up a single unit. The eye continually goes from figure to pedestal and takes up the interaction of color and texture. This device combining sculpture and paintings within glass windows is resumed in Dance Lantern which plays geometric form, the square lantern with the asymmetrical form of the sculpture. In Fillet O' Nails the figure of the fish, in which the design of the copper nails brings out the iridescence of fish scales, floats in space above the found object of a piece of bamboo, suggesting the outrigger of a boat, thus suggesting a space as an expanse of water. In turn these two parallel suspended forms are attached to a slightly curving wooden stand with plant-like forms carved in relief, which in turn stands on a squarish base.
The sculptor revels in the use of different woods as he brings out their different qualities and properties. He has probably himself discovered the suitability of some vernacular woods for sculpture, thus departing from the already well-known Philippine hardwoods such as narra, molave, and kamagong. In the lively work, The Folk Dancer, camachile wood in its apparently pliant quality lends itself well to the suggestion of movement in a piquant folk dance; the two figures engrossed in each other in fondly teasing gestures border on the edge of the base. Pas de Deux (Erotica) consists of a combination of dark and light woods, namely, antique halmul-awon wood, mango and santol woods. The combination of woods is made possible through the use of several levels. The figures of the lovers locked together occupy the highest level below which is a light-colored base, then a piece in the same dark wood, beneath which again is a block in lighter wood, carved with vegetal forms. All these levels stand on a dark square base. In all these, the sculptor revels in assymetry and off-balance, bringing in an element of visual tension.
The human figure with its inexhaustible range of expression is central to Defensor's work. In many of his sculptures, he particularly draws inspiration from the dance, thus creating eminently supple and rhythmic figures. Their dance movements are marked with fierce energies that draw from the folk impulse, at the same time that they link up with the erotic, not only in their form but in their intensity of feeling as well. This intensity springs not from the genteel and demure "sway-balance" movements of Christian colonial dances but from an innate rusticity and robust temperament in both the male and female figures, as seen, for instance, in Pas de Deux (Contrapuntal) with the two figures, male and female, in ecstatic joy. The same is true for Basilio's Isadora, a fulsome figure who throws up her hands in utter abandon. She steps lightly on the border of the craggy second level thus risking tumbling into the earth below. While her figure shows superb artistic control, the sculptor himself allows in this work as in a number of others the element of chance. The piece on which she stands retains unmodified the natural organic shape and curvature of the original tree trunk while the relatively high base is a precise geometric form.
All this attests to the sensitivity and insightful approach of the artist to the wood medium, not suppressing its natural tendencies or imposing his will on it, but wooing it into expressive form. What ensues is an intimate dialogue between the sculptor and material--and wood is among the most sensitive and responsive of materials--in which insight and intuition play an important role.
Much of the energy of his sculpture continues into his black and white mixed-media paintings of scrylc, pen and ink, and collage. Uninhibited, the figures of lovers fly in spatial perspective marked by checkerboard designs that create pulsating and tracking movements that have a cinematic feeling. They chase the moon, whirl around maypoles in landscapes of personal symbols. Whether in sculpture or in painting, the rhythms of the dance hold sway, but in Defensor's work it is human impulse and feeling that power his work through all its images, forms and symbols.
"...Defensor's participation in this group show was followed by two successful one-person shows ...which proved significant since they marked the start of similar exhibitions by local artists who drew inspiration and confidence from Defensor's example that a self-taught, home grown artist could indeed make it..."
"...Partly perhaps because most of them are self-taught visual artists, many Iloilo artists also find creative expression in other arts: musical, performing,
even literary. One such artist is Defensor who strides all these arts and excels in all of them, too..."
--Gaudelia Vega Doromal
Hublag Ilonggo: The Contemporary Visual Arts Movement in Iloilo, VIVA
EXCON 1990-1996, The Cotemporary Visual Arts Movement in the Visayas.
National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Intramuros, Manila. 1998. pp. 34-35.