Beauty in Morbidity: Young Camille de la Rosa Swims in the Sea of the Surreal

If the saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is universally acceptable, it can thus be said that there’s real beauty in the “morbid” canvases of the young painter in bloom, Ms. Camille Jean Verdelaire D. de la Rosa.

She now departs from her usual themes of gardens, landscapes and “real” people. The 26-year-old impressionist artist, Ms. Camille de la Rosa, escapes from the “happy” faces and places of her artistic world.

With torn flesh, skulls, and distorted faces, combined with beasts’ body parts, De La Rosa’s canvases now bleed with different moods and expression of the human face – thus remaking the concept of beauty, of dreaming, of chaotic and peaceful realities.

Unknown to many, De La Rosa’s inclination toward the surreal isn’t new. She began to paint the bizarre in the early 2000s while she was introducing herself to the world of expressionism. She even won an award for her work then, she told this writer when he paid a visit to her home at the back of one of the oldest universities in Mandaluyong.

A compound statement of artistic genius

Her Hordes of Charlatan is a compound statement of how brilliant and what a genius the painter is. It is both a philosophical and a political statement. It is about how she views the world, in its entirety and particularities, and how she reexamines the relationships of humans to each other and to the world.


De La Rosa’s Hordes of Charlatan (Contributed photo)

The piece was exhibited at the SM Megamall, at the S.O.N.A. Group exhibition spearheaded by another great artist, Joel “Welbart” Bartolome, which ran from Dec. 28, 2008 to Jan. 5, 2009.

“It’s a statement about greed and quackery,” De la Rosa thus describes her work of interlocking bones, overlapping skulls, multi-legs, and phantom-like images. Greed is now the wheel driving this society of ours and the author will not disagree with how it was depicted in De la Rosa’s pieces.

In today’s society, politicians are not leaders but undertakers; judges are guardians of sepulchers; the businessmen are worms eating the flesh.

Wittingly or unwittingly, the painter had put into her painting all the elements of what “human society” is today and how the human mind is being molded by the decaying culture of greed, selfishness, and of the praise of money.

However, Hordes of Charlatan, which can be considered as one of De la Rosa’s magnum opuses, can be interpreted in many other ways.

The mystical and the mythical

The skull with the cross-bones is not actually a symbol of death but rather of life. As the Apostle Paul said, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

It is by the death of Christ (crossbones) in the Mountain of Skulls (Golgotha) that everyone who believes is being restored into his or her original state, as the Apostle Paul told the Romans: “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (14:9).

To make it simpler, the bones and the skull symbolize the death, burial and resurrection of the lamb, which is called “Christ”.

If one will reexamine De la Rosa’s work, one can see in it the symbols of the said ancient mystery of Christ.

That De la Rosa would tackle this theme is not a surprise: her father, also a renowned painter, is a student of the Occult – a subject which, its students say, can help us to understand more of ourselves and can be a reminder that everything and everybody will fade or pass away

But de la Rosa’s crossbones and the skull can also mean death to the said enemies of faith. It serves as warning to those who wants to go astray to repent and to go back to the basic tenets of the faith taught by the Teacher, Christ.

Death

The picture that the young De la Rosa painted also fits the meditation of Carl Jung, a famous psychoanalyst, on death:

I have often been asked what I believe about death, that unproblematical ending of individual existence.

Death is known to us simply as the end. It is the period, often placed before the close of the sentence and followed only by memories of aftereffects in others.

For the person concerned, however, the sand has run out of the glass; the rolling stone has come to rest. When death confronts us, life always seems like a downward flow or like a clock that has been wound up and whose eventual “running down” is taken for granted.

We are never more convinced of this “running down” than when a human life comes to its end before our eyes, and the question of the meaning and worth of life never becomes more urgent or more agonizing than when we see the final breath leave a body which a moment before was living. How different does the meaning of life seem to us when we see a young person striving for distant goals and shaping the future, and compare this with an incurable invalid, or with an old man who is sinking reluctantly and without strength to resist into the grave!

Youth — we should like to think — has purpose, future, meaning, and value, whereas the coming to an end is only a meaningless cessation.

If a young man is afraid of the world, of life and the future, then everyone finds it regrettable, senseless, neurotic; he is considered a cowardly shirker. But when an aging person secretly shudders and is even mortally afraid at the thought that his reasonable expectation of life now amounts to only so many years, then we are painfully reminded of certain feelings within our own breast; we look away and turn the conversation to some other topic.

The optimism with which we judge the young man fails us here.

Naturally we have on hand for every eventuality one or two suitable banalities about life which we occasionally hand out to the other fellow, such as “everyone must die sometime,” “one doesn’t live forever,” etc. But when one is alone and it is night and so dark and still that one hears nothing and sees nothing but the thoughts which add and subtract the years, and the long row of disagreeable facts which remorselessly indicate how far the hand of the clock has moved forward, and the slow, irresistible approach of the wall of darkness which will eventually engulf everything you love, possess, wish, strive, and hope for — then all our profundities about life slink off to some undiscoverable hiding place, and fear envelops the sleepless one like a smothering blanket.

With this, De la Rosa’s Hordes of Charlatan can be a monument, a constant reminder that we must always reexamine our conscience, the truth or what we believe to be the truth, and the life we are living. For it is hard to when you are in your deathbed and no one can hear your agony, your pain, except your self – which is about to vanish from the face of the earth. (First appeared at the Culture Section of Bulatlat.com)