Ara ka sa Dughan

 

          Currently on view at Galerie Anna is an exhibition of works on paper by Negrense artist Nunelucio Alvarado, with the tender titled “Ara Ka sa Dughan”, translated as “You Are in my Heart,” affords the viewer to see an aspect of his prolific creation that is not often seen by the greater audience. Alvarado is one artist whose art aspires for greatness: certainly not in the materialistic and commercial sense of it, but in terms of ambition; again not as a  careeristic or egoistic self-promotion, but in the struggle to use his art to address themes that may seemingly be rooted in his native Negros, but translate to their universal significance and consequences.

          To be sure, the viewer is more accustomed to the more bristling,  more aggressive stance of Alvarado’s art. For decades, since the Seventies, his works were associated with the historical movement known as Social Realism. It was the appropriate decade, remarkable for the fearless denunciatrion of a reigning social order that  unconscionably ignored the plight and suffering of the masses. To say that the trauma inflicted by years of Martial Law still lingers is an understatement. Indeed, the wounds of this inhuman destruction of lives remain indelibly present in the never-ending curse of poverty and persecution throughout the land. Thus artists could only take recourse to their art in order to hold up a mirror that reflects our social realities. Undoubtedly, the tension in  the works of Alvarado is one of unmitigated intensity, of  a sustained pitch that is more remarkably memorable by his distinctive handling of form which enables him to uplift his art to the level of  excellence achieved by Social Realists in other countries, specifically Mexico and  Latin America.

          It is therefore a visually refreshing and solacing experience to see Alvarado tackle themes that depart momentarily from his accustomed images. A long-running series titled “Babaye” - “Woman” –  is a refreshing take on folk genre, depicting the subject - “Inday” – as wife, mother, vendor. Still in his distinctive, characteristic style and brilliantly acidic chromatic scale, the image is redolent of the idyll. Whether selling fish, chicken, flowers, fruits and vegetables (inevitably raising visions of Manansala, Malang and Magsaysay-Ho), Alvarado’s Inday seems made of sterner stuff, of a backbone made sturdy by life’s vicissitudes, unbending to the willful neglect of destiny. Typically, these paintings are invested with brilliant prismatic and primary colors and, more enchantingly, a vibrant spread of variegated quilt-like patterns, with particular patience and persistence on their enthusiastic elaboration. Surprisingly, Alvarado works on this visual activity, traditionally regarded as feminine, being allied with domestic arts, with a total lack of self-consciousness. The prevalent use of patterning, both geometric and arabesque, engenders in the works a welcome liveliness, a dynamic rhythm, and a joyous orchestration of contrasting patterns.

          One returns to the title piece, “Ara Ka sa Dughan”, which depicts the visage and torso of a man upon which is emblazoned a heart, so diffident and disconcertingly hidden, as if quelling its palpitating torrents of love. Is this a portrait of the artist in the throes of an overwhelming emotion? For Nunelucio Alvarado, the human acknowledgment of this universal force remains at the heart of the matter.

 

They Were Among Us

“They Were Among Us”:  Vincent Padilla’s Encounter with Time Past

 

            In her book “On Photography” Susan Sontag writes: “A photograph is not just the result of an encounter between an event and a photographer; picture-taking is an event in itself, and one with even more peremptory rights --- to interfere with, to invade, or to ignore whatever is going on. The omnipresence of cameras persuasively suggests that time consists of interesting events, events worth photographing. After the event has ended, the picture will still exist.”

                                                Raising the Ante

            And if artist Vincent Padilla will have his way, his paintings based on these photographs will co-exist in time together with the images that engendered his artworks. In a series of shows devoted to the exploration of emotional and psychological connections with old photographs, Padilla keeps raising the ante. He has, after all, no choice but to do so: looming large is the legacy of National Artist BenCab’s “Larawan” works, after which paintings based on photographs would be counterproductive, redundant, lame. BenCab had, after all, already claimed the territory, and to such magnificent results.

It is to the credit, therefore, of Vincent Padilla that, despite the daunting challenge that lay ahead of him, he has redeemed himself, for he had neither scruples nor doubts,  that his own photography-based works would reveal what the original photographs never did. He would transform his own canvases as a concealed camera.

