Brought to you by National Gallery Singapore: Hills Of Nikko by Jose Joya

Masterpieces from the Gallery


By Jose Joya (b. 1931, the Philippines;

d. 1995, the Philippines)

Oil on canvas, 172.7 x 198cm

Collection of National Museum of the Philippines


In the Philippines' post-independence period, abstract art became a prevalent and influential trend. Jose Joya, posthumously declared a National Artist in the Philippines, was instrumental in developing abstraction and representing it in its expressionist facet.

Reflecting his prominence, the art critic Leonidas Benesa once remarked: "There was a time in Philippine painting when Philippine painting was Jose Joya."

In Hills Of Nikko, energy is conveyed in sweeping gestures using paint in black, red, blue, green and yellow. The bursts of colour provide the appropriate tension to the surrounding vacant space of neutral even colour.

Joya saw this particular painting as representing his aesthetic experience in Nikko, Japan, one of the many places he visited and named his artworks after. Rather than being creative interpretations of traditional landscapes, however, these paintings more accurately represent the artist's own emotional terrain.

Hills Of Nikko was among the paintings by Joya in the 1964 Venice Biennale, the first time the Philippines officially participated in the international art event. He donated the work to the National Museum of the Philippines after its return.

Its loan to the National Gallery Singapore marks the first time it has been exhibited abroad since Venice.

•This is the second of a six-part series brought to you by the National Gallery Singapore. The Gallery houses the largest public collection of Singapore and South-east Asian art and opens to the public on Nov 24. Go to for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2015, with the headline ' Masterpieces from the Gallery'. Print Edition | Subscribe