[email protected]: Ivan Acuña, abstract impressionist

“Abstract kasi is free flow, parang passion painting. As you go along the canvas, you create on the spot. Walang plano.” This is how contemporary painter Ivan Acuña describes his genre. But don’t be fooled by the words of this artist as he can be method and calculated when it comes to his work.

Inside a noisy restaurant that serves delicious Chinese cuisine—a place the painter obviously frequents basing from his familiarity with the place and the staff—Speed sat down with Ivan to pick his mind and discover more about his art, influences, and life.

Before his art escape
Two of Ivan’s uncles are painters themselves, so a career in the arts has always been on the horizon for Ivan. Plus, Ivan knew as early as his teenage years that a nine-to-five job in an office setting wasn’t for him. He shares that he cannot stay put in one place for a long time, and getting an office work would certainly require just that. But the path that led him to where he is now wasn’t a straight one; he made several jumps and paved different roads before finally settling on painting.

Ivan’s affair with the arts didn’t start with painting, though. In high school, he was classmates with Alex Baldovino, who’s father is the legendary photographer Dick Baldovino. Ivan’s constant encounter with the ace lensman exposed him to photography.

In college, Ivan didn’t immediately turn to art as a career choice. During his time at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, he jumped from one college to another; he entered as a varsity player for the track and field team then transferred to the College of Music as a guitar major before finally crossing over to Fine Arts. It was in the colorful and creative world of the College of Fine Arts where Ivan began his painting journey.

Defining his art

When he entered Fine Arts in UP, abstract painting wasn’t popular yet; figurative painting was dominating the art scene then.

But abstract and abstract impressionism appealed to Ivan. He loved its free flow quality, likening it to passion painting wherein you create on the spot. “With abstract walang limit, walang rules, walang measurement, walang color code. Paint as you please. Action painting,” Ivan elaborates.

So, where does he draw inspiration from? “Nature,” Ivan says. “‘Yung wall,” he points to the wall across the restaurant were sitting in. “That unfinished building, the construction site, ‘yang kalye,” Ivan enumerates the things around us that can spark creativity in him. Fun fact: his Metroscape Series 1 was inspired by the rusty roofscapes of Metro Manila that you see from the plane as it approaches the airport’s runway. The particular series featured rust-colored paint—”Kalawang Series” is what he should have called it, Ivan jokes.

Ivan also rides motorbikes, which allows him to go to various places that inspires his work. Up north, it’s the landscape of Baguio; down south, the beaches of Batangas give a whole new perspective to his art. “In other words, dapat lakwatsero ka sa line namin,” Ivan quips.

Hitting it big
In the late ‘90s, Ivan got his breakthrough moment with the help of internationally renowned designer Budji Layug. Budji was then working on the interior of the French Cultural Embassy and he put up one of Ivan’s paintings on the wall.

Ivan also hit it big when he made his Metalscape series, which features beautiful hues of red and gold on the canvas. Metalscape is now on its eighth series, each one getting more colorful than the previous series.

Like most artists, Ivan admits to having no specific schedule or order when it comes to painting. There are days when nothing sparks his creativity and then there are days when he gets so inspired that he’s able to churn out a lot of artworks. However, collaborating with interior designers and architects has taught him to formulate a method and adhere to timetables without necessarily eschewing his identity. Today, his works have become distinct elements in many modern spaces in and out of the country. His abstract paintings are hung on the walls of Two Serendra, Hamilo Coast, Hyatt Hotel & Casino, Diamond Hotel, Makati Medical Center, high-end car showrooms, and more.

This story was originally published in Speed Magazine’s May 2019 issue. Words by Pat Calica.

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