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Jose Tence Ruiz’s very personal book: Art as ‘my form of daily prayer’

The prolific, masterful artist assembles 50 years’ worth of works in 'Litanya'

Pusong Leon, Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 91.4cm, 2101, from 'Litanya'

“The Covid pandemic, among other undeniably specific indicators, reiterated my mortality. Because of that, I decided, after years of meandering, to execute this book. It hopes to serve as an anxious inventory of my practice as an independent visual artist.”

‘Untitled Angel with Yellow Field,’ acrylic on architectural board, 76 x 57 cm, 2005

Thus writes artist Jose Tence Ruiz in the foreword of  Litanya, 1972–2022: The Works of Jose Tence Ruiz, a self-written, self-published, self-designed volume featuring his formidable output over the last 50 years. From the dramatic Free which opens the book, a 1972 wax crayon work on cartolina, to the many oil, acrylic, and mixed media paintings, collages, and creations from discarded an found objects through the years—the mind-blowing, multi-compartmental Si Erding Erdrayb at ang Kanyang Palasyong Agaw-Tanaw, a 1980 sculpture/assemblage of wood, acrylic, urea formaldehyde adhesive, fabric, found objects, metal, and plastic that is a long-time resident of the Ateneo Art Gallery, is featured on multiple pages—Litanya is a visually arresting testament to a fearless and prolific career.

Lintaya will be launched June 3, 2 p.m., at Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City. (Visit to file your scheduled visit)

‘Kompromiso Robe Yellow,’ ‘Kompromiso Robe Magenta,’ oil, wood, urea-formaldehyde adhesive on canvas diptych, each 183 x 122.5 cm, 1993

‘Daing at Yosi,’ oil on canvas triptych, estimated at 6.25 x 3 feet, 1983-1984

By his own admission, Ruiz also counts 21 years or so of work as a graphic designer and illustrator of books and magazines, but “Litanya, 1972 to 2022 is closer to my heart, and I tried to get it done before mortality overtook me, as it has with enough of my beloved peers.”

‘Diploma (Early Version),’ wood, digital laserprint, plastic labels, estimated at 3.5 x 1.6 feet for both, 1995

And indeed, Litanya is intensely personal, as evidenced by the artist’s almost total control of what went into the book and how it is presented. The works are his own form of prayer, he writes; thus, the book’s title: “Each work wanted something for the world, wanted something for my community and loved ones, wanted something for me.”

He listed the people he wishes to thank: his collaborators, photographers, but interestingly, not individual collectors, “to allow each work its own journey, not necessarily tied to the fortunes of their present owners.”

‘Bisperas,’ CMYK electrostatic, digital print, laminated in two sheets of mylar, 177.8 x 132.1 cm, 1997
In collaboration with Cesar Villalon, Jr. and DIGI-Ads

Ruiz recalls how, in 1969, he almost died in a vehicular accident, an event which has since left him with “a deep cognizance of the possibility of death, and of how thinking about it energizes one’s privilege to be alive.” Thus, “This book is my reckoning with myself, so far. I hope to continue beyond it, for sure”—excellent news for keen followers of Jose Tence Ruiz and his assured place in the firmament of Philippine contemporary art.

Read more:

Vergel Santos, Manny Mogato, Jose Tence Ruiz: The Manila Times newsroom, Feb. 22-25, 1986

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