Born: March 11, 1934 in Cebu city
SOFRONIO Y. MENDOZA, more popularly known as SYM, may live in British Columbia, where he has established himself as a highly successful artist, but his heart is obviously in his native land. His homecoming exhibit “SYM: The Dimasalang” takes him back to his roots where he started his life in art.
Born in Cebu in 1934, Sym studied Fine arts at the University of the East and the University of Sto. Tomas. He reached a turning point in his career when he met the journalist and painter E. Aguilar Cruz in 1966. Cruz had been impressed with two oils he saw in the Mabini studio of Miguel Galvez; the two works happened to be Sym’s.
A friendship developed between the two. In 1968, they founded the Dimasalang Group, a movement inspired by French Impressionism. The group was not named after Jose Rizal’s pseudonym but after Dimasalng Street where Sym worked and lived.
Like the impressionists, the group’s aim was to capture the fleeting moments of visual reality in terms of pure light. In Sym’s case, he added a personal ingredient - “radiating composition”. Starting out with one color, Sym builds a pattern of light and hue.
Sym made his mark in the Manila art scene. His representational works, be they landscapes, genre scenes and still lifes, were celebrated for their sensitive handling of light and color and for the artist’s mastery of such mediums as oil and pastel.
While at the height of his success, Sym decided to go international. He said, “ I had this feeling that to make a name in international art, I should be based in another country. Canada proved to be the best place for me.”
In 1981 he moved to Vancouver, the lovely Canadian city on the Pacific. There he thrived and has become a popular name in the commercial art gallery scene. His portrayals of Canadian life and landscape are rich impressionistic style - colorful yet beautifully modulated, realistic yet tempered by a gentle lyricism.
His homecoming show is composed of works on Vancouver and Baguio, which share the same cool climate. The light is softer in these two cities than in Manila, which explains how suited Sym’s impressionism is to the quality of light in Baguio and Vancouver. His pictures of flower gardens and of waterlilies recall Monet’s Giverny but they have their own, unmistakably “Sym” quality.
“Sym: The Dimasalang” is a good introduction for a new generation of Filipino art lovers to this artist. It should be required viewing for anyone who cares about the state of Philippine Art as practiced by an expatriate Filipino artist.
1969 First One-Man Show, national Library of the Philippines
1971 Second One-Man Show, Solidaridad Gallery
1974 Third One-Man Show, Galerie Bleue
Fourth One-Man Show, ABC Galleries
1980 Fifth One-Man Show, Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Arts, Vancouver
1983 Seventh One-Man Show, Kenneth G. Heffel Fine Arts, Vancouver
1984 Eight One-Man Show, Ali Mall
1985 Group Show, Nancy Teaque Fine Art Gallery, Seattle, Washington
1986 Group Show, Matzke Runnings, Seattle, Washington
1987 Ninth One-Man Show, Gallery Genesis
1993 Tenth One-Man Show, Finale Art file, The Art Center, SM Megamall