Pinoy Impressionist Edwin Wilwayco is Fascinated With Jeepneys

The author with Edwin Wilwayco at his studio.


For many, being a senior citizen means getting ready to retire. It’s time to quit your job and enjoy the best things that life has to offer. But for Filipino painter Edwin Wilwayco, age doesn’t matter as he continues to pursue art.

Born in Guimba, Nueva Ecija on July 18, 1952, Wilwayco is one of the most respected abstract-impressionists in the country today. He has been painting for over 40 years now and, from the looks of it, he has no intention to stop.

The author with Edwin Wilwayco at his studio.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Diliman with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts, Wilwayco widened his perspective by attending prominent art schools in different parts of the world. These include the West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham, England and Continental School Design Studies in Los Angeles, California. He’s also a British Council scholar in painting.

Tough Battle

Like any other artist, creating a name in the field was a tough battle that he endured and worked hard for. Wilwayco said it even came to the point that he stopped painting for a year and avoided art galleries because he was frustrated and discouraged after an exhibit.

“At a young age, I was featured in several newspapers and magazines. At the opening night, however, I sold only one painting. I said to myself it’s OK since the show will run for a month. After 30 days, no one else bought my paintings,” he revealed.

During that time, the struggling painter was disheartened since he had to pay bank loans.

“I talked to my wife and didn’t know whether to pursue my painting career. I stopped and never went to art events. I didn’t want to read anything about art. I decided to become a creative director,” he said. It sounded logical then since Wilwayco had a natural talent and knack for it.

Things changed when Wilwayco met his former professor who encouraged him to go back to his passion. It was then that he applied for a British Council grant.

One of Edwin Wilwayco’s paintings.

Familiar Path

“He probably sensed that I wasn’t painting anymore and he got mad,” Wilwayco admitted. Since then, he returned to the familiar path that would make him famous.

From a starving, frustrated artist, Wilwayco carved a name for himself in the art scene with his unique works. To date, he has held numerous exhibits here and abroad such as Octo Gravitas and Luminens and has sold many works. In April last year, he even launched a coffee table book that features most of his paintings that are now proudly owned by art collectors and enthusiasts.

Considering his mastery of different styles, why did Wilwayco focus on expressionism?

“When you play jazz you should be classically trained. In my case, I know what I can do. I can draw portraits, still life, and landscapes, but I’m not interested in them. They don’t make me happy since I’ve done those things before,” he explained.

Jeepney Sinfonia

Now at the age of 65, Wilwayco will hold another exhibit on Friday, April 20, at Manila House, Taguig. The art show is called Jeepney Sinfonia and every piece in this new collection was made at his residence abroad. These are images of Filipino jeepneys that have always been a part of our daily lives.

“We have all ridden in jeepneys – even the rich. Take a close look at the paintings since I’ve made the jeepneys sleek and modern. When I see them at midnight, they come alive. They dance like the ones in the movie Cars. They look like koi fish since our jeepney drivers drive fast. When you translate that into painting, you will see the things that you don’t like about them,” he said.

The first time Wilwayco did this was in 1989 when he held the Jeepney Fantasia show in the old Ayala Museum. It featured 18 huge paintings that were all sold out.

I am confident that his latest show will be a success. After all, it features the heart and soul of a man who loves what he does.

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