                                    Pages of History

            Currently on view at Galerie Anna is Padilla’s solo exhibition, billed as “They Were Among Us.” Padilla focuses his lens, as it were, on notable historical figures, mostly public personalities in the arts and politics, so famous that streets and avenues are named after them. Plucked from the pages of history, they deliberately lose their time-line distance and detachment from us even as we relish our connection with our sense of history, where the past participates in the present. Thus, it seems, History is just a jeepney ride away.

            Understandably, the artist in Padilla ties him, like an umbilical cord, to such luminaries as Fernando Amorsolo and Guillermo Tolentino montaged together, the pioneer professors of the Escuela de Bellas Artes (among them, Vicente Rivera y Mir, Miguel Zaragosa, Teodoro Buenaventura, and Dean Rafael Enriquez), and in one iconic photograph, Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, with Dr. Jose Rizal. History as hero-worship is accountably evident in these works.

Interestingly, Padilla has maintained his characteristic layering of manuscript writing in reverse across the pictorial space, serving much like a subtle running filmic music in this these visual discourses with history. And as the manuscripts are hardly legible, teasingly puzzling and painstakingly handwritten, they seem like forerunners of the contemporary practice of merging words and images.

Other notable historical figures assert their presence: President Manuel Quezon panning for gold, Rafael Palma leading the members of the Philippine Independence Mission, all wrapped in heavy winter overcoat; William H. Taft presiding over the Philippine Assembly (where Padilla has brazenly interposed himself in the scene, painting the proceedings), and the bandolero-hero Macario Sakay, in  characteristic  long tresses, with his band of brigands.

                        Timeless Instrument

The viewer may construe that history may vanish upon the destruction of these photographs, paper being so perishable, for only photographs may prove the existence of a past reality. Vincent Padilla proffers his paintings not merely as a more stable medium of recording the past, the act itself being a reproach to photography, but as a timeless instrument created by man and not by machine.

“They Were Among Us” is on view until October 10.

Bang and Some Other Paintings

 

BANG and some other Paintings

Nuestro’s abstract painting vocabulary take off from creating something new from the very spoils of paintings itself. Behind the entire loop, dangles, sprouting images, textured impastos, transparent veiling, mix add of snippets, prints and spillage of signs and decorative strokes, all those elements are transformed into some observations and amplifications of his personal, political and social concern.  Even the smart titling of this series of works carry his concerns.

The white grain of his paper and canvas are his playground.  Thereafter, he starts organizing familiar abstract images utilizing his cunning manipulation of his medium. The drama unfolds by combining all different familiar painting strokes from hard edge, to free flowing strokes, transparency, text, numbers, print based image making techniques and deconstructive image manipulation inspired by computer graphics.

Bob Nuestro was born in the Philippines in 1967. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree major in Painting from the old Philippine College of Music & Fine Arts, an affiliate of Philippine Women’s University in 1988. 

He has exhibited his works in Manila, Chicago, New York, Singapore and Japan. 

His relevant exhibitions are as follow,   in 1999 at the Lopez Museum Gallery Pasig City Philippines, in 2001 at Cultural Center of the Philippines Pasay City Philippines and in 2008 at the White Cube Gallery, Metropolitan Museum of Manila, curated by a leading Filipino Art Critic Emmanuel Eric Torres.

From 1995 to 1999 he is one of the Artist- in Residence of the Art & Associates Gallery now Avellana Gallery and from 1999 to 2005 he is one of the exhibiting artist of The Drawing Room Contemporary and   from 2005 to 2010 he is the director of his Art Project - Artists –run Independent Art Space, at the same time he is the painting department program coordinator and Art instructor from his Alma Mater now Institute of Fine arts and design {IFAD}.

On February of 2010 he migrated from the Philippines to the United States and became an Independent artist based in Carol Stream a suburb near Chicago Illinois.

 

 

Figuring the Body

FIGURING THE BODY

Bone and flesh, skin and sinew, veins and blood, visage, torso, limbs and extremities: reduced to their physiognomic delineations, the human body is not much different from that of a lowly beast. And yet, by what marvel of Divine creation is the immense complexity of the interrelated workings behind this machine of humankind, itself a perfect work of art but accursed with mortal fate, and which begins to die thereafter the first inhalation of breath.

