From 1963 onwards, a couple of years after a distressing bout of identity crisis which resulted in him leaving his post in Manila managing the family business and uprooting himself to settle in Spain (where he would remain for the rest of his life), Fernando Zbel turned his eyes to scenery and the natural landscape as a painterly theme. Such sceneries were oftentimes imaginative, based upon composite recollections of various scenes. These idealized landscapes percolate the essential qualities of time and space, and are rendered with a marked increase in the interest to employ colours.
Dated 1971, the present lot, Wet country demonstrates many of the defining characteristics of Fernando Zbel's practice during this period of his artistic career. Coming upon the formative Saeta series of the later half of the 1950s and the Negra (Black) series of the early 1960s, paintings from 1963 onwards to the late 1960s return to colour, with an abundance of usage of varying shades of sienna, brown, ochre and grey, the luminosity of the painted surface belying a sense of quietude and melancholy. Fernando Zbel has been quoted stating the formalistic interest and challenge he set himself in trying to remember in pictorial terms, using the impact of light, brightness and colour relationships.
Wet Country can be seen to bear out the productive outcome of such an engagement. The muted but starkly breathtaking view of a landscape is identifiable by its horizon, cast discernibly in the middle ground of the painting. The gradated band of grey paint seemingly seeping through the pictorial space is highly evocative of the nature of diffused light, gradually moving through space, its glow even more wondrous seen through droplets of water in a humid sky.