Butterfly Effect: In the Midst of His Health Struggles, Justin Nuyda Continues to Find More Success Later in Life - Arts & Culture

In his last show, the painter and lepidopterist sold out his recent solo show within an hour.

While Justin Nuyda’s solo show “Chrysalis” will run at Salcedo Private View until October 16, there’s actually nothing left to buy.

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“Within an hour of launching the online catalogue, it sold out,” shares Richie Lerma. “Nagkagulo sila, the phone won’t stop ringing.” “And his prices are in the seven-figure range,” Salcedo Auctions’ executive director, Victor Silvino adds.

Nobody will be more surprised than the artist himself, whose works started to sell already late in his career, about 15 years ago.

Art and arrows

“If not for Alfredo Roces, I wouldn’t be an artist,” Nyuda says of the writer-painter who most of the art world calls ‘Ding.’

The two used to be neighbors when Nuyda was a fresh graduate in his early 20s. “Ding booked me at Solidaridad Gallery. At that time, I used to do little ads in magazines while also painting,” he says.   

Nyuda’s grandson plays around at the garden

According to the artist, Arturo Luz actually tried to book Nuyda in 1967 for his own Luz Gallery, which at that time, was already big. But Nyuda politely declined because of his commitment to Roces.

“The whole Roces family was very supportive of me. Si Anding pa nga, brother of Ding, taught me archery,” Nuyda says. “Muntik na ako makasali sa Philippine archery team, way back in the 70s.”

Nuyda shares that he has a lot of respect for Roces as an artist, who he always describes as a good writer, and was there at Roces’ retrospective in 2019. At the time, he was already struggling with his health.

Medyo hindi ako makalakad noon, kasi wala pa akong surgery then. And there are times when I just don’t feel so well,” he says, adding that he used to be big before. “Before my diagnosis, I didn’t really feel anything. But during a checkup, they found a malignant mass in my kidney. Tapos kalat na pala sa liver, lungs… Stage IV.

Still, Nuyda continues to create daily.  “Every day, I paint. Every day, I have oral chemo. I used to vomit [during chemo treatments],” he shares. “I just smell the food, and I vomit.”

Visual landscapes

Nuyda’s works are mostly landscapes, inspired by the places he’s been to.

“When you’re up in the mountains, the scenery is just unbelievable. I don’t bring a camera eh, baka mawala. So titignan ko lang. Tsaka if you take a photo, then you have to draw all these little things. Ako iisipin ko lang anu yung maganda. And that’s what I put in my work,” he says explaining his process.

Most of Nyuda’s are of landscapes, based on his own experiences

The artist’s first painting was entitled “Search Mindscape,” a title theme he continued through numbering: Mindscape 1, Mindscape 2, and so on.

“When it reached ‘Mindscape 25,’ it was hard na. So now I put subtitles, like ‘Search Mindscape Solitude,’ which was about a trip to Banaue,” he explains. “Search Mindscape Nostalgia,” meanwhile, is from the same time and is the first painting he made for Salcedo Private View.

For the show, Nuyda says he was inspired by his old paintings, and incorporated a bit of his new style.

Nyuda is the fourth biggest collector of Philippine butterflies in the world

“If you look at the works for the show, a lot of them have the square form, like a frame within a frame which I used to do when I was still young, during the 70s.” he says. “That’s from the past. Then I incorporated newer elements, like the flowing forms.”

The painter used the drip method for a piece that reminds him of the watershed in Amlan, Negros Oriental, which he used to frequent.

“You’ll also see that I reintroduced the circles from my past works. In a way, it feels like a retrospective of my different phases,” he says. “But if you see my old and new works, you will know that they’re mine, even if they’ve changed.”

Nature studio

“My first passion will always be butterflies, which I started to collect when I was just 12 years old,” Nuyda shares. “In my works, you will see some colors that I picked up from butterflies.”

He says that if his donation to the Smithsonian pushes through, they will have the fourth biggest Philippine butterfly collection in the world.

“The biggest collection is at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany, and then the second biggest is at the British Museum of Natural History,” Nuyda lists. “The third biggest collection is with a Japanese guy, he actually isn’t a collector; he just studies them. And the fourth one, that’s me.”

It’s no wonder that, these days, his garden at home is his studio. There, he would paint all night. Both he and his wife Toots love plants, but he has special affection for them because of his love of butterflies.

Kahit na 2 A.M. na tapos may ilaw ako dito, may music, tapos ako lang magisaO sige, bahala kayo diyan. Basta ako magtra-trabaho lang dito. Pag pagod na ako, papanik na ako sa taas,” he shares.

Photos courtesy of Salcedo Auctions

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