Print and Imprint: Pandy and Diana Aviado on leaving a mark through printmaking

May has become both a coming together of familiars and a discovery period for new printmakers and print enthusiasts. While Print Day in May is celebrated everywhere annually on the first Saturday of the month, printmakers merely bring to the forefront the art form that has seamlessly woven its way into their daily lives, well after the month ends. 

Such is the case for visual artist and celebrated Filipino printmaker Virgilio “Pandy” Aviado, who has spent over five decades learning and teaching as one of the pioneers of contemporary printmaking in the Philippines. With the depth and breadth of his involvement during all that time, he’s traversed the industry well: having exhibited his rich arsenal of prints in various solo and group shows across the world, and having held important roles in the visual arts such as president of the Art Association of the Philippines and director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines Visual Arts Coordinating Center and recipient of notable distinctions and awards.

Having seen all he’s seen on different social, cultural, and political fronts throughout the decades, where does an artist draw such evergreen energy?

“Maybe it’s the hormones that I get from doing art,” he shared. Perhaps the constant knowledge exchange between him, the community, and his menteesincluding his daughter, Dianamake for a perpetually burning source of zest. Together, Pandy and Diana shared their thoughts about living in the now of printmaking and the importance of keeping the portals for printmaking open in building a vibrant and inclusive future for contemporary printmaking in the Philippines.

Art and artist. Pandy at the Carpe Artem opening. Photo courtesy of Altro Mondo.

Mentoring as legacy-making

In Pandy’s recent solo show at Altro MondoArte Contemporanea, Carpe Artem, he showcased the full spectrum of his storied mastery: from imposing abstract pieces that run the whole length of the walls, to affordable postcard-sized prints that speak volumes of both his personal commentaries of the times and his longtime advocacy to keep printmaking as accessible as it is legitimate form of fine art. Browsing through his works is a full immersion into his prolific range of styles, which, as in with Carpe Artem, shows an artist who is constantly “refining, not repeating.”  Each new undertaking reveals a meaningful layer and allows the viewer a glimpse into the mind of an artist constantly reinventing himself. 

“I’m still trying to find that out, that's why I'm doing art,” Pandy said when asked about what has changed and stayed the same in his process and insights throughout the years. “I’m still trying to find out what it all meanslike a reflection that sometimes I can't express in words. It’s all spontaneous. It's like asking a jazz player what's going on but it's all improvisation. I'm not following a scriptrather, I'm writing a script.”

Father and daughter. Photo courtesy of Richie Macapinlac.

He isn’t writing that script alone, with Diana taking up the mantle of her father’s artistry and working with him on the different moving parts beyond the final pieces such as the logistics of organizing shows and workshops and co-curating which pieces go into which shows.  

Not without acknowledging the struggles and stigmas that come with a family-run endeavor, Diana shared how she navigates both the privileges and challenges that come with continuing an intricate family legacy as she carves out her own pathnot just as an artist, but as a printmaker studying her father’s printmaking techniques.

“It felt like the industry was always there for me but it never imposed or forced me to be a part of it—especially as children, the offspring of artists are often encouraged to be artistic but never forced to be a part of the industry,” she said, remembering how she made the decision to become an exhibiting artist herself around 2010. “It was a time when I felt like I had something to say, and that I had a message and an aesthetic that I was seeking out. I could say I was enjoying being a “young artist” knowing that my parents, especially my dad, had [their] own journey, [their] own youth that he had enjoyed. I savored mine as well. I can't really answer when exactly I knew. I guess I always knew I'd come home to what my parents wanted me to do, I just had to find a way to define it myself,” she shared, summing up the turning point as one that had taken over her life. While she still feels intimidated by her whole undertaking, she finds inspiration in the actteaching and promoting printmakingas an advocacy,much like her father.  

Pandy and Diana at Space/Place. Photo courtesy of Luigi Azura.

Mapping out what matters 

There are two aspects to printmaking: the printing and the printer. Pandy and Diana talked about the equal importance of both; the very precise and technical aspects that come with printmaking as a fine art, and the artistry lent by the printer who then uses printmaking as a tool to express a message over a well-made plate or matrix. 

In addition to helping keep traditional printing methods alive, Pandy is all for promoting and exploring new printing techniques and processes with  sharing the love for the art to anyone who wants to learn or get involved.

“We are all part of a big picture, like a mosaic or a collage we are all doing, and it somehow makes the larger picture a richer and more beautiful one,” he said, noting the importance of stepping back and seeing things from that perspective. “Because you have to remember: there is no rivalry. We are a family, the same team with the same vision, the same role.” 

For Pandy, the inclusive and non-competitive nature of inclusive art can be likened to an orchestra.  

“You can't say the piano is better than drums because we all have a role to play. Every printmaker makes the mosaic complete.”

Current works can be viewed at the “Parched earth, ardent spring” group show at the UP Vargas Museum on view until June 7, 2023 and “Space/Place”, a group show by the Association of Pinoyprintmakers group show exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on view until June 18, 2023.

Nikki Ignacio is a writer and communicator currently working in public relations. She also writes freelance for local art galleries and independent publications. Her main interests lean towards science, art, nature and the moments when all three intersect.