Ryan Cayabyab Returns To Painting With Very First Art Exhibition

Ryan Cayabyab isn’t just a talented composer and musician—he’s also pursuing the visual arts with his very first exhibition entitled “Tunay na Ligaya.” 

Many know Ryan Cayabyab as a foundational figure of Philippine music, as he bears the title of National Artist for Music with a wide oeuvre of beautiful work. However, what some people may not know is that the composer’s love for the arts extends far beyond the audible. Indeed, like many people who found themselves stuck in their homes during the pandemic, Cayabyab spent his spare time returning to old passions and hobbies. For the multi-hyphenated musician, this particular interest was painting. 

National Artist for Music, Ryan Cayabyab
National Artist for Music, Ryan Cayabyab/Photo by the NCCA Public Affairs and Information Section via Wikimedia Commons

“I was curious about the medium of acrylic. […] My friend said it is like oil, like watercolor, so I tried it. After my first tube, my second tube, my third tube, I was hooked,” he told ABS-CBN in a recent interview. 

READ ALSO: Bigger Purpose: A Meaningful All-Filipino Collaboration Of Music And Dance Featuring Two National Artists

Cayabyab stated that he just kept painting. The results of this ardent endeavor are several dozen original works in canvases of varying sizes. According to ABS-CBN, Cayabyab will be featuring 53 of these works in his very first art exhibition, Tunay na Ligaya.

The official poster for Cayabyab’s first exhibition, Tunay na Ligaya
The official poster for Cayabyab’s first exhibition, Tunay na Ligaya/Photo via Instagram @myranetorsa

The exhibit, whose title roughly translates to “true happiness,” encapsulates the artist’s style both in music and painting. When Rico Hizon of CNN Philippines asked Cayabyab which one of his songs would best represent his latest body of works, the composer answered: “I guess any song that is full of joy, exuberance, and fun. Because that’s my character, and this shows in the paintings I’ve done.” 

Cayabyab wielding his paintbrush in front of his mural “Directions” (10.6 x 17.6 feet, acrylic on canvas)
Cayabyab wielding his paintbrush in front of his mural “Directions” (10.6 x 17.6 feet, acrylic on canvas)/Photo  via Instagram @myranetorsa

An Eclectic Mix of Vibrant Imagery 

Cayabyab staged the exhibition because he believes that artists should share their art with the public. He informed ABS-CBN that many people were already reserving his works when he’d post them on social media, and they’d often sell fast. So, the composer used the money he earned from the sales to save up for Tunay na Ligaya

Cayabyab posing for a selfie in front of his mural, “Directions” (10.6 x 17.6 feet, acrylic on canvas) at Landbank’s head office
Cayabyab posing for a selfie in front of his mural, “Directions” (10.6 x 17.6 feet, acrylic on canvas) at Landbank’s head office/Photo  via Instagram @myranetorsa

The exhibit contains an eclectic mix of vibrant paintings that showcase the artist’s various visual experiments. These include geometric neoplasticism in “Estilo,” model paste in “Riprap” in the use of model paste, fluid color play in “Dreams,” and modernist lines and strokes in “Explorations,” as per Business World

Perhaps the most intriguing set of works from the exhibit is his “Eyefie” series, Cayabyab’s play on the word “selfie.” The set of canvases showcase snapshots of only one section of the artist’s face, focusing on an eye. According to Rico Hizon from CNN Philippines, each piece in the 16-part series is meant to represent the 16 voices of Cayabyab’s very first record, 1981’s One

The first “eyefie” piece that Cayabyab painted, “Eyefie #1” (30 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas)
The first “eyefie” piece that Cayabyab painted, “Eyefie #1” (30 x 30 inches, acrylic on canvas)/Photo  via Instagram @myranetorsa

Rediscovering an Old Love 

Though Cayabyab chose to focus on his musical career, he always harbored a love for the visual arts. In an interview with Esquire, he shared how an early exposure to the world of painters is what got him interested in the art form. 

“When I was a kid, I had two aunts and two cousins who stayed briefly with us at home at different times. All of them were enrolled at the UP College of Fine Arts, and I just sat and watched them draw and paint,” he explained in the interview. 

Cayabyab’s “We will, we will Rockwell” (48 x 72 inches, acrylic on canvas)
Cayabyab’s “We will, we will Rockwell” (48 x 72 inches, acrylic on canvas)/Photo via Instagram @myranetorsa

He’d then use the leftover paint and materials to create works of his own. He shared that at the age of 14, he decided to join the YMCA National Painting Contest. Though he had little experience, he ended up winning third place with a cash prize of PHP 50 at the time. 

As with many of Cayabyab’s endeavors, a large part of his motivations lay in helping others. Much like how he raised funds for various causes during the pandemic through charity concerts, the composer worked hard to win the YMCA cash prize to help “augment” the income of his widower father, as per Esquire.

If there’s anything that Mr.C’s work can teach us, it’s that it’s never too late to pursue something close to your heart, especially when it carries the intention of bringing some form of joy to others. 

“Tunay na Ligaya” is open for public viewing at the Powerplant Mall, Makati City until November 5, 2023.

Banner photo via Instagram @myranetorsa.

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