How Alex Alagon Found His Purpose Through Art
There is a Chinese proverb that goes, “Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be afraid of standing still.”
Alex Alagon, a tall, fifty-something man, firmly believes in a similar principle. Alex is a media personality, a businessman, a self-taught visual artist and the curator of the Victoria Plaza Art Gallery.
Alex admits being a late-bloomer, having started painting only recently. But even at the age of 51, Alex still has a youthful eagerness to learn about the arts and sharing his works to audiences.
“I started drawing or painting when I was 6 years old. I could still remember how I would draw my teachers in detail, not just using stick figures” – Alex
“I started drawing or painting when I was 6 years old. I could still remember how I would draw my teachers in detail, not just using stick figures” He says. “I can say it’s a gift, I think, from above. But when I went to school and until I went to look for jobs, the passion went out a bit, as I needed to look for money.” His parents urged him to take up Accounting in college.
It was the 80’s. Times were tough then, and a Fine Arts degree was expensive. Despite going on a different career path, his love of the arts never faded. To help him pay his college tuition, he worked as an artist-illustrator under Rene Lumawag, who was then head of the Audio Visual Center of the University of Mindanao.
“Is this how life supposed to be? Just looking for money? All these years, there was a vacuum in me.” – Alex
After graduation, Alex worked as a banker, a radio host, a newspaper columnist, a barangay kagawad, and a car salesman. Alex may have ventured into every high-earning job possible, and yet felt unsuccessful and empty.
“In my last term, I asked myself, what will I do?” He says. “Is this how life supposed to be? Just looking for money? All these years, there was a vacuum in me.”
From then on, he decided to finally be more serious in pursuing his passion. He makes up for lost time by reading lots of art books and magazines and watching videos about art online. “I started going into arts very late. Others like Kublai started out very young.” He says. “I’m doing double-time. Everything that I do must not be wasted. All of it must contribute to my career as an artist.
I don’t even watch TV anymore! I just watch Youtube videos on Art and Art history.” In just a matter of 4 years, Alex now has over 400 paintings, most of which sold to patrons outside the country.
Alex’s paintings make use of vibrant colors, lots of oranges, greens, and golds. He was hugely inspired by paintings of Romero Britto, a Brazilian Neo-Pop artist living in Miami. Alex says that he is not fond of making small paintings.
Most of Alex’s works mirror his own thoughtful perspective about life in Mindanao. At the receiving area of his gallery sits a painting about a lumad woman holding her infant son, standing in the middle of a golden valley. Despite the use of the bright colors, Alex managed to create a solemn scene.
Alex said that the painting was inspired by the struggles that the lumad people experience. “Some of them were killed because they fought against private mining companies.” He explains. “In the painting, the woman is standing in a valley with no trees. Her husband was killed. She is asking herself, ‘My husband’s dead. Our land, which is our source of income, is also dead. What will I do now? Bathala, your will be done.’”
“The man in the song was actually reassuring the woman telling her, in Jamaican dialect, ‘Woman, don’t cry.’” – Alex
He called the painting “No Woman, No Cry”, like the Bob Marley song. He says, “Most people think that the song was about women causing men sorrow. But no, it was actually about this couple who stick up for each other despite living in poverty. The man in the song was actually reassuring the woman telling her, in Jamaican dialect, ‘Woman, don’t cry.’”
Alex says that he does not force himself to look for a subject. “It must spontaneously happen,” He says. “Sometimes, I don’t feel like painting, and the painting doesn’t come out well. That is why whenever I’m feeling a bit sluggish I roam around trying to look for inspiration. I look at people and colors. And when the art juices kick in I immediately dab the paint. My canvases are always ready in case I suddenly think of a subject.”
He admits that age sometimes catches up. “There’s something about hitting 50. You may look fit on the outside, but inside you feel all sorts of things,” He laughs.
To help newcomers like him break into the art scene, he created the United Durian Artists in late 2013. Before the group’s inception, Alex did not know any local artist. “I was just starting on my own,” he says.
“But because of my experience in politics, I decided to create my own group and use the connections that I already have. I had a friend who was an architect, and I invited him to create this group, because I knew he was also into arts. He introduced me to sponsors and contractors, and that’s when it all started.”
Most of the members of the group are beginners who do not yet know how to showcase their works. Their very first exhibit was in Abreeza in 2014. They also get together in People’s Park to paint, do live sketching session, or just play music.
“We must be like viruses. We must infect people with the potentials God gave us.” – Alex
He believes that through his group, other potential artists will be inspired to pursue their passions. He He says, “We must be like viruses. We must infect people with the potentials God gave us. Imagine, if everyone in the world would bring out their potentials, nobody will live in poverty!”
“I may not be as famous as Juan Luna, but at least I have fulfilled my purpose in the arts… Art represents how we think. Our ideas, materializing – that’s art.” – Alex
His only advise to anybody who wants to pursue a career in the arts to be serious and patient. “Any successful people did not succeed overnight,” he says. “For me success is painting until my last breath.
I may not be as famous as Juan Luna, but at least I have fulfilled my purpose in the arts… Art represents how we think. Our ideas, materializing – that’s art.”
by: Fred Layno