With the recent gains in women’s art, Elsie “INDAY” Cadapan joins the expanding roster of Filipino women artists who have won their place in the sun. In just a few years, she has made her presence felt in sculpture, painting and the traditional art of peppier Mache. Her creativity spilling over, she has also established a workshop in her place in Villa Carmen in Antipolo for community artists that have constituted themselves into the Art Rizal group, thus contributing to the salutary growth of regional art outside the Manila circuit. Since Antipolo has always been the place of myth and legend, it is only appropriate that it now be peopled with artists that thrive in the folk imagination.
Before she found realization as an artist, Elsie “INDAY” Cadapan had a long intense contact with art through antiques. It was her national inclination for art that drew her to an occupation that delved into the arts of the past, in the architectures of wood and stones of old houses and the furnishing and ornaments that bear traces of the historical past or the paintings of the Old Master done in nineteenth century ateliers. To this love of art was combined the ingredients of research: as an antique dealer, she was both fascinated and challenged to get to the original provenance of the work and the social and artistic circumstances in which it was produced. With research came an autodidacts’ zest for reading books on art history and the arts of different countries and religion of the worlds, of Europe, Asia, and Africa, thus setting the background for an artistic career.
In the mid-80s, she indulged her fascination with paints and her first paintings in oils on canvas. They were spontaneous compositions in bright colors and strong contrasts in an Expressionistic vein following her artistic intuition. Clearly, however, it was not only her innate love for painting and design that was the sole impetus of herb art, Inday Cadapan always had strong social and political views and the ferment of the transition from Marcos to Cory Aquino, which also engaged many artist of the time, provided the energy for her art. Semi-abstract in style, the different forces of the time were suggested by the various figures and shapes in their relationships to each other. Colors and tonal values become symbolic. Her first series of paintings sought to capture the tensions of the drama that was unfolding in the country before and after the EDSA uprising. It was a highly individual art which sprang out of the fervid climate of the time, but, at the same time, it was not merely a reactive art, for the artists expressed her own original and sharp perceptions of the personalities and the events that went beyond the common naïve euphoria that prevailed. Soon she was able to produce works in two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms for her first one-woman show entitled Expressions: Inday 1986 at the City Gallery where she first made her name as an artist.
When the furor died down and a gray sameness settled in, Inday’s paintings became more personal, their colors sweeter and more harmonious. New influences began to appear in her work, one of which was Matisse in whose work design and color achieved a splendid unity. In a playful style, she did whimsical portraits and landscapes of houses and gardens with a striking sense of design. By this time, her lines become even more spontaneous and sure of their wit and grace. Her new series used watercolors, oil pastel, and acrylic, which added to the feeling of lightness and space in the vegetal greens, brick reds, and citrus yellows, often against a neutral ecru ground. Human figures and other subjects seemed to defy gravity as they frolicked gracefully in the pictorial apace. The body of paintings created a total atmosphere of ease and freedom, which was at the same time warm in their bright tropical hues. These works constituted her second one-woman show at the Lopez Museum. The highly favorable response to this show led to an important group show with other women artists, including Paz Abad Santos, Lanelle Abueva, Norma Belleza, Remy Boquiren, Araceli Dans, Flor Tarella and Domini Torrevillas at the Liongoren Gallery at SM Megamall.
Even when Inday Cadapan first engaged in painting as a full-time activity, she also produced her first sculptural works. This time, the source of inspiration came directly from the antique woods that provided the tone and atmosphere for her shop in Mile Long Building in Makati. It was as though the long-familiar material revealed its possibilities in a new light for her artistic pursuits. She spent time studying the different woods, their inherent properties of tone, value, texture, hardness, density and porosity, their veins and growth marks, as well as the qualities they developed in the course of time, the effects of their long exposure to the weather in our wet and dry seasons, and not to be overlooked, the marks of human presence as the woods served as the frames and walls of an ancestral house or as furniture for different household uses. Not only did she became keenly sensitive to the shapes and properties of the woods, but also to the details and circumstances of their structures, their traditional techniques of joinery, their precise dovetailing without the use of metal nails but solely with wooden pins and bolts and all the secrets of old carpentry. At the same time, she was fascinated by ironwork design and felicitous combinations of wood and metal in nineteenth century art, and in the course of time enlarged her expertise in household heirlooms.
All this knowledge found full expression in her sculptural works. She has worked in sculpture consistently with singleness of purpose to create beautiful and mellifluous forms. A high point in her career which attested her critical recognition as an artist was her long three-month exhibit at the new GSIS Museum in Pasay in 1996, under the curatorship of Dr. David Baradas. This one-woman show was in fact a celebration of her abounding creativity in painting and sculpture. The exhibit was not confined to one form such as painting or sculpture, but to several forms, traditional and contemporary, as well as the combinations of both. The sculptures were figures of all kinds, from human figures and busts, fanciful or expressionistic, to a wide range of animal forms as though issuing from Noah’s Ark the morning after the Great Flood. Never thoroughly realist, they bore the twist of fantasy and, original in concept but secondarily deriving from antique furniture, produced combinations with engaging results.
Many artistic developments in the artist’s works have taken place since Inday Cadapan’s first exhibit at City Gallery. Fitting recognition came with her winning the Juror’s Choice at the 1997 AAP Annual Exhibit Competition for her sculpture “Kay Tagal Ng Umaga” (“Morning Takes Long in Coming”) which is a figure of an expectant woman waiting for the full term symbolized by the moon. While doing contemporary sculpture, the traditional arts were never far from her mind. Learning the art of taka or paper mache sculpture from Paete, she did a higante celebratory figure after the EDSA uprising which won a prize in a contest. Recently, with the sponsorship of the Swiss-based SGS Far East Limited and the managerial skill of her daughter Magel, the artist launched a paper mache project based on her design of a carabao, the animal symbolizing persistence in work combined with the concept of thrift as it takes the form of alcancia. With the original molds as wooden carabao sculptures, numerous peppier Mache copies were made to be painted and design by school children.
Inday Cadapan’s creativity ranges from the traditional arts to contemporary expressions, from peppier Mache figures to painting, sculpture and monumental installations. Her whole life involved in her art in which she constantly renews her energy and joie de vivre. Even more, she wants to share her art with everybody around her and to make art making accessible to all, especially to the children and young artist of Antipolo.