is the artist who inspires you the most and how?
Peter Paul Rubens. I love his point of view on his role as an artist. He believes that as an artist he was the channel of heavens blessing of beauty to the world. If he stopped or became lazy, he would be depriving the world of God’s blessings channeled through him.

4. What training did you get as an artist?
I was trained informally in my skills in art but I believe in training the mind more is much greater than training the hands so I ate art books and any books like cookie monster.

5. Do you paint for money or pleasure?
For pleasure. For me, art is very much like making love. That needs no elaboration. He he.

6. Who do you think is the best Filipino visual artist and why?
None other than the great Juan Luna. Why? Simply because he is the true Indio Bravo beating the greatest artists of the world during his time. With this, he gained the respect of the King of Spain and even Picasso stated that he was the greatest of all painters evident by his constant visits to the Royal Museum of Spain with only one reason “to visit the ‘Spoliarium.’”

7. Under what condition do you prefer to do your work and why?
I prefer to do my works in the most extreme of condition, like under the scourging sun, noisy places where lots of people can disturb me. I don’t know why but I work well under stressful conditions.

8. Are your works Filipino in spirit and why?
Yes. Like every Filipino, it reflects fusion of culture and colonial mentality. I think nothing is more Filipino.

9. What future projects do you have in mind?
To write and publish a coffee-table book and do some graffiti in Baler. Shh.

10. Does criticism help you become a better artist?
A lot. I believe all artists have some blindness as what they are doing is already the best only to find out after some years how raw and immature their old works were. Criticism can hasten the growth and development of an artist. So, I love it when someone criticizes my works it opens my blind side.

11. How do you determine when an art work is done?
I know when I’m done making love, don’t I?

12. Do you associate with other artists to stay competitive or to socialize?
To socialize. I love interacting with other artists to exchange ideas. I just love the feeling that I’m still normal since there are other people who think and perceive things like me. I don’t feel weird when with fellow artists.

13. Will you describe your work space as orderly or disorderly?
My workplace is a total mess to any ordinary human being, but as an artist I work well in this situation. I find order in chaos. Every time someone fixes my workplace I always get mad since my mind will be at a loss. I cannot not find my brush. Where’s the thali green shit? What a day! I can’t work like this. Hell!

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