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Extraordinary Bookshelf Portraits of Nikulas Lebajo

Updated: Feb 7, 2019

On his 30th year anniversary as a visual artist, Nikulas Lebajo has tried a new way of presenting his objects on canvas - his own rendition of bookshelf portraits. Once the books are an image on canvas, they are shut forever and can never be read. In a painting, they are purely objects like the others he has already painted and you’re forced to judge them by their covers.

It’s a different way to do a portrait because the decisions people make about the books they choose to buy, keep and display, reveals a lot about them. It offers a deeper insight into their interests and occupations. Nikulas got inspiration from the bookshelves of his relatives and friends who are into law books, medicine, art, and fashion design. It's quite interesting how these objects can be given a refreshing interpretation from being a regular fixture inside the house. His painstaking attention to details and clean strokes are very evident in his new paintings.

Also on display are images of old jars that have a trompe l’ oeil quality that makes them seem to be leaping out from their frames. Instead of letting it drift into space, each figure is further boxed within the painting. He is known for his repeated pattern of images, two-dimensional compositional devices that generate strong visual impact, and built-in frame.

Nikulas took up Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines, where he first gained recognition for his glassware creations. He was one of the favorite artists of National Artist Arturo Luz, who gave him the break to exhibit several times at the then The Luz Gallery in the early ‘90s. He had more than 20 solo and 35 group exhibitions both here and in various parts of the world.

At 17, he won the grand prize in the 22nd Shell National Student Art Competition, a victory that paved the way to a steady career in the arts. He comes from a family of artists, foremost of which is his father, Raul Lebajo, a master surrealist and respected figure in the Philippine art scene.

“Let the viewers see the beauty in my painting. One person's aesthetic sensibilities may differ from another,” he remarks. Definitely, the artist will continue to shine through his masterpieces. Watch out for his other exhibitions this year in celebration of his 30th year of visual artistry.

Nikulas’ recent works are on public view until February 10 at Gallery Nine in SM Megamall. You may also check his FB Page @NikulasLebajo and IG Nikulas_Lebajo.

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