Jayson Cortez's Triumph a Year End Homage


Jayson Cortez's Triumph a Year End Homage

Jayson Cortez pays homage to the Philippine national hero, Jose Rizal in his solo exhibition "Triumph: A Year-End Homage"


Apart from being an author, doctor, and reformist, Jose Rizal is also a visual artist. Throughout history, Rizal has often been regarded as a writer, best known for his moving novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. On another front, he was also immersed in fine arts working with different mediums. A fact that has been just as widely documented by numerous historians with some of his artworks preserved in National Museums.


In observance of one of the last holidays of the year in the Philippines, Jayson Cortez's "Triumph a Year-End Homage", makes for a timely exhibition that honors the national hero as an artist. The show's title, "Triumph" can be read through the various instances where the concept is explored in Cortez's artworks. This probe is not limited to Rizal's allegorical triumphs but also takes a biographical approach to Rizal's life through Cortez's own interpretations of Rizal's portraits of family members which he himself had painted.


The exhibition's pièce de résistance can be found in three pieces, particularly "Triumph of Science Over Death", "Triumph of Death Over Life", and "Mother's Revenge." All of which share the same titles as their original sculptures.


"Triumph of Science Over Death" Installation photo by the artist

Scientia also known as "Triumph of Science Over Death" is based on Rizal's sculpture that depicts a nude feminine figure that is holding a torch as she stands on top of a skull. The work alludes to the knowledge that has allowed mankind to prolong life thanks to the science of medicine. Cortez's interpretation of the work comes almost like second nature to him as the subject easily resonates with the feminine imagery that he so often works within his practice.


The second sculpture referenced by Cortez in this exhibition is "Triumph of Death Over Life." Cortez does not stray far from the sculpture's original execution and includes a cloaked skeleton, a symbol of death, embracing a feminine figure whose face is covered in flowers that symbolizes enlightenment. In this piece, Cortez also unearths Rizal's motivations for the sculpture in adding vignettes of Spanish friars that shaped our views on politics and religion which eventually clouded the nation's view of its own liberty.


And last but not least is "Mother's Revenge." Here, Cortez takes off from the original imagery, reimagining a less tragic conclusion to the work. Cortez illustrates two dogs attacking a crocodile vis-à-vis the original where the crocodile is seen devouring the dog's offspring while its mother attacks to protect its pup. The work has often been interpreted as the mother dog on the crocodile's back being the motherland (Philippines), whose child represents the oppressed citizens, under the cruel rule of its Spanish colonizers, which is embodied by the crocodile. In this refreshed image of "Mother's Revenge," the meaning of Rizal's work is not changed but rather Cortez picks up the threads of Rizal's narrative and gives it an epilogue of sorts.


Viewers are taken back to revisit these works of our National Hero, in spite of the present climate, be it on the political or scientific front, "Triumph" reminds us of how far we've come as a nation. On the occasion of Jose Rizal’s 159th birthday, Cortez rekindles us with the artistic temperament of Rizal as a stalwart of the arts.


Text by Marz Aglipay

Jayson Cortez's "Triumph A Year End Homage" ran from November 8 to 29, 2020 at the Pinto Museum.



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