“Figuring the Body” is an exploration into the aesthetic and psychic identity of the human body, that fleshly terrain of pain and desire, pleasure and activity, energy and debilitation, ecstasy and exhaustion, instrument of bliss and superb engineer of procreation. Finally, in the end, whether ravaged by illness and disease or snuffed by accident or self-destruction, whether consumed by fire or gnawed by earth, this frail vessel of spirit will give up the ghost.

The artists in this show, curated by Robert Besana for Galerie Anna, share the secret of their insights, in varying shades of enlightenment and indeed, puzzlement, each artwork an aperture opening into a region of knowledge that hopefully sheds a ray of light into this most confounding of mysteries: the human body.​

 

Havent Stopped Dancing Yet

 

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME

 

                        Nicolas Poussin (1594-1605), master exponent of French classical painting, created the work A Dance to the Music of Time, depicting four female dancers, hand in hand swaying to the lyre music of an old man. The four women represented the four seasons and their succeeding  passages through time, here symbolized by the ancient musician. This painting is at the heart of the solo exhibition “Ferdie Cacnio: Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.” The show celebrates a decade of his dance paintings and sculptures,  with new works now view at the Galerie Anna.

                        To be sure, dance has always been depicted in ancient Egyptian tombs, Greek vases and bas-reliefs, Roman and Etruscan frescoes with their dancing bacchantes, down through the centuries, which saw another French master, Matisse,  depicting the subject in his typical simplified forms in large decorative panels, as well as his series of paper cut-outs, “Dance for Joy.”  The other painter who celebrated dance was Edgar Degas with his ballerinas delineated while in rehearsal, performance, and in repose. In Philippine art, National Artists Fernando Amorsolo and Carlos “Botong” Francisco featured our native dances, notably the tinikling. In particular, another National Artist, the late J. Elizalde Navarro, filled large canvases of exotic Balinese dances after his many visits to the Indonesian isle.

                        What distinguishes Cacnio from these artists who explored dance as a subject is that he himself is an active practitioner of the art. Not of the classical ballet, which has become a trademark of his art, but of modern dance, having done stints on television and the movies, indeed winning in dance competitions. Choreographers from classical ballet groups have in fact taken notice of his impressive height and virile strength and performance, making him a potential premier danseur in their imagination, but their invitations to Cacnio were unheeded. For the artist was keenly aware of his own temperament that will not easily submit to a choreographer’s  imperious will and dictate. Cacnio had taken to heart the words of choreographer Merce Cunningham: “You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no painting to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

                        Cacnio is clearly an exception to this understandable recrimination. As an artist himself capable of capturing the power and drama of dance through another medium, Cacnio has already created a still growing body of work, as attested by several exhibitions devoted to the subject.  Of his sculptural works, we have written:

                        “The essential impulse in Cacnio’ sculptures is the pursuit of the expressive gesture, specifically an arrested moment that seems like an eternal pause.  Though still and immobile, the lone dancer’s pose captures at once the elasticity of tension and the repose of isolation --- in the flailing of the arms, in the seemingly fluid rushing of sprightly feet, in the sailing of the body through the air, as if the space itself were the hollowed volume from which the sculptural figure had been carved.

                        Indeed, each part of the dancer’s physiognomy, each detail of her accoutrements, quickens our interest in her. From the vertiginous stiletto heels that look like a pair of dangerous instruments to the compressed flesh heaving beneath a stifling bodice, Cacnio is in control of his material. What awakens the audience to the thrill of her “performance” is the pleasurable vivacity of the vicarious experience, as any minute now, one expects the house to erupt into thunderous applause.

                        With the suavity of a trained stage performer, Cacnio shapes and molds the figure with the musicality of a born choreographer, swept by his own internal rhythm. By turns earthbound and spiritual, his dancers possess the compressed energy and fury of bodies articulating universal emotions ---joy and celebration, grief and despair r---  in the purest and distilled expression that dance can communicate.”

