“When Life Was Simple” by Benjie Mallari opens at Galerie Raphael Serendra on February 9

The immediate post-war years of the Philippines is often remembered as a golden age of sorts. Back then, the Philippine economy was second only to Japan in Asia, and there was a great feeling of hope and optimism in the air. People worked hard, family values were respected, and life was a whole lot easier.

Baguio-based painter Benjie Mallari remembers these wonderful times in his new series that captures Manila society immediately after World War 2 or the era of rebuilding and reconstruction. In this series, he depicts the warm simplicity of life back in the day through examining people from all walks of life passing through the bustling streets of Manila.

“When Life Was Simple” will open at Galerie Raphael Serendra on Thursday, February 9 at 6 p.m. and runs until Sunday, 19 February. Galerie Raphael is located at Unit 2C-06 Second Level, The Piazza Serendra Mall, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. They may be reached through their landline at (632) 856 3034. You may also visit www.galerieraphael.com.ph

The practice of Benjie Mallari uses the idea of urban genre in depicting an idyllic remembering of what Manila was at its peak. His paintings reflect the different characters that make up Filipino society from the lens of a specific time in history. “They reference old Manila,” says Mallari, “and scenes from Escolta.” His works focus primarily on the subjects in the act of movement – crossing the street, coming home from work, on the way to school – and places them in the vacuum of an abstract background. In this manner, he freezes them as fascinating subjects for observation.

“The backgrounds make my works more modern,” he says, explaining he technique of detailed subjects against stark backgrounds. “Everyone remembers old Manila in black-and-white. I want to bring that image into something more modern.” His paintings are intricate and diverse, revealing an artist sensitive to the world around him. A good example is “Beep, Beep, Beep, Tabi kayo, baka kayo maipit” depicting a busy Manila intersection, where Chryslers and US Army Jeeps circumnavigate through a crowd of servicemen, vendors, and other travelers. The colorful scene is set against a monochrome backdrop of blues and grays, essentially freezing the scene along the sands of memory and time.

Benjie Mallari (b. 1955) is a painter and illustrator. A fixture in the Baguio art scene, he is friends with the likes of Kidlat Tahimik and has exhibited at the Tamawan Art Village. Before he moved to Baguio, he was formerly the head of the Art Section of Meralco, and before that was an artist for various newspapers—including Sunday Malaya and The Manila Chronicle. He designed the centennial calendar of National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, and jacket covers of albums of works by National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro. He has a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Advertising, from the University of the East.