Color and Bounty

by Josef Woodard
Los Angeles Times
February 14, 2002


The intriguing, exotic paintings of Fatima Ronquillo have been showing up in teasing, small doses in local galleries of late. Now, we get a chance to see a healthy complement of her work in her first local solo show at the Buenaventura Gallery. Make no mistake, Ronquillo’s vivid paintings make for a welcome and unique addition to the local art scene.

Initial impressions suggest a strong influence of Mexican art history, with echoes of Diego Rivera and [Fernando] Botero. But Ronquillo’s background is a bit complicated. Born in the Philippines in 1976, she took up art while in San Antonio where she was introduced to—and clearly inspired by—Mexican role models. She returned briefly to Manila but has lived in Ventura since 2000.

In these paintings, squat, rounded figures tend to consume much of the allotted compositional space, making the pictures appear blithely fit to burst. Warmth comes in various colors and evocations: Images of maternal bliss are the subject in “The Lullaby” and “Mother and Child Asleep,” while “Nude in a Hammock” embraces female sensuality. The reclining nude here is ample—call her Ruben-esque, or more accurately, Botero-esque— with anatomical dimensions unlike those representing beauty in Hollywood or from Madison Avenue, If her forms lean toward the voluptuous, accenting curves over angles, her palette is similarly fecund. Color veritably oozes and buzzes in “Through the Orchard,” its female subject sporting a rainbow-colored basket full of fruit on her head and with a swirl of tropical  vegetation all about.

Ronquillo’s unapologetically eye-grabbing exhibition, Magandang Buhay (Beautiful Life), presents imagery of simplicity and innocence, with sexuality in the wings. Hers is an art quite literally full of life.