                        Cacnio’s  paintings of  dancers, however, were rendered with intensity and speed of brushstrokes, as though, not wanting to miss a beat, the artist instantaneously grasped the afterimage left by the dancer’s split-second movements and the flurry of their garments or outfits.  Visages and torsos, arms and legs and toes are mere silhouettes which direct our gaze to the motivation of the movement. As dancer-choreographer Doris Humphrey emphasized in her book “The Art of Making Dances”:  a movement without a motivation is unthinkable. Some force is the cause for change of position, whether it is understandable or not. This applies not just to dancing, but to the physical world in general.

                        The challenge and triumph of Ferdie Cacnio’s art has to do with the difficult task of transcending one art, dance, and transmitting its dynamics and energies through another medium. For, as Humphrey, totally self-protective of her art, never forgets reminding her audience: the dancer’s medium is the body, not paint or stone or sound. Cacnio’s  decade-long wonder and fascination with dance has made him its most worthy acolyte. This show is his own dance to the music of time.

                       

 

                       

                       

                       

 

 

 

BULL IN THE HEATHER

Bull in the Heather

Bull In The Heather, the titular song by Sonic Youth, and so named after a real Kentucky derby horse, is poised for this exhibit as a metaphorical open source to the myriad readings on power dynamics, value, labor, craft, functionalism,   mysticism, primal instincts, spectatorship, and performance, especially set on the strength and idiosyncratic vision of the artists involved, as to be an artist requires a considerable degree of conviction as headstrong as a prized race horse.

The song, with the exhibit not entirely being about it and for it, serves as a prompt as well as to embody the fervor and attitude of an inter-generational discourse pop savvy on such issues.  We are after all molded by the music we listen to, the films and TV programs we watch, the books we read, where we mine mostly the meaning of our existence, gleaning from the troubled and awkward age of our first awakening.   The song, however, and its entire inherent connotation, is not to be read through literally, as the lyrics and the way it was performed by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, comes out as a breathy seductive tease addressed ambiguously to neither man nor animal /creature /being :

Tell me that you wanna scold me
Tell me that you a-dore me
Tell me that you're famous for me
Tell me that yr gonna score me
Tell me that you gotta show me
Tell me that you need to sorely
Time to tell yr love story
Time f'r turning over and over
Time f'r turning four leaf clover
Betting on the bull in the heather

“Time to tell your love story “. For this exhibit it, is a love story as an op-ed confessional, broadly expressed as dainty wispy pen strokes of biomorphic expulsions , as sensuous lines streaming into rivulets of mane and waves of nymphs, as finely cut embroidered appliques of pre-pubescent girls, as  dense as a rubber tires bound by netted lace,  as vivid splashes of purple and tangerine on writhing bound bodies, or as brash as a glittered banner extolling anatomical proprietorship.

We thus embolden you to take on this exhibit as a Trojan gift horse to be looked on in its mouth, its ears, its teeth, its full form, inside and out, lest it gallops away with all your bets, for this art show will be gone, too soon. 

A Bout De Souffle

A Bout De Souffle

 

The JOQUICOS: Breathlessly Devoted to Art

 

            Blood is thicker than oils and acrylics: that’s the impression the viewer will get when realizing that the three artists in this group show all bear the same family name.  The Joquicos --- Gerry and his two sons Gary And Grae --- cross trajectories of influences such that a commonality exists, although that may not be as expressively perceptible at initial glance. Can members of one artistic family really avoid working by osmosis, as if by having shared common umbilical cords, or just plain breathing the same space of air, the artistic ties that bind are either tightened or loosened, depending on the comfortability of each to the other as practitioners of the same art? Are the Joquicosanother artistic dynasty looming in the horizon? Such are the questions raised by their group show to which they have given the French title “A Bout de Souffle,” literally meaning “out of breath” or breathless.

            Metaphorical narrative is Gerry’s strongest suit, where images partake of the transmission of allegories which emerge as unexpected guest in the viewer’s imagination. His canvases concentrate on a single solitary figure as if caught in a frozen dream. Even in a triptych such as the title piece, with its inescapable allusion to the expression “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil,” an extreme solitariness pervades the scene, a self-preoccupation that only b properly described as lost in their own world. In “The Lost Seeker,” the wooden boy Pinocchio continues to lie, his pointed nose lengthening as he dissembles, as to what is in sight of the telescope. In “Parable of the Moon,” a man nakedly ensconced atop a high stool, ruminates on the different stages of the moon, a sight perhaps more visible had he Pinocchio’s viewing equipment. In “Procrastination,” we gasp at the sight of a woman with a wooden arm, very like Pinocchio’s, an assumption driven no doubt by our wild imagination.

