LEAP OF FATE
By Cid Reyes
What has fate in store for me? Will the fates decide? In Greek mythology, the three fates were the three goddesses, namely Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who presided over the birth and death of humans. In their view, human lives are like a thread spun, measured, and cut: a destiny over which humanity has no control.
For the 2016 ArtFair Philippines, Galerie Anna explores the subject of The Inevitable, in a show titled “Leap of Fate.” The word is derived from the Latin fatum, which means “that which has been spoken.” Destiny is a done deal.
No more iconic image is there for the subject of fate than the open hand uplifted by CJ Tanedo for our scrutiny and curiosity. It is after all a study of Lifelines, the creases in our hands that, if we were believe, foretell the destiny of our lives.
With his “Despondency” series, Cezar Arro plunges us into (a fate worse than death?) the abyss of his self-abnegation as a painter, his chosen profession, wondering if the artist has willfully cast himself as a victim of myth: the artist manqué : someone who has not had the opportunity to do a particular job, despite having the ability to do it; having failed to become what might have been.
A pair of works by Jun Impas, (one typically titled in Cebuano, Pagtambayayong Alang sa Kalamboan and another, in current pop lingo, Tuba Pa More), underscore by turns the dignity of labor and the hardship and harshness of living, the brawny peasants pulling together as one to haul and harness something unseen; and the latter work, a shocking and pathetic view of humankind seen not in the best of light.
High drama attends the visually ingenuous artwork in hyper-realism by Bryan Teves, with a lofty Latin title taken from the Fabulae (Fables) written by Hyginus (2nd century AD). Thus, Vestigia Eius (In his Footsteps). The fable is about “Hercules (who) killed his children and his wife in a mad rage to him by Juno. As a punishment he is ordered by Eurystheus, king of Argos, to perform twelve difficult tasks.” The artist conflates the fable with that of the Christ, at least in one interpretation of this work based on the stunning image. Bloodied feet suggestive of a long punishing trek upon rocky terrain are seen floating up in the air, with the artwork reaching a height of its own.
Vincent Padilla is a pilgrim journeying to the past. His large body of work devoted to the meditation of the Philippine past is an unequivocal declaration of his obsession with our Filipino ancestors whose mere existence forms the crucible of our search for a national identity. As far removed they may be from our contemporary life, with its attendant existential anxieties and turmoil, they have nonetheless taken roots in Padilla’s imagination.
“Reverb” is the echo-suggestive title of the work by Robert Besana, an appropriation of a historical photograph of the Evil Personified, Adolf Hitler. In his commanding technique using a ballpoint pen, Besana presents his painting as a tantalizing specimen of the idiom of Appropriation, “the use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them.” Besana, however, contextualizes his own work with the inclusion of the text “God is on our side.” Is it mere fate that six million Jews went to their gaseous deaths when God was seemingly not on their side?
Two well-known American photographs are also appropriated by Toti Cerda in his paintings Anti-Virus I and 2. The first is that of workers, taking their noonday lunch, seated on a steel beam atop a vertiginous skyscraper construction in New York City (actually the RCA Building), hundreds of feet above the ground. It was used by the Rockefeller Center as a publicity stunt. Cerda re-situates the workers into a Philippine setting overlooking a poverty-stricken cityscape. Furthermore, he has stamped on it the familiar notice “Business As Usual,” heightening the ironic and sardonic quality of the works. The other more famous photograph, taken February 3, 1945, is the raising of flag by five US servicemen on the battle-scarred island of Iwo Jima. Again, the painting has been stamped with “Business As Usual” as though war were merely a workaday happening.
Eschewing his favored sculptures of dancers, Ferdie Cacnio constructs a sculptural rising mound, upon which scraggly, attenuated figures, recalling Giacometti’s Existential Man, struggle to climb up this Everest of life’s challenges. Alas, by a cruel fate, these figures, having scaled the heights and reached the top, are destined, condemned by the gods like Sisyphus, to hurl themselves down, and ceaselessly clamber and claw themselves up again in a futile and hopeless existence.
In Mga Imortal sa Norte, Ricky Ambagan thrusts us at the discomfited view of the so-called “hanging coffins” of Sagada, like a fresh airing of perspectives on mortality and death and the indecent voyeurism of tourists for whom nothing is sacred.
In an ecstasy of transport, Michael Munoz presents the Blessed Virgin Mary in Immaculata, destined by fate to be the Mother of God. In Saint Luke’s Gospels, the evangelist recounts the prophecy of Simeon that seven swords will pierce her heart. It was the fate of Mary to be the Sorrowing Mother.
Ivy Floresca embraces the surrealist enigma of life in a work whose meaning she keeps tenaciously to her breast. In seemingly unrelated images, contrived to make a whole, the tension remains intrinsic to her art. She creates works always touched by the fire of mystery and a gravita that teases the mind’s appetite for the incomprehensible.
Was it by chance or by fate that a pair of unshod feet once again hang dangling, as in another painting in this show? As are all of Gerry Joquico’s artworks, his Procrastinator and the crestfallen skull in the bowler hat (shades of Magritte!) in El Final or el Principio? Are located in limbo, in a nether region, an undetermined landscape, such that these works assume the nature of allegory, where symbolic fictional figures are embodied statements about human existence.
Alas, death alone is our ineluctable fate.