“We saw things that others didn’t” brings in a valuable cornucopia of images and processes that sift through themes, ideas, and subjects that lie at the heart of each of the participating artist’s individual practice. Rather than a reversal and of exclusivity, the exhibition delves on the impetus of sharing discoveries gathered from respective specialties that cover painting, sculptural objects and photography. Perhaps, these are bound together in its employment using a reworking of abstract and conceptual art lexicons curtailed in one’s own degree of slant and appropriation.
Felix Bacolor’s vacated box frames offer a satirical commentary on painting. Consisting of a constructed picture frame (using reasonably expensive cloth, wooden expander and glass), it quirkily features a hole at the top end that allows for a funnel to be inserted and paint to be poured in and allowed to seep out of its various orifices, and spill all over the wall and floor. Strongly extending Bacolor’s other installation activities that associate him as a perennial provocateur, the hybrid two-dimensional paintings can be read as part of the turn toward the marginal- or what happens around the art as more important than the artiness. In another read, it is a funny take on the glaring importance put on genius, or the highness and emotionality of the expressive process- it seems to say: there is no magic from the high powers that be; the act of pouring is more magical and glorious without the pretense of skill and ingenious manipulation of paint by the hand.
An excellent draftsman and painter, Michelle Pérez tripartite paintings give homage to the stylistic flourishes of Ab-Ex idioms in endorsing its splatters, gestures and zips. Pérez curates these painting gestures with aplomb. For the artist, the splash and splatters connote a more pragmatic and urgent phenomenon of collision. It indexes the current scientific investigation of colliding atoms that are made possible by highly advanced collider machines most currently celebrated in the global scientific community. For Pérez, the phenomenon is well in hand and references another artistic region that tackles the non-material and the spiritual. In this quest for finding the proverbial glue that binds the matter in the universe, Pérez holds on to the optimism that the truth will finally be on hand. This preoccupies the powerful color and gesticulation of her work.
Raena Abella’s intimate and beautifully fragile objects involve the use of a traditional photographic technique that uses photography materials and chemicals that enable images to be etched on glass. Called “collodion,” Abella employs the difficult and meticulous technique in capturing portraits of her son, and immensely documenting a mother and son relationship. The artist’s working process recalls the seminal practices of conceptual art in the 1970s that had artists investigating similar familial relationships using minimal art strategies like repetition and modular measures applied in the focused documentation of various activities. In this fusion of technique and method, Abella’s objects are brimming with sentiment and its atmospheric definition of form is a moving and heartfelt recording of something very personal.
Perhaps the most senior in artistic practice, Soler Santos has engaged the dialogue between photography and the painted image for the longest time. Beginning with abstracted compositions of realistically painted flora, leaves and roots in cropped and square or rectangular formats, Soler has recently taken to using photographs of derelict spaces and abandoned sites, a theme he has been working on for awhile. The artist sees something relevant and hopeful in these otherwise wastelands of forlorn neglect. The photographed themes are used as models for paintings and at other times, in its natural photograph medium. Soler finds interest in the irony of these sites. Ideal and accidental arrangement of nuisances and debris can give evidence to a higher force at work that hooks our perceptions and consciousness. Along these is the wonderment of what these abandoned sites have witnessed in its time of being and glory, and the stories its walls could have told.
Since its inception in the early years of the last century, the white painting has reigned supreme in the hearts of artists. What can we do about it? It stands as the last painting standing and the sole representation of the idea of the void that has equivalent with humanity’s search for meaning and purpose. It summarizes all artistic activities, bringing it to a halt, rendering most irrelevant unless proceeding from its own format and pronouncements. Angel Ulama valiantly goes around the idea of the white painting, negotiating its surface with his own approach. Instead of a just an applied layer of white paint, the artist builds up a series of gestures in grids of rows and lines. The gestures are in white paint applied on a whitish ground. It is a catalog of paint gestures, and chronicles the daily activity in the artist’s studio. It is a solitary activity that rids of most things and maintains the dialogue between the painter and his canvas. In one painting by Ulama, two yellow-orange squares are painted on opposite sides of the picture plane. The meaning is unclear but provocative: are they two destinations in a maze? Or two dog ears on an open page? It could neither, but readily, it hints at the contextualization of the history of abstract painting and the continuous regard for its undying challenges.
Poch Naval’s collages and works on paper thrive on the perpetual questions it poses. Mostly not given titles and welcome to a myriad of interpretations, a few of the juxtaposed images are suggestive of a face via an image of a nose pasted in the center of the composition. To jar the mind and rouse the memory is a powerful and effectual tool. For Naval, the practice of painting is more about being closer to home rather than an advocate who has the mind in tackling issues and social predicaments directly. Cardboard pieces that have been brushed, drizzled, and dashed with paint, discarded x-ray film exposures, among other seemingly mundane, yet found, materials, finds its way into the arrangement of images. It is a process where drawing, collage and painting give form to thought, and triggers another cycle of reconsiderations about the work on hand. Everything is found in the small, incidental and glorious glitches that can only be achieved in its constant reworking.
Priming on the new order of materiality besetting current painting processes, Monica Delgado has produced paintings that are classifiable as hybrids of sorts, in being bas-relief tablets that seize unpredictability and the sublime in its confrontation. Echoing the artist’s directives, the so-called fusion work revels in the goals set: to “challenge the conventional perceptions of painting and create a playground between painting and sculpture,’’ and reiterates that the medium is the message: “to transform the object from being the subject matter, into the medium itself.” In these plastic explorations, Delgado seems to gather her wits on the seminal and influential works by the iconic sculptor Eva Hesse, having similar artistic obsessions in making use of repetition and reduction formats. The artist employs a very meticulous procedure. She allows paint to dry in a straight line and proceeds to add blobs of paint at intervals. It imitates a production line with all its ironically interesting non-narratives. After, the artist assembles each into a tablet-looking work, taking a considerable amount of time to complete. The outcomes are inspiring in its brilliance. However mechanically in its production, the works exude warmth and humanity one would not expect from the said procedures. The textures and color hues are hypnotic and mesmerizing and further redefine what object-hood can be about.
Marija Vicente has taken to aggressive representations in addressing the harsh economic realities that befall her youthful artistic generation. Using actual bank notes and eradicating its face and back with paint and marker pens, the artist offers a critical parody on the reality of Fine Arts degree holders who come to terms with the challenges of making a living out of his or her artistic practice. Titled “Work is Good but Money is Better,” the work seems to say: why not make art on money when there is no money at all? The series reinforces the idea of value and judgment affixed on art works, and poses the woeful question of who proclaims what is art. It also refers to the internal structures already in place in local art arenas. In any case, if value is not afforded, why not do it yourself? This seems to be the primary initiative.
The engagement of absences (or non-form) is the operative force in Atsuko Yamagata’s delicately crafted paintings that make use of artful handmade paper (sourced from the Japanese master paper-maker, Asao Shimura, who is currently based in the Benguet Province in the Philippines), cutout and/or painted over with sumi ink and acrylic paints. Essential things are felt rather than seen and is, in most regard, marked by the passage of time, or in measures of fleeting moments. Atsuko has precise control over visual elements in giving evidence to these absent things, which in their continuity of being there vis-à-vis tangible matter, become real and part of who we are, if not in our perceptions only, but eventually instilling a belief in this parallel world. In these, the Japanese concept of “ma” is espoused, which approximately means “negative space” and also infers to the gaps in-between positive forms. In Atsuko’s sublime and intimate works, color and visual forms are made to connive in choreographed rhythm. The overall act is also suggestive to music notations plotted on composer sheets that play silent but equivocal sounds, absent lyrics but filled with musicality. It is the unheard of quietness we hear. The picture plane that has bands of color is also akin to a map plotting the space in-between the recognizable and physically existing. It makes us want to go to these spots where we can see the invisible. But, in the better scheme of things, these portrayals of the balance of form and non-form are models of a perfect world we so miss and want to come, a utopian existence that so far only exists as an ideal.
“We saw things that others didn’t” departs in its awareness and leniency. In retrospect, one of the exemplar fathers of modernity is known for admitting that creativity was achieved through grand theft. After the acquittal of the relative follies committed against the said art autonomy, it stands, in its own justification. We are held accountable. We are accomplices. Its end absolutely allows for the means.
- We Saw Things That Others Didn’t