            A spirit as bound to earth as she is consumed into the fourth dimension is the woman, with her back to the viewer, in Gary’s “Rejection.”In this work, a lamb curiously looks out of the pictorial space, as though in a theater’s fourth wall. Is this the same lamb, or its counterpart,  prostrate in Gerry’s “Disenlightenment”? Like figures out of a Magritte landscape,emerge three men in dark, heavy overcoat, each one holding aloft an upturned black umbrella, as if to catch a downpour of blessings, in his “Waiting for Rain.” In both Gerry and Gary’s works, the figures have shut themselves out of the physical world as they wrestle with the universal anxieties and concerns of the human condition: deception, hypocrisy, alienation, frustration, unrealized dreams, all the miseries cast upon us by our internal demons.

            Very wisely, Grae strategically positioned himself as the abstractionist in the family. Opting to work  in abstraction, he was able to enter another dimension of insight and feeling. To his credit, however, though he has spurned the visible human presence, his abstractions of an open, immeasurable space harken to the ashen grey and mistral skies, at once hazy and luminous,  of Gerry and Gary’s atmospheric visions. It is said that Grae was influenced by the American-born but British-based James Whistler (1834-1903), whose iconic painting the artist has wryly titled as an abstraction, “Arrangement in Grey and Black,” though infact it visibly portrays the artist’s mother, a seated solitary figure, much like the women in Gary and Gerry’s works, albeit now bent with age. She has wrapped around herself a shawl of distance and mystery, calmly immobile in her stolid chair, an austere presence awaiting inevitable death.

            Indeed, on these works, Grae has bestowed the foreboding collective title “Requiem.” In specific works, allusions to ashes, flames, tears (“Lacrimosa”) rend the air of his abstractions. His triptych, a meditative oracle to nothingness, is titled “Trio Al Niente.”

            As to the eyebrow-raising title, it is expected that this show must perforce make some connection with the 1960 classic movie by the French director Jean-Luc Godard. There’s a line in the film says: “What we are determines what we do.” So lucid and pointed is the significance of its message that we need not wait with bated breath for what it means to our lives.

  • Cid Reyes

           

           

           

           

           

           

 

Coalesce

“Coalesce” is More

 

            When an artist holds a solo exhibition that displays a variety of styles, subjects, and techniques, you are bound to hear a familiar a comment usually passed along in whispers. The remark invariably is always: “Parang group show!”

            But when an actual group exhibition is presented, the challenge faced by the curator is the coherence of the assembled works. A group show is realized when artists create their works based on an agreed common theme. A group show, however, can also be presented from a selection ofartists’s previous works.  The curator sees a common thread, whether in subject or in sentiment. This was the challenge of artist MalynBonayog, who curates this group exhibition, to which she has given as title the very operative word that must be satisfied in order to justify the assembling of varied works into a curated group exhibition. The title is “Coalesce,” which synonymously means “to blend, to fuse, to blend, to merge.’  Indeed, curator is a title not to be taken lightly, as it carries with it the responsibility of being the guiding intelligence behind a show.

            The audience, too, must be engaged in a participative role, and should not expect to be, as it were, spoon-fed. Such an act in fact patronizes the audience.

            Over a decade ago, we were introducedby art dealer and friend Norma Liongoren to the works of a young artist with a vision of Manila’s urban life seen from  a skyline perspective, more commonly known as “a bird’s eye-view.” The works showed a multitude of human figures looking skywards, for which reason their foreheads were easily misconstrued as balding pates. The artist is DansoyCoquilla, whose by now abundant body of works all carry his trademark and signature look.  His work submitted to the show is titled “Center Island Eatery.” This is typical of Coquilla’s work, which depicts the unique peculiarities and eccentricities of our urban denizens. The work captures what Coquilla has observed: how our masa eateries have illegally taken over public spaces.One may suspect that more than just spoons have been greased.  (Or has the barangay captain just looked away?)

