What is beauty? In today’s day and age, several artists and art critics have questioned the very definition of beauty. Very few have held on to the real essence of beauty. Beauty as that which pleases upon being seen. These artists and art critics interpret beauty as being very subjective. More often than not, they see beauty as something that depends either on what the artist implies or what the art critics infer. Art has slowly been degrading. But all is not lost, as some artists still remain faithful to St. Thomas Aquinas definition of beauty. One of these artists is Mike Munoz.
Mike Munoz is a Filipino contemporary artist. He studied in UP College of Fine Arts in 1993. He also attended several workshops in CCP and UP. Subsequently, he set up various exhibits that display his works, which range from paintings to assemblages. He is currently part of the advocacy organization, Manlilikha Artisans’ Support Network. More importantly, he is still making works of art, which continues to inspire the Filipino art world.
Like the postmodern artists of today, Mike Munoz has a distinct style, which he employs every time he works. But unlike the said artists, he remains loyal to the strict definition of beauty as that which pleases upon being seen. Much of Mike Munoz’ work seems to be taken out of the Renaissance era. They depict scenes across the history of the Church. From the Crucifixion to portraits of saints, Mike Munoz’ artworks are simply beautiful. One particular artwork of his that has struck me the most is the Supra Miraculum et Ratio.
Loosely translating to Beyond Miracle and Reason, Supra Miraculum et Ratio can be divided into three parts. The left and right part of the painting depicts St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena, respectively. Both of them are facing the middle with their eyes firmly fixed on the figure of the dove in the middle of the two. Focusing on the material aspect of the painting, it can be said that it is visually pleasing. Mike Munoz’ made the painting very detailed with realistic colors. Also, I was able to notice the stark contrast between St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena. I believe that Mike Munoz mainly used dark colors to accentuate the masculinity of St. Thomas Aquinas. On the other hand, he made use of light colors to emphasize the femininity of St. Catherine of Siena. As for the middle portion, it seems empty compared to the other two parts because of the artist’s use of space. But the fact that it is in the middle suggests to me that it should be the focal point of the whole artwork. Although all three pieces are made of wood, the middle part is distinct because inscriptions and a frame are carved on it. A dove is then painted in the middle with
Just as the material aspect of the work is stunning, the formal aspect of it is as well. In my opinion, Mike Munoz’ Supra Miraculum et Ratio is one of those unique works, which inspires faith and charity to those who view it. But for one to fully appreciate the piece, one must be able to look beyond what can be perceived by the senses. This entails understanding the story of both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Catherine of Siena. Both of the saints engaged in matters, which strengthened and upheld the faith of the Church – often being referred to as Doctors of the Church. St. Thomas Aquinas did this through his groundbreaking study in theology and philosophy. In the painting, he is depicted as holding a quill and about to write something on a piece of paper. I think that Mike Munoz deliberately did this to emphasize the significance of St. Thomas Aquinas works. Most of these works have contributed a lot to how we understand our faith today. An example of these works is the Summa Theologiae. Similar to St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena was a very capable theologian and philosopher. Moreover, she was able to convince the Pope to return with the Papacy from Avignon, France. These two people were able to do these great deeds by their own effort and, more importantly, with the aid of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit. Although grace is such an abstract thing, it can be concretized into different things. In numerous occasions, grace, being characterized as the Holy Spirit, is depicted as a dove. As what can be seen in the painting, the dove is in the middle of the two Doctors of the Church. The way I see it, Mike Munoz wants us to realize that only through the Holy Spirit, the One attributed to giving life to the Church, can people add to the doctrine. And that without Him, there is no truth.
Upon knowing all that, we must now ask: what does Mike Munoz’ Supra Miraculum et Ratio contribute to humankind? With the rapid growth of post-modernist thinking, it is increasingly becoming more rare to see works such as the Supra Miraculum et Ratio. But this is exactly what the world needs right now – a beautifully crafted and well thought of masterpiece to revert the culture to what it was before. Through works like this, the quintessential meaning of beauty can be restored. Although it might be a stretch to say that Mike Munoz is just as good as St. Thomas Aquinas or St. Catherine of Siena, but he has, in his little way, contributed to the upholding of what is true, good and beautiful.