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IT BEGAN with a white wall in the attic of his old home where Stephen Ozo would paint murals and explore the use of color with the small pints of paint he’d purchased. But nobody knew about it.
It was only in June 2021, when the country was under lockdown because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, that Mr. Ozo presented his work on his social media accounts. His friends and colleagues began to commission paintings from him.
From working in his attic, he is now holding his first solo exhibit at the Conrad Manila hotel where he works as the assistant front office manager.
The 18th exhibit in the “Of Art and Wine” series at the hotel’s gallery C features a 24-piece collection of the artist’s paintings, which were created amid the global pandemic. The exhibit is titled “positive | negative.”
Born and raised in Baguio City, Mr. Ozo is a self-taught artist whose passion for painting kept him busy during the lockdown.
Conrad Manila’s PR consultant Zeny Iglesias told exhibition curator Nestor O. Jardin about a hotel employee who paints. Mr. Jardin then requested to meet with Mr. Ozo and view his portfolio prior to deciding whether to include him in the hotel’s exhibition program.
After the meeting, Mr. Jardin concluded that the artist still needed to “work on his focus on his subjects, improve his color palette, and continue painting.”
The artist worked to find his style on days when he was off duty from work.
“That [feedback] pushed me. That gave me an opportunity to find my style,” Mr. Ozo told members of the press at the exhibit launch on April 5. “Eventually through the painting I was doing for my colleagues; I was finding my style.”
Dramatic, life-changing events over the past two years — the successive demise of his parents, brother, and cousin — provided the impetus to develop his art.
“[It was] one way for me to cope with all my emotions. I think it was a good output,” Mr. Ozo said.
He works with acrylic paint and mixed media, with subjects ranging from flowers and wildlife, to human figures and women’s portraits against abstract backgrounds. As a signature to his work, Mr. Ozo said that he accents the canvas with gold and white bars “represent balance, purity, and balance.”
In the latter months of 2021, Mr. Jardin reevaluated Mr. Ozo’s works.
“I looked at photos of his recent artworks, and I was pleasantly surprised. He has improved a lot. I think he was beginning to find his focus. His color palette and his brush strokes improved,” Mr. Jardin said. “Artists usually find their artistic philosophy through some life changing experiences.”
Following his first solo exhibition, Mr. Ozo hopes to continue honing his craft for future opportunities as an artist.
“I’m already thinking in my head how to plan the next series of works that I’m doing,” Mr. Ozo said. “This opportunity [leads to] other opportunities to meet more artists, young and old artists, and masters.”
Mr. Ozo is currently working on improving his skills in portraiture.
“I can sketch a beautiful face but once I paint them, it changes. So, I’m practicing portraits at the moment, which I will incorporate in my future paintings,” he said.
“Of Art and Wine: positive | negative”will be on exhibit until June 11 at Gallery C. The works are available for purchase. For more information, call 8833-9999, or e-mail email@example.com. View the digital brochure of the artworks at http://bit.ly/OAAWPositiveNegative. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman