Sillada Returns from the Landscapes of Nightmares
By Lorna Revilla Montilla, The Philippine Daily Inquirer
Wala Ka Bang Napapansin,1994, oil on canvas by Danny Castillones Sillada
THERE IS, ALMOST always, an air of intangible sadness in the paintings if not in the poetry of Danny Castiliones Sillada.
The stark loneliness that his paintings evoke is almost done with exactly the same intensity as his written prose. They tell of the looming shadows in his soul, of the pitfalls that wait for him at the edge of a precipitous journey toward fulfillment, as though he is bound inside a steel cage without hope of ever getting out. In fact, he has a painting of that man, reaching for the sky from inside a birdcage while winged creatures fly about outside, celebrating sweet, absolute freedom.
Sillada likes to call himself a surrealist. Yet, there are strong indications that he paints more like a social realist, who sees the inverse side of things. He goes on a journey to his own private world like a lonely peregrine who suddenly finds a sordid landscape, which no one else except himself understands. He finds much to his dismay the riverbeds he used to know drying up where once there were clear, singing streams cradled by the green foliage of trees.
In a work he has entitled "Kalikasan, Kahapon at Ngayon", lies a desert such as one would see when a place is bereft of trees. This one, indeed, is a surreal painting that strikes through the soul like a blade from a dark, distant sphere, yet we know that it is happening here, now and everywhere else.
Sillada did not know where he wanted to place himself. He thought of becoming a priest only after having finished a bachelor's degree in Philosophy and Literature at the Queen of Apostles College Seminary in Davao. He fell in love with the teachings of his mentors and wanted to be a priest himself; he went on to take up Bachelor in Sacred Theology at the Ecclesiastical Faculties, University of Santo Tomas in Manila. His desire to enter the priesthood never diminished. After finishing his post-graduate studies in Pastoral Theology in the same university, he was assigned at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati by Cardinal Sin as one of the seminary formators.
During his stint as Assistant Prefect of Discipline and faculty member, he underwent a terrible crisis in his vocation. During this time, he was finishing a 10’ X 10’ mural that was commissioned to him by the Archdiocese of Manila in celebration to the 25th Episcopal anniversary of Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, D.D., which was permanently installed at the San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe, Makati.
He decided to leave the seminary with a broken soul. His life was never the same again, as his call would continue to haunt him even after he landed a job as a junior executive in the corporate world before embarking his artistic career.
He had just experienced the loss of a niece, shortly followed by the tragic death of his sister whom he mourned deeply, the way he did when his father died when Sillada was just nine years old. To Sillada life did not seem to matter very much, and when he could not seem to take the torment of loss anymore, he thought of self-destruction. He turned to writing prose and poetry and then felt the need to express himself in painting.
He was surprised at himself when he saw that he was translating his own nightmares. However, he knew that artists like him exist to agonize and suffer the way Van Gogh did during his lifetime.
He left the seminary only a few months before he could be ordained as a priest. He decided that he was in for more expression of the soul and spirit on canvas and paper.
In 1994, he became co-founder of the Binhi Art Society Foundation Inc. in Pasig City, and is its vice chairperson and secretary general at the same time. Five Binhi members are having an exhibit at the Lopez Museum.
Danny Sillada is happier now and hopes to go forward while honing his art at the same time. The dark and desolate nightmares have ceased to torment him.
"The artist may, at times, withdraw from the world, without isolating himself," Sillada says. "But to see the world with unparalleled passion and clarity within the solitary confinement of his studio... And then he reappears again like the invincible sun in summer.”
"The world is not forced to understand the artist or his work. However, the world is there as the legitimate reason for the artist to dream and bring into existence his esthetic creation."
Sillada understands himself better now and is well on the way to living without sadness or rancor for the things that he has lost. He hopes to be able to paint and write poetry as much as his mind, heart and spirit can push him whether the day is filled with gloom or sunshine.
About the author:
Lorna Revilla Montilla was a Filipino anthropologist, writer, and art critic.
How to cite this article:
Montilla, Lorna Revilla. “Sillada Returns from the Landscapes of Nightmares." The Philippine Daily Inquirer (Manila) 15 July 1996: E-5. Print.
Online link to Asia Art Archive: http://www.aaa.org.hk/Collection/Details/20168