            Glistening light, bouncing off sheen of flesh or plastic drapery, has become the signature of Jerry Morada.In “Coalesce,”Morada, as though shimmering from the suggestions of obese, weight-burdened figures of the Colombian artist Fernando Botero, succumbs to the lure of another medium: sculpture. His “Yakap” series, based on the classic Mother and Child theme, hugs, in a manner of speaking, the limelight. Both mother and child are so inextricably molded together that their mounds of flesh cohabit the same space, so intertwined are their merging bodies. A couple of paintings also assume sculptural volume and mass. A terribly witty and delightful painting depicts the convoluted figures of a mother and child in the guise of a child’s plastic balloon.

            Another classic subject inPhilippine iconography is the jeepney, still king of the road through all the tangled traffic of our metropolitan jungle. Previously, artists such as Vicente Manansala, Cesar Legaspi, Antonio Austria, Edwin Wilwayco, Manuel Garibay and a host of others have painted this public mode of transport in their own individual styles. Chris Magbuhos brings a sparkling Pop quality to the subject, with his serial frontal depiction of the jeepney, with a preponderance of signages which serve both as the title and a characteristic presentation of the attitude and temperament of all types of passengers. Stunningly, in “SagradaFamilia,” we are by turns amused and delighted by the sight of the Holy Family crowded together beside the driver.

            Suffering humanity is the misery-laden theme of Joseph de Juras, in works that are titled with specific strains of existential anguish and ecstasy. Thus: “Bliss,” “Sentiment,” “Desire,” “Void,” and in one work that mocks excessive attitudinizing, “Melodrama.” De Juras asks the inevitable universal questions:  Is man’s suffering imposed on him by some Divine Puppeteer, or are they the consequence of man’s free will? Is life merely an illusion of an individual incapable of confronting his fears and weaknesses, or is physical, emotional, and mental suffering his real destiny on earth?

            Josue Mangrobang’s work titled “Soul-Searching” is the image of a man whose visage is almost completely shrouded with the artist’s familiarschool pad, with just an eye peeking through. If the eyes are the vaunted mirrors of the soul, this one-eyed man must journey through life as though on one leg.But that single eye firmly caged within its socket, gazes out at the audience, piercing through our thick wall of indifference and apathy at the sight of a fellow suffering soul.

            Have the audience’s feelings and thoughts, ignited by these various images, finally coalesced into a single unity of impression about the human condition?

  • Cid Reyes

 

 

Broad Strokes

Life and Love, Death and Godin “Broad Strokes”

 

            “Humankind cannot bear too much reality.” Thus  the words of the greatest poet of the 20th century, T. S. Eliot. The burden of existence carries just so many complications that challenge human endurance and resignation, leading nowhere but to misery, despair, and ultimately, both physical and spiritual death. This was in fact the essential conundrum behind Eliot’s poem “The Waste Land,” the title of which aptly describes man’s existence laid waste, irretrievably and with finality.

            In the visual arts, it is the medium of painting that has carried the burden of visualizing and reflecting on the human condition, in all its vagaries and confusions. Thus, the procession of art movements that explored, in a succession of revolution and counter-revolution, the different facets of humanity, in all its gloried celebration and puzzling meaninglessness. Indeed, after the fascination with such novel approaches to art-making (think installations, digital and performance art),have waned, painting is once again in the ascendant, resurrected from the graveyard from whence it was once consigned by trendy and, yes, novel art brokers.

            In the current exhibition at Galerie Anna titled “Broad Strokes,” painting, as though in an act of restitution and compensation, makes up for the neglect to which it has been subjected. A dozen artists, all determinedly and predominantly figurative, paint with a resolve that tackles all the perpetual themes of human existence.They are Brian Teves, Lester Rodriguez, Efren Carpio, Fernando Antimano, Marvin Quizon, Jonathan Castro, Mel Cabriana, Janelle Tang, Jeffrey Salon, Mark Lester Espina, Dawn Arcamo, and Arman Jay Arago. These are the soul-searching artists  whose canvases  are saturated with  the fervor and vehemence of their conviction.

