Mark Lloyd Benavente Belicario, a 32 year old painter from Ceby City, the Philippines, won the Jury’s Choice Award in the Portrait category for his work entitled “Wanderlust”, followed by Anne Herrero’s landscape “After the Storm” and Monika Helgesen’s composition “Transmission”. After receiving the most votes by the public (of the three candidates), Belicario ended up winning the grand prize: a scholarship to attend Odd Nerdrum’s workshop at the TIAC Academy in Florence in 2020.
How do you feel about winning the scholarship?
MB: I’m surprised, excited and happy because I didn’t expect to win this competition, considering some brilliant painter contestants.
Back in 2008, Mark Belicario quit his electronics’ studies and started working professionally as a painter.
What made you decide to pursue a career in painting?
MB: In College, the course for painting in the Philippines was very expensive compared to other courses. Another factor was that my father did not favor my chosen career in painting, considering the practical consequences of such a profession. He wanted me to get a “decent job” that would pay me regularly, as opposed to painting, which gives no assurance for better opportunities. But my strong desire to paint lead me to become a full-time painter and quit the electronics course to pursue my passion.
In a few words, what are you aiming at in your work?
MB: My only aim is to paint until I get satisfied with the result, I work with every area of the canvas, enhancing the light areas to create a story and produce the chiaroscuro effect.
Your painting “Wanderlust” — what is it about?
MB: The painting “Wanderlust” is about a woman traveling by boat, searching for someone, until she realizes that the sunrise is reaching her. The model for the painting is my girlfriend. I portrayed her in a boat because it represents my place in Cebu City, a small island surrounded by sea.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
MB: My main source of inspiration is to see my self looking forward with the passion, love, and happiness to paint. I’m inspired by the work of past masters and living painters, from Leonardo da Vinci to Odd Nerdrum, Vincent Desiderio and Orley Ypon in the present. I am also inspired by the chiaroscuro painter Rembrandt and the way he uses light and shadow. Early on as a painter, I frequently studied his works through internet and books. I also admire the work of William Turner, Thomas Moran — how they create this luminous effect in their paintings. In the Philippines, past master Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo also inspire me. I’ve learned a lot about their paintings, seeing them in the Philippines National Museum.
When the painter Orley Ypon founded the AROMA Atelier group in 2016, Belicario decided to apply to become a student and was accepted after a month’s training. He is now a senior member, teaching new students the traditional, realistic way of painting.
How is the situation for classical figurative painting in the Philippines?
MB: The situation for classical figurative painting in the Philippines is not as good as it was in the past century, when there were great figurative masterpieces, but my teacher has created a group encouraging the young to create figurative works of a high level — not just with the aim to pursue classical realism, but also to pursue a high level of craft and knowledge.
Do you see a bright future for the Greco-Roman tradition?
MB: Of course, yes, because there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, creating in accordance with tradition to continue what the past started to create.
Mark Belicario is currently exhibiting his work at Gallery Altro Mondo, Gallery Roberto, Gallery Primo and Gallery Anna in the Philippines.