A Sense of the Fantastic
by Alex Y. Vergara
(April 24, 2000 - www.inquirer.net)

FANTASIES do come true. Young graphic novelist--illustrator, if you will--Arnold Arre will finally realize his with the opening tomorrow of his first one-man show featuring a 15-piece collection of, well, fantasy art.

''I've been wanting to do something like this,'' Arre gushes. ''I didn't have any second thoughts when the chance finally came.''

Titled ''Mythos,'' the show will run until May 14 at the SM Megamall's Crucible Gallery. The pieces are said to be inspired by characters from Philippine mythology and pop culture. Think of them as Darna meets tikbalang, a marriage between modernism and traditional folklore.

The UP-trained Arre, 28, first made a name for himself as writer-illustrator of ''The Mythology Class,'' a four-part comics series that has grabbed the attention of wide-eyed kids and hard-to-please Gen Xers.

From plain pen and ink, Arre added watercolor on acid-free paper to mark his transition. And no computer-generated art, please. The painter has chosen to do it the hard way by air brushing his canvas to achieve a similar effect. He then relied on conventional brushes to painstakingly bring out the details.

''My art may be whimsical,'' he says, ''but I'm still very traditional when it comes to doing it.''

Arre's attention to details is also quite impressive in such works as ''Trip to Tagaytay'' and ''Ride to Mandaluyong.'' He effortlessly plays with colors and shades to add depth to such busy pieces.

But this quality wasn't lost on more solid works such as ''Tala'' and ''Diwata'' In the latter, for example, Arre comes up with a textured and life-like image of a fairy garbed in fusion costume inspired by tribes from both North and South

Real life

''Tagaytay'' and ''Mandaluyong's'' setting and cast of characters may be more impressive at first glance, but several pieces which focus on a central character look more inspired, if not, more timeless.

Then again, Arre is no realist in the tradition of Amorsolo or Francisco. If anything, he admires the work of such contemporary fantasy artists as Jean Giraud, H.R. Giger, Boris Vallejo and Olivia de Berandinis--foreigners who have made their mark painting outlandish images straight from their outlandish imaginations.

A true-blue member of the Voltes V generation, the first wave, mind you, Arre also drew inspiration from countless Japanese robots and animÈ.

''I'm unaware if anything like this has been done before locally,'' he says. ''That's also one of the reasons that enticed me to do a show. I love to be the first to present a new idea.''

True to his roots, his choice of subject matter borders on the bizarre to the campy. In ''Mandaluyong,'' for instance, he explored the unlikely possibility of how people, animals and beings from the netherworld could coexist.

Forget conventional vehicles, too. In ''Tagaytay,'' he came up with a new mode of transportation, a floating and oversized banca lifted by angels.

Humorous side

Arre's humorous side is also evident. For where earth or in the heavens can you see a clone of Maria Clara and Crisostomo Ibarra literally on the same boat as the tianak, engkanto and duwende.

Do they pay the same fare? Who gets to sit in front? Does the lamang lupa find the beautiful Maria Clara hideous, too? The viewer is free to weave his own stories.

Then there's ''Two Cherubs,'' images of two naked angels, one sporting a bucket hat and the other texting somebody on her cell phone. Now who would want to go to heaven if these are the types of beings you would bump into everyday on earth?

Another of our favorites is ''Darna 2000,'' a buffed version of Mars Ravelo's heroine hovering before a threatening icon of her arch nemesis Valentina. ''Are you willing to join me?'' the snake woman taunted. Over Darna's curvaceous body!

''Painting and illustrating have more similarities than differences,'' the artist shares. ''Both try to tell a story. This time, though, I'm only given a single scene to do it. But unlike in comics, I'm not restricted by certain considerations such as story, dialog and audience. I'm freer to explore wilder ideas in painting.''

It looks like the magic Arre wielded on comic books will easily cross over to the canvas. When we interviewed him last week, we saw for ourselves how his pieces readily appealed to a young crowd. Already, several eager teenagers wanted to examine his pieces up close when they chanced upon them being unwrapped at Crucible.

Such is the appeal of comics, rather, graphic novels in this country. They readily pander to the fantasies of the young and the young-at-heart.