An old Hebrew proverb goes: “Say not in grief ‘he is no more’ but live in thankfulness that he was.”
Thus might be said of artist and professor Darnay Demetillo, whose quiet, unassuming presence and dedication to his art has truly enriched Baguio City’s arts scene. Demetillo succumbed to the effects of a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which resulted in a general systems failure on July 11. He was 66.
Demetillo is a founding member of Tahong Bundok, the first artist’s group in Baguio. He joined what was then the University of the Philippines College Baguio in 1975 as a humanities instructor. He served as the college’s artist-in-residence from 1978 until he retired in 2005.
In the span of over 30 years as an artist, he had countless exhibits in Baguio.
The growth and development of the fine arts program at UP Baguio owes much to the invaluable contributions of Demetillo. With him at the helm, the fine arts program grew from a three-year certificate program to a full-blown baccalaureate program today.
Under his tutelage, many students won awards and received citations in various prestigious art contests, such as the Shell, Petron, Philip Morris and Metrobank national art competitions, thus earning recognition, too, for UP Baguio’s greenhorn of an art program on the little campus on the hill.
As an artist, Demetillo demonstrated understanding of the perfect marriage of form and content. Through a keen discernment of the nature and qualities of the different mediums, elements and techniques, expressive content voluntarily emerges unrestrained, uncoerced in his art. Visual form and subject matter coalesce in artistic rendering which is best described as magisterial.
Demetillo was singular in his pursuit of art as a discovery and expression. From painting, sculpture, photography and airbrush techniques to experimentation with paint, twigs, pinecones and a heat gun, or how an ordinary thumb print could propel a world of investigation into the art of printmaking, one marvels at his body of work that spans a wide range of media and techniques and pushes the limits of possibilities in and through these to the acid test.
Such unrelenting inquisitiveness was infectious and continues to inspire students and fellow artists alike.
It is this joy of discovery which, perhaps more than anything, spurred Demetillo to create. Little details are telling. On a note to a friend, he wrote: “I made you this card—I’m trying to learn how to use an airbrush. As you can see, I’m not very good at it yet! I hope you think my sculpture is better. I don’t know what it is, really. A paperweight maybe….”
He was a master at lines that grip, colors that move, forms that compel. Plays on light allow the viewer glimpses into the subtleties of texture, nuances of shape, enigmas and complexities of the human condition.
Demetillo retired from active service in 2005 but has undeniably left an indelible mark at UP and the Baguio art community. Without doubt, his legacy of inquisitiveness and experimentation shall continue to inspire.
“Awit Protesta: A Concert in Memory of Darnay Demetillo and Susan Fernandez” will be held on Aug. 16, 6 p.m., at Abelardo Hall, UP Diliman. For inquiries, contact Becky at 0908-865-0320