Q&A with Dubai-based award-winning artist Edcel La Rosa Cabalan

Estimated read time 8 min read

Dubai-based watercolorist and architect Edcel La Rosa Cabalan.

Award-winning Filipino artist in Dubai to hold solo exhibit on June 8

Award-winning artist Edcel La Rosa Cabalan will be taking art enthusiasts on a trip down memory lane with his fourth solo art exhibit this June 8 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Cabalan, who works as an architect in Dubai, is an awardee in the Ani ng Dangal 2022 by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, under the Office of the Philippine President. He is also the recipient of the Outstanding Minglanillahanon 2023 award and 2024 Outstanding Tungkopanon award in the field of arts and culture. Cabalan, who is also a photography enthusiast, won the first prize in the Sultan Bin Zayed Heritage Festival 2018 Photography Competition.

His upcoming solo art exhibit “Circa: A Trip Down Memory Lane” will be held at Za’abeel Hall 3 at the Dubai World Trade Centre on June 8 in celebration of Philippine Independence Day. The exhibit, which runs from 8am to 8pm, will feature Philippine heritage alongside iconic landmarks from around the world.

From the imposing fortresses of Intramuros to the elegant street views of old Manila, and from the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi to the timeless beauty of the Venice Canals, Cabalan’s watercolor paintings offer a glimpse into the architectural wonders that have captured the imagination of people around the globe.

Cabalan, who hails from Minganilla municipality in Cebu, Philippines, relocated to the UAE in 2007 after studying Bachelor of Science in Architecture at Cebu Institute of Technology-University.

“The diverse engineering and design requirements in the UAE inspired me to pursue my profession in architecture. The region’s dynamic blend of traditional and modern architectural styles, coupled with its ambitious urban development projects, has provided a stimulating environment for my professional growth. Working in the UAE has allowed me to engage with innovative designs and cutting-edge technology, further honing my skills and broadening my expertise,” the Filipino told Expat Media.

Get to know the award-winning watercolorist and architect with this exclusive Q&A with Expat Media:

When did you discover your love for art?

My journey as an artist is a story of resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. As a Dubai-based Filipino architect, I always had a keen eye for the exquisiteness of the world around us, but it was only during the pandemic that I discovered a new medium to express my artistic imagination and emotion: watercolor painting.

Tell us about the first artwork you created.

My first watercolor artwork during the pandemic marked a significant moment in my artistic journey. Amid the uncertainty and isolation, I turned to watercolor painting as a means of expression and solace.

What is your preferred or favorite medium?

Watercolor is my preferred medium because of its fluidity, versatility, and the unique effects it can create. The transparency and layering possibilities allow me to express emotions and moods in a way that feels both spontaneous and controlled. The shades and shadows control of urban scape scene add more depth to the output.

Edcel La Rosa Cabalan

Who is your biggest artistic influence and why?

Joseph Zbukvic is my biggest influence in watercolor art due to his remarkable style and techniques. His ability to capture light, mood, and atmosphere with such precision and emotion has profoundly impacted my own work. His work serves as a constant reminder of the beauty and potential of watercolor, motivating me to continually refine my skills and artistic vision.

At which time and place are you most creative?

During afterwork hours, in the comfort of my simple abode, is where my creativity truly strikes. This personal space, free from the demands of daily life, becomes a sanctuary where I can explore new ideas and immerse myself in my art. It’s in these quiet, reflective moments that my imagination flows most freely, allowing me to experiment and create with uninhibited passion.

What impact were you hoping to achieve with your art?

The impact I was hoping to achieve with my art is to inspire and connect with people, evoke emotions, and spark conversations. I aim to showcase the richness of Filipino culture and creativity, and to contribute to the vibrant artistic community.

Tell us about the UAE’s art scene.

The UAE art scene is a vibrant and dynamic space where diverse, multicultural artists gather and unite. It offers numerous opportunities for artists to showcase their work, collaborate, and grow.

Edcel La Rosa Cabalan

Tell us about your artistic style.

Watercolour painting has provided an extended arena for me to feed my fascination in freezing the moments that are worth keeping. From scenic imageries, familiar affairs of everyday life, to remarkable elements of modern and Renaissance architecture. My impressionist and urbascape realism watercolour paintings are a coalescence of the right stroke, the right colours for the right mode I wanted to convey.

What is your favorite art subject?

Urban scapes are my favorite subject to paint in watercolor because they capture the dynamic essence of city life. The interplay of light and shadows on buildings, the reflections in water, and the hustle and bustle of urban environments provide endless inspiration. Watercolor’s fluidity and translucency allow me to convey the energy and vibrancy of cities, highlighting their architectural beauty and the stories they tell. Through my work, I aim to reflect the ever-changing, multifaceted nature of urban landscapes.

Have you collaborated with other artists?

I have had the privilege of collaborating with multicultural artists both locally and internationally through physical and online exhibitions. These collaborations have enriched my artistic journey, allowing me to exchange ideas and techniques with artists from diverse backgrounds. Participating in various exhibitions has expanded my network and provided opportunities to showcase my work to a global audience. These experiences have fostered a sense of community and have been instrumental in my growth as an artist.

What is the best piece of art you have created?

The “Di Fede E Salute” watercolor artworks have provided me with international recognition, offering a wide array of exposure from Italy to Dubai, Jordan, and Georgia. This subject from Venice, Italy has resonated with diverse audiences, allowing me to showcase my work across various cultures and regions. The international acclaim and accolades I received from this piece has been instrumental in broadening my artistic reach and connecting with art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

What is your most important art tool?

Watercolor is my most important art tool due to its unique ability to capture the subtle nuances of light and color. Its fluidity and transparency allow for a range of techniques and effects that bring my subjects to life with a delicate, ethereal quality. The versatility of watercolor enables me to express my artistic vision in ways that are both spontaneous and controlled, making it an essential medium for my creative process and capturing the essence of urban scape sceneries.

Edcel La Rosa Cabalan

If you could only choose one profession to practice, what would it be?

As an architect by profession, I bring a unique perspective to my artistic endeavors. My background in architecture informs my understanding of space, structure, and design, which translates into my artwork.

What is your dream art project?

My dream art project is to recreate an art series on Philippine architectural heritage from the Spanish era, capturing the intricate details of these historical buildings. The rich history and unique architectural elements of this period inspire me, and I am excited to bring these masterpieces to life through my watercolor paintings. I am thrilled to have started this project, as it allows me to combine my passion for architecture and art while celebrating and preserving an important part of Filipino cultural heritage.

What is the most important lesson that art has taught you?

One of the most important lessons that art has taught me is the power of perseverance and self-expression. Art has taught me to trust my instincts, take risks, and push through challenges to realize my vision. It has also provided a medium for me to express myself authentically, to explore my emotions, and to communicate ideas that transcend language barriers. Art has been a constant source of inspiration, growth and self-discovery in my life.

What have you learned as an expat in the UAE?

As an expat in the UAE, I have learned invaluable lessons in resiliency and diversity. Living in a multicultural environment has taught me the importance of adaptability and open-mindedness. I have gained a deeper appreciation for different cultures and perspectives, which has enriched my personal and professional life. Navigating the challenges of being away from home has strengthened my resilience, teaching me to overcome obstacles with determination and to find opportunities for growth in every situation.

What’s next for you?

As an artist, the journey ahead holds endless possibilities for breaking barriers and achieving international milestones and exposure. Collaborating with other artists from diverse backgrounds can also expand your horizons and open up new opportunities for growth and recognition on a global scale. With this reason, I became a member of the International Association Visual Artists that is based in France. ICA/Pia/Expat Media


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