            Brian Teves’s “Bring Me To Life” and  “Chasing the Light”  both pull the viewer by the seductive explicitness of the subject. Both are tangible appearances of two  women, one naked and the other ethereally robed, but both are invested with angel wings; the nude, with elegantly tattooed wings on her back; the other, in ecstatic flight to the Source of Light. Several works of Teves in the past have already mined the angelic image as a propelling force in his art.

            “Cold Play” by Lester Rodriguez is like an eerie still life of a dump-yard  where a litter of plastic toy soldiers, in various arrested motions of battle, becomes a metaphor for the themes of war, violence, destruction, and death. The work is a searing reflection on the fact that childhood is the breeding ground  for the acceptance of war as mere child-play, writ large with real weapons of destruction.

            An enigmatic work by Efren Carpio  is a serial imagery of a young girl,with a burst of blossoms emerging from her mouth, suggestive  inevitably of childhood’s favorite cotton candy, but bears, to be sure,  a far less saccharine  message, judging from its sardonic title: “Sugar Coating.”

            “Lady with Piglet” is a comic and affectionate send-up of “Lady with Ermine.” It is attributed to Da Vinci.  In  FernandoAntimano’s amusing work, the artistic process of appropriation, beloved of the young, rears its hydra-headed countenance, sending off sparks of meanings that only a wily or perceptive viewer can decipher.

            Marvin Quizon takes us on a not-so-jolly joyride as we reflect on “ A Reserved Trip to the Carousel.” Circuses, clowns,  and carousels are mythical devices for sinister and horrific goings-on, deceiving the audience, and feigning the innocence, delight, and fun-house world  of childhood.

            A dig at the Pinoy penchant for affectionately addressing personages of importance is the title of Jonathan Castro’s work: “Papa God.” Rough-hewn, like a wooden sculpture of the Christ, with his hand pointed at the aflamedSacred Heart, the work intriguingly provokes guilt and repentance.

            Mark Espina’s “Smile” is a portrait of a seated woman, with the artist’s purported intent of merely displaying the model’s appeal and pulchritude. The artist, however, stands the art of portraiture on its head, by ingenuously depicting her dress as a multilayered impasto application of white pigments, thereby effectively effacing the achieved illusion of the subject.

                        “Swatches” by Janelle Tang invites us to a perception of a self-contained world as a virtual collage of experiences filtered through a feminine, more specifically, a domestic sensibility. Studiously delicate and gentle, a pastel-colored universe, the work is gracefully underscored by images redolent of flowers, fairy tales, and womanly crafts.

            Dawn Arcamo’s “Descend”  conflates a welter of bold geometric patterns, stripes, fractals and Escher-like illusions, startled by a flight of birds. The presence of a woman in the central area surrounded by all the spatial paths strengthens its lineage descended from Giorgio de Chirico’s metaphysical urban landscapes.

            Three works by Mel Cabriana might at first seem like each has gone on a diverging separate path, but all in fact share a collective glimpse of reality, with a manic resolve to evade it. “Ilusyon” depicts an amorphous figure behind a white shroud struggling to set itself free. Likewise, in “Fragile,” a female nude is trapped within a constricting bubble-wrap.  In “Hidden Smiles,” thick foliage and vegetation serve as camouflage for unseen forces leering at the viewer. (Try hard enough and

            An unlikely vision worthy of a comic Magritte, the Belgian master of surrealism, are the two works of Arman Jay Arago, respectively titled “No Waste” and “Shrimp.” A voluptuous nude reemerges with the head of a chicken and a pink crustacean.

            GalerieAnna  presents“Broad Strokes”  as a show that depicts humankind struggling to bear the curse of too much reality.

  • Cid Reyes

           

           

           

 

           

 

 

Et Habitávit in Nobis

Michael Munoz:  And The Paint Was Made Flesh

 

            In Michael Munoz’s current exhibition “Et Habitavit in Nobis” at the Galerie Anna, there is a painting titled “Papal Blessing,” which depicts the silhouette of a pope in a gesture of benediction, dispensing his blessings on an implied, unseen multitude. It is of course delightful to assume that the distinction of the image still resonates in the afterglow of a recent papal visit on our shores. Based on a photograph, with the identity of the papal personage intentionally effaced, the painting is not dependent on the persona of the pope, but rather on the ritualized act, the ceremonial motion of hands emitting, as it were, flashes of divine energies, raining down on an audience so overwhelmed by the sacred presence.

