Jef Cablog: Expressive Figurative Portraits of the Philippines

By Cassie Rief in Featured Artists > Oil Paintings

Indigenous Filipino artist Jef Cablog’s bright career in oil painting began when he decided to explore the traditions of his ancestors in his work. With paintings that are both realistic and expressionistic, Jef turns back the hands of time to portray the earthy, yet also dreamlike, culture of the Philippines.

“I have listened to countless stories of Barlig, Mountain Province, my hometown, as narrated by our village elders, and now I struggle to preserve these through my works,” Jef said. “I know I will devote my entire life to this task.”

In Ochre Skin, this elder from the Gaddang tribe is dressed in festive garb that reflects his heritage and life in the Cordillera region of the Philippines. His skin, too, contains countless celebratory tattoos, as if he is physically becoming part of his attire.

ochre skin

Jef details his paintings in a way that seemingly creates a finely textured film across the top layer. Interestingly enough, in this case, I think it slightly resembles pointillism. His style only adds to its authenticity and antiquity, drawing me closer into this man’s distinctive way of life.

In Flutter—a self-portrait—Jef shows not only the passion he brings to his artwork, but also his zest for life and his other hobbies.


Grasping the rich wood of his guitar, Jef loses himself in one music-filled moment, swaying to a rhythm only he can hear as the trees’ leaves swirl in concert behind him. Jef’s use of texture creates additional movement in this already moving painting.

Lastly, the subtlety of the portrait found in Figured Obscurity 10 is so masterfully done that I wonder where the abstraction begins and this man’s facial features end.

Figured Obscurity 10

The existence of lips, nose and searching eyes blends effortlessly into a background that magically manages to also become the foreground in this abstract painting. And, although the subject is mysterious, hiding behind colors from another place and time, his eyes tell us his story and cause me to search, as well—for his story, and the meaning behind his guarded expression.

I hope you’ll set aside a minute today (or several) to view more of Jef’s wonderful oil painting by visiting his website. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.


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