Camille de la Rosa Invites Viewers to Find the Chalice of Knowledge

“The way the surreal enchants the author is just like the earlier works of gardens, landscapes, anything that is considered the beautiful. Although one will see the works as eerie, morbid or horrible, the chance to explore the unknown, the depths of the human mind, soul and spirit, can be more beautiful than the flowers in the garden or the skies crawling on the mountaintops,” the 26-year old artist Camille Jean Verdelaire de la Rosa told this reporter during a visit to her home in Mandaluyong City.

She was then busy finishing her latest work, Resurrecti Scientia or the Rise of Wisdom, a complex combination of human, skeletal, animal and bird figures.

The author observed that the young artist is painting in complete ecstasy. The way that she paints the skulls, the wings of the crane, the work on its beak, while the bird is trying to feed the skull-faced child, riding with the “freak” woman on a cow — it is enchanting. The author has to admit that he has never before seen an artist so absorbed in her work; it’s as if De la Rosa is in union with her work.

You can see the determination to finish the works despite a busy schedule and a sick pet dog, which she treats as her best friend.

See the real to understand the surreal

Although new in the craft, young De la Rosa shares her thoughts about the surreal.

“I think, to be able to appreciate the surreal, we must see the ultimate real: the interweaving of societal and personal events, the conflicting philosophies, and the universalities and particularities of some ideas or theories,” says De la Rosa.

De la Rosa's The Chalice challenges the audience to have a thorough assessment of one's soul.

De la Rosa's The Chalice challenges the audience to have a thorough assessment of one's soul.

Surrealist arts and literature were born during a time of chaos: the interval between the two world wars. It mainly grew out of the pre-World War I Dadaist Movement, which produced works of “anti-art” that deliberately defied reason. However, Surrealism’s emphasis was not on negation but on positive expression.

The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by the “rationalism” that had guided European culture and politics in the past and had culminated in the horrors of World War I.

“Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely, that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality,” says poet and critic André Breton, considered as the major spokesperson of the movement. It was he, who published “The Surrealist Manifesto” in 1924, or 10 years after World War I had broken out.

Surrealism draws heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud. As Breton sees it, the unconscious serves as the wellspring of the imagination.

Breton defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike.

The movement continues to flourish at all ends of the earth, and now it had reached Philippine shores.

The continued thought processes and investigations into the mind has produced today some of the best art ever seen. This is also true in the way De la Rosa now produces her latest works.

De la Rosa’s “prophetic” vision

De la Rosa is inspired by the human anatomy, the complexity of the work of the brain, the intestines and other parts of the body. This inspiration became the flesh of the artist’s current surreal works.

“I am just amazed at how these things work. Just like our society, interconnected, intertwined, inseparable. However, it is saddening that some people are too selfish, that although they have already hurt their fellowmen, they seem not to care,” she said.

The painter further explained, “Since the surreal is the material representation of the subconscious and the unconscious, it is perfect to meditate on some aspect of being human: the capacity to discern what is right from wrong, the beneficial and the detrimental. Not as much trying to be philosophical, but the current works do reflect certain realities of our world: the reign of greed, non-compassion, non-empathy, lack of love, the desire of belongingness to ever indifferent world.”

“Notwithstanding the advances of human knowledge, millions of people are still in deep penury and although we can see it, we don’t react. We are blinded by our desire to gain all the wealth of the world. Due this, our society is kind of suffering from backwardness,” she added.

Her piece, Backward Development, the painting with the spectacle-wearing monkey drawn upside-down, amid the crisscross of bones, woman’s and man’s hands holding a skull with a lighted candle on it, as the central figure, represents this reality.

Re-examining how the world is working right now, the piece is indeed a depiction of suffering from a destructive type of “development”, which eventually will bring the world to its earliest state: nothingness.

It seems, in this work of Ms. De la Rosa, Darwin’s theory of evolution has become senseless. Human intelligence, as Backward Development suggests, due to its being mammon-focused and centered on self-gratification, brings man to a more lowly state.

One can argue with the observation of the author. One might say the ultimate goal of life is to attain happiness that can be extracted through money, sex and food; that obtaining all of these can bring one to the Harlem or the Oasis of Existence.

But, is there anyone who has meditated on the fact that the more you want, the more you are starved; and the more that you become intelligent or wise, the more you become foolish? As King Solomon, one of the wisest kings of the Old Israel said, “Everything is vanity.”

One must return to the noble, the true and the good

On the other hand, people still have hope. As her Chalice suggests, if only one can find that ruby, that pure Knowledge, the selfless and God-centered knowledge, he or she can live in happiness and completeness.

De la Rosa’s Chalice offers us some “unseen” realities to reflect upon, and that is our real Self which was hidden for so long by our extreme submission to our bodily, earthly desires.

The Chalice tries to tell us that by giving up our selfish, earthly desires, our personality can rejuvenate and we can travel over the waters of uncertainty and chaos without being affected, like the vasilisk genus (commonly known as Jesus Christ lizard) looking at the Chalice.

Resurrecti Scientia (The Rise of Wisdom), on the other hand, is a compound statement of the images of Wisdom, combined in one picture.

The image of a woman, with the cerebellum cut open as its face, with a complete set of teeth serving as an ornament of the forehead, the seem-to-be kissing half men and half women, which ears serve as the ears of the central image, seems to tell her viewers that Wisdom (the Woman) is summoning, persuading all of us to listen to Her.

In Astrology, the Cow or Taurus, whose element is the Earth, symbolizes development and intelligence; the Crane, in the Chinese esoteric art also symbolizes the pure and ever free Wisdom of the Ancient; and the child is the symbol of unadulterated or pure Wisdom, based on the Gnostic traditions.

The legs, which are the emblem of strength, stability and expedition, are also the semiotic of the five characteristics of Wisdom: (1) Truth; (2) Righteousness; (3) Understanding; (4) Prudence; and (5) Life.

With these her latest works, De la Rosa is apparently inviting us to do what the noble and the good people did, long, long time ago, and that is, to get that unadulterated, ever pure wisdom. As the Hebrew tradition says, finding wisdom is the principal goal that a person must strive for. (First appeared at the Culture Section of