MANILA, Philippines -- Even if he’s working as a nurse in London, Francis Tanseco considers himself a painter.
“Painting is my passion,” said Tanseco. “I paint all the time here now. I think of subjects and just dream of pictures in my head. But I’m still a nurse here.”
Tanseco, 43, will hold his exhibit “10” from July 16 to July 31 at the Philippine Center in London. About 40 paintings, mostly oil on canvas, are part of this exhibit, including new ones which were done only this year.
He said he has written former first lady Imelda Marcos through one of her emissaries to be his special guest at the exhibit.
“I’m asking her to cut the ribbon,” said Tanseco, who has done 11 paintings of the Marcos in 2010 for the exhibit “Imeldarella” in London.
His paintings on the former first lady, including her husband former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos, were his first attempt to use watercolor on paper, explained Tanseco. “Using watercolor was an experiment for me. I realized that watercolor is the most difficult and challenging in my artworks. And it became an experience for me to fall in love with the medium and go through the challenges and even the sexiness of the medium.”
Tanseco is also a songwriter and said he has written an opera for Marcos. “I have not yet produced it,” he said. “I might do it later.”
La Aunor and tribulations
Another of her favorite subjects is actress Nora Aunor -- “the one and only superstar,” according to Tanseco, who did 12 portraits of the actress for the show “Filipinism: La Aunor: Woman,” at the UCLH Sports Club in Bonham Carter House, Grower Street several years ago.
“I only met her when I was in college when I was still taking my nursing in La Concordia. My friend and I made 12 songs for Nora. I went to her and gave the tape,” he recalled..
“Nora has never done any of our songs,” Tanseco laughed. “I’m sure she hasn’t even heard them. But I always cherish what I feel about her--her movies, shows, TV, records--her life and tribulation, even her downfall.”
Tanseco described his portraits of Aunor as “women’s concerns, issues, rights, fun, sexually, drugs, joy and sadness.” He said there are men who “like to be women and women to be men. Everything is portrayed in the portraits, with only Nora Aunor as the picture.”
He depicted pictures based on films by Aunor, like “Bilangin Ang Mga Bituin Sa Langit,” produced by Regal Films. He named this painting “Pag-Ani” (The Harvest), which he painted like Van Gogh, Tanseco’s favorite artist.
Another Aunor portrait was inspired by her film “Sidhi” titled “Mother and Child” which looks rougher than Van Gogh’s style.
Another Aunor portrait, “Triumph and Tribulation,” picked from another movie, was different from Van Gogh. Putting wine in front of Aunor, the tribulations in her face and her accolades in her eyes, the portrait looks like Mexican Frida Kahlo’s paintings that were mostly her own portraits.
A surreal death is shown Aunor in the painting “Justice is Blind, Justice for Flor,” who played the domestic helper Flor Contemplation, who was convicted for killing another maid in Singapore. Painted in mostly blue and white, the portrait shows the darkness of dying the woman, and the sadness and helpless of her heart when she could no longer care of her children.
“I only wanted to show people who become powerless and vulnerable when certain things that happen to them cannot change their views,” Tanseco said.
Healing the world
Tanseco said he started painting was in 2002 when he got depressed. He vividly remembered the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, D.C. About 3,000 people were killed that day.
“All of us in London were shocked,” Tanseco said. “I was depressed. I wanted the killing of people to stop. I was against 9/11. I became more consciousness about this madness in the world. And I started painting.”
Tanseco paints about beauty, sexuality, politics, nature and religion. He once did a series of 21 paintings of oil on canvas on the series called “Healing,” which was also shown in London.
“’Healing the World’ was my first artwork,” he said. “I painted and painted and I couldn’t stop.”
In 2004, Tanseco made his second series of artworks. “Make Love Not War” is about 12 paintings of oil on canvas painted of men of war in different color.
“I wanted to make divide and conquer,” Tanseco explained. “I used gays and lesbians to show their peace and tolerance, and proud of their national flag. This is my inspiration. This is my protest against war in Iraq.”
For his next exhibit in London in 2004, Tanseco was inspired by Picasso and Van Gogh in “Beauty, Love, Madness.”
“This is everything I seem to see in the world,” he said. “I see beauty and love. I also see madness and surrender, even passion,” he said.
Japan before England
When Tanseco finished his nursing studies in Manila, he joined the Philippine General Hospital where he worked for about 30 patients a day. He was tired and happy, and he wanted to make the sick better. He left the hospital after a year and went to Japan to work with his sister, who was married to an English man.
“I worked as an au pair for about two years,” he said. “We travelled a lot, but later on I went back to the Philippines.”
Ironically, he couldn’t find another hospital to work in Manila. He joined a Chinese hospital as a volunteer nurse, but he found work later—in England.
“I’ve worked in London for at least 12 years,” Tanseco said. “I’m now thinking of going to the US where my mother stays.”
He still continues nursing in London and always paints. He has made several series artworks since 2002: “True Colors,” oil based crayons in paper about lovers Hadrian and Antinoos and Jose Rizal, among others; “Affirmation:Joyful and Creative Exuberance,” about writers like Paul Kurtz, Sam Harris, Michael Sherman, among others; “Un-Born Fate:Un-Died Faith,” oil-based colors on paper about religion, truth; “Knight of St. John;” “Perfect Empire,” oil on canvas, about the fall of Rome, the fall of past civilization and the rise and fall of civilization in mankind’s existence; “Catbalogan Samar,” watercolor on paper, about Tanseco’s love and his birthplace; “Love rEVOLution,” about the street of London; “Merkaba (The Flower of Life),” about simplicity of life; “Visit Philippines,” about of series on the places of the country.
“I’m doing a lot of things,” Tanseco said. “I tell you, I crave a lot in painting.”
Tanseco said he has not sold a lot of his paintings, but is hoping to sell more this month.
“You know what, I sold some paintings for only 100 pounds,” he said, laughing. “It’s not much, but it the people who bought these paintings wanted to save them maybe in the future. I think I can sell them better now.”
“I don’t complain if I won’t sell much,” he added. “I will still paint.”