An Interview with Sheen Ochavez

Artspan sits down with painter Sheen Ochavez




Thoughts on life and painting:

 “The act of painting is like trying to get to one’s own skin, addressing one’s own weaknesses, unearthing one's own prejudices, fears and limitations. One becomes a perpetual student in attempting to get better at handling life at handling colours so as to be able to compose a piece worthy of all the sleepless nights. Learn. Unlearn. The cycle continues as one adapts to what works best."

You were brought up in the Philippines, does that culture still have a big influence on your work? 

Yes. Very much so. Philippine culture is not only an Asian culture, it has many elements of Western culture too. In fact American culture and influence is highly apparent in our society.


Big Bath


Growing up, I had very little exposure to the works of FIlipino painters. My introduction to art started later in life. Initially, I became interested in the works exhibited at the National Gallery, particularly the works of  the Italian masters like Titian, Botticelli and Caravaggio. I have also travelled a lot learning about art along the way and other cultures which made  a great influence on my future work as an artist.









What types of subject matter do you find most resonant with your creative ideas? Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed? 




I am fascinated by the sounds and physical sensation of deserts as well as by historical places such as Israel, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. My visit to Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal in 2001 just after 911 had made me more aware of what is happening around the world, the effects of politics in the order of landscapes and people. This particular fascination was again aroused after my visit to Israel in 2010 and I have been painting Israel landscapes ever since.


I also love painting the human body and portraits. However, for each painting that I create, my aim is to capture the spirit of the subject and attempt to depict the sensations they evoke, be it a landscape or people.




Which is more important to you, the subject of your painting, or the way it is executed? 


Both are important to me. It takes a lot of thinking and preparation before the ideas are finally given life on a canvas. An artist can have a very interesting subject or vice versa, but to give life, the artist must attempt to give it his/her best shot. 


Fishermen of Galilee 


What projects are you working towards at the moment? 


I am working on a December exhibit at the Menier gallery in London and a solo show in Manila in February. I am also finishing my second book featuring my own poems and drawings.


Are there any artists who particularly inspire you? 


After Uglow


Quiet a few modern artists inspire me such as Elaine Spatz Rabinowitz whom I had the privilege of learning from when I was in Boston but Richard Diebenkorn and Euan Uglow are my main men.


As an artist, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? 


I was once preparing for my first big solo show and I had 3 months to prepare from scratch and I was lucky I met a very patient and talended artist/teacher who said he will teach me everything he knew about painting but he expects devotion to painting. I worked hard, painting 20 hours a day or more for 3 months and in that period I learnt a lot from him. 



On the other hand, one of the richest abstract artist in the Phiippines had advised me to do what he was doing, go commercial to pay for the bills as well as paint fine art.


I took both pieces of advice; I work hard and I'm aware that I also must sell the work I produced.


Masada III


Is there an artwork here on the Artspan site you are most proud of? Why?


I liked the Masada paintings as that is where the transition in terms of my painting execution had happened.