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LOOK: This Pinay Wows Paris With Her Oil Paintings

For Marites A. van Vianen, art is self-expression and a way to help others.

Paris may be the capital of France, but to painters and sculptors from around the globe, Paris is the undisputed Art Capital of the World. Home to such hallowed museums as the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay, it’s the dream destination of new and seasoned artists, who consider themselves made if they can manage to sell their works, let alone hold an exhibit in this vibrant city.

Marites A. van Vianen has done both. At the recent Art Shopping Carrousel du Louvre, the Paris-based Marites was the lone Filipina among over 450 international artists who participated in the contemporary art fair. Her oil paintings, which she called “Art of Resilience,” depict her personal struggles through slippers and sneakers decorated with the colors and markings of flags from different countries. Of the five she exhibited, two were sold. (Read: Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Art Holds Virtual Exhibit for Female Artists)

“No matter how great we are as artists, our art will never be loved by everyone,” she tells My Pope Philippines of how one can stand out in a sea of artists in Paris. “We must define what makes our artwork unique. Kahit na hindi ko pa talaga natatagpuan kung ano ang talagang linya ko, kailangan din natin ihanda ang sarili natin sa critique ng mga tao.”

“Find big events and exhibits,” she adds, “kasi by doing that marami tayong makikilalang mga tao. New people and new opportunities come our way once we continue exploring. And lastly, never stop learning.”

My Pope Philippines catches up with Marites, who shares how she found herself in Paris, discovered painting at 42, and gives back to Filipinos.

At the recent Art Shopping Carrousel du Louvre, the Paris-based Marites was the lone Filipina among over 450 international artists who participated in the contemporary art fair. (Photo from Marites A. van Vianen Facebook)

How did you find your way from Puerto Galera to Paris?

I was born in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, and I’m the 10th of 12 kids. Can you imagine how we struggled? When I was in college, I worked nights for an electronics company in Makati because my parents couldn’t support my studies.

In 1996, I had to get married because I was pregnant. After we had three beautiful girls, my husband and I separated in 2005. Life was not so good, so I worked abroad in 2006. I was an assistant cashier and supervisor for an Italian restaurant in Kuwait, then returned to the Philippines after a year to look after my kids. In 2009, I worked in Dubai for five years as a supplier of school uniforms for different schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

I met my second husband in 2013 and we married after my first husband got ill and died. We lived in Qatar and Malaysia until he was assigned in Paris in 2017.

You started painting at the age of 42. What made you take it up?

In 2016, my husband had a project in Malaysia. I was so bored at the time so he told me to find something to do. On the internet I found this thing called art jamming and it seemed so interesting. But on the day I joined, I found out that art jamming is choosing anything you want to paint; it’s not really a serious lesson. (Read: From BPO Agent to Chef: How This Man Successfully Changed Careers)

That day I was terribly nervous but excited. First, I took different colors of paints and brushes. But when I was in front of my canvas, I didn’t know what to do or how to mix paints! I looked around and watched what the rest were doing, and I told myself, “Bahala na!”

Marites’ paintings at the Salon International D’Art Contemporain (Photos from Marites A. van Vianen Facebook)

After class, the Malaysian teacher asked me, “Are you free tomorrow? You can come if you like and I will teach you.” I was happy and relieved. We got along and she was so nice.

Then my husband told me, “Okay, if you really want to continue, we will buy you painting materials.” My first real basic art class was with an Iranian professor; it was all about history and mixing colors by Paul Cezanne. That’s how I started exploring art. I painted at home until night, and once I finished something I would take it to class and ask what I could add. And from there, it changed my vision, my life!

You also paint on designer bags. Do you worry about making a mistake?

I’m a person who likes adventures. I always like to discover new things. It was scary because I knew there was no turning back when I mess up.  So I started with my own bags, then I put them on social media and most people loved them. I decided to continue and got new clients. (Read: LIST: Pinoy Celebrities Who Followed Their Life’s Purpose)

Personalized painted bags by Marites (Photos from Marites A. van Vianen Facebook)

Please tell us about Pinta Ayuda.

Pinta Ayuda started with Wilson Paguyo, a chef in one of the restaurants in Paris, and his idea to help the vulnerable and seniors affected by the pandemic. Two Filipino-owned galleries in Paris (Arbilo Gallery and Kwadro Pintura Gallery) collaborated with Wilson and contacted other Filipino artists in France, who were willing to donate their paintings.

Pinta Ayuda’s Art for a Cause was promoted through social media, and proceeds from the sale of the paintings went to our recipients. Through it we bought groceries and sacks of rice that were distributed to our fellow Filipinos who are in need. We still have funds and are planning to continue our mission to help people.

Besides painting on canvas and designer bags, Marites has provided artwork for books, like this one by Adriana Paramo. (Photos from Adriana Paramo Facebook)

What is next for you?

I enrolled in a modelage ceramique (sculpture) course at the Cultural Center of Courbevoie for one year; it includes exhibitions as well. If I can fit it in my schedule, I’ll enrol in a ceramique pottery course too.

Because of Pinta Ayuda I’ve met new Filipino artists, friends who have the same vision as me. We are looking for a space to use as a gallery to expose more art.

By the end of next year my husband will be on retirement. Our plan is to build my own gallery in my hometown. We will have events like art jamming, expositions, and art class. I will continue helping those who are mostly in need by donating paintings and supporting non-profit organization in my hometown.

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