            If Andy Warhol was crowned the Pope of Pop, then Munoz might well be the exemplar of what can only be regarded as the Pop of Popes, an emergent and emblematizing fascination with religious imagery, enormously profound in the contemporary piety of an unflaggingly religious people such as we Filipinos. By the artist’s own admission, it was the Baroque painter named Caravaggio (1571-1610) who is the star in the firmament of his own artistic imagination. Munoz has succumbed to the seduction of Caravaggio’s tenebrism that dramatically theatrical presentation of figures, by turns bathed in deepest shadows and radiant in the intensity of light. Caravaggio’s paintings were, not surprisingly, highly favored by the popes.

Excepting Michelangelo and Raphael, no other artist has had as great an influence on a succeeding generation. Indeed, Caravaggio did his elders one better: his influence crossed European boundaries and remained transparent in the works of Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish masters. From Peter Paul Rubens to Simon Vouet and Valentine de Boulogne, from Orazio Gentileschi to his daughter Artemisia, from Diego Velasquez to Juseppe de Ribera, the influence of Caravaggio, it seems, remains as sizzling as ever. Not only across borders, but indeed, across centuries, as witness Munoz’s referential obsession with Caravaggio, through several of his past exhibitions.

Of course, to traffic in religious imagery in these clearly irreverent, if not sacrilegious times, is to invite a search for irony, as though Munoz’s paintings, in referencing scriptural events sustained by the masters, were expected to bridge the irreconcilable fusion of our faithlessness and the present times’ frivolities. Not disenchantment but exaltation with the inexhaustible richness of the Christian faith, as lived and experienced through its sacraments, rituals, and symbols, is the brandishing armor of the artist.  What Munoz deftly inculcates in the viewer is an awareness that our pop culture can accommodate, not in an exploitative manner, but in a celebratory way, the centrality of religious images in our midst. The intent is not the aestheticization of our piety but a renewal of a lost relationship with the Divine, demanding no less than a conversion and a turning back from the waywardness of our lives. The edification of the faithful must be achieved in the mood and temper of contemporaneity where the impact of sacral images must perforce make their meaning felt, situated at the crossroads of peoples’ meaningless existence. They must find their voices, thus vox populi, in images that have risen through the complacency of centuries.

Apropos the subject of dangerous art, the critic Arthur C. Danto, in another context wrote: “In an age, such as ours, of what is termed image appropriation, where painters as it were quote images without being thought any the less original as artists for doing so, the appropriation of pornographic  images is perceived as pornographic in its own right.” Substitute the words spiritual, religious or Biblical for pornographic, and sense if a tension of parallels has been provoked. Again, the disparity in intent is not of the moment. Recall that Warhol himself engaged in such images as Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” and Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna.” Danto observed: “He uses thus the logos of well-known products, curiously sacral in the context. It is an inspired idea to see in the stylized dove with which Dove soap is imprinted a symbol of the Holy Spirit (as it is an inspiration to see, that paradigm cleansing agent, as the emblem of purification, of wiping out the stain of sin). In the case of Munoz, his references ingest such things as cut-outs, like pop-outs that enliven children’s books, or church interiors with their triangular steeples and roofs, pointing heavenwards, and glass windows through which that symbol of spiritual illumination, the shaft of light, shines through, and in the multiple paneled works, an allusion perhaps to dismantled predellas.

Munoz has also persisted in christening this suite of paintings in Latin, mercifully with parenthetical English translation. The viewers’ senses are impelled to imagine the sounds of Gregorian chants, the scent of incense wafting in the air, the visual dazzle of papal ceremonial robes. It is an experience at once vivid and vicarious in the hallowed space of a church or chapel, distinctly singular in its spiritual affect.

The show’s title, by the way, translates as “And Dwelt Among Us.” It is the line that follows the more stunning and revelatory “And the Word was made Flesh.” After past shows invested with such titles as “Christiadum,” “Oculus Fidei,” and “Deus Historiae,” Michael Munoz continues to feel the aching beauty and sublimity of the Church and celebrates in these canvases a living theater out of the aura of scriptural narratives as integrative in the works of old masters, now the Paint made Flesh.