A solo exhibition by Arnold Bornios
In Arnold Bornios’ “Soul Portraits,” the artist presents intimate paintings of family and friends, some from snapshots, some actual sitters, and some composites from ideas or emotions that filled the artist and let themselves out through his works.
Up-close and personal, the faces distort identity, devoid of features that betray gender, race or age, but uncannily reverberate emotion and energy through the thick layers of impasto, collages and acrylics. Paint is applied to a sumptuous layering of printed materials, some coming from glossy magazines or comic books, others from flyers, brochures, bus tickets and old receipts.
Paper is part of our lives, as they say, from cradle to grave, with our first footprints imprinted on them in birth certificates and hospital records. Paper money and cheques represent value, books, magazines, letters and art store information. Diaries, note pads and stick-ons remind us of everyday tasks and events for our personal use and for keeping track; posters and flyers promote and market products, communicate campaigns and entice us to try new products; paper bags and wrapping paper may contain foodstuffs and surprises. With the diversity of its uses and most of life’s milestones associated with paper, it is perhaps only fitting for the artist to use this readily available medium to convey his message.
Having been born in Honolulu to immigrant parents from Abra, Bornios admits being Filipino in blood and American in mind. He credits growing up in Hawaii’s melting pot culture with shaping not only his character, but also for dealing with reconciling identity and spirit for most of his life. He recently moved his artistic practice to the Philippines in order to engage a new and transformative cultural experience rooted in his ethnic Filipino identity. However, it is his constant self-reflection that fuels him on as he creates his visually compelling pieces.
Inspired by Onib Olmedo’s expressionistic figurative paintings, Bornios’ Soul Portraits define his sitters’ personalities by his robust paint strokes while taking care to uncover subtle details that delineate character. In his process of rediscovering one’s notion of self through perceptions of immigration and displacement, he creates glimpses of the soul with heavy collages and acrylics. In his portraits, presented in abstracted monumental form, viewers are compelled to confront the paintings with their own individual identities and experiences face to face as they find themselves caught in the conversation between the artist and the sitter. Bornios’ use of collage acts as a physical record of time and space, a remnant of location, and a residue of an actual event, as he employs materials from mainstream print media to challenge the notions of a paperless age and cloud storage pervading the minds of the technology-obsessed. With his creations, Bornios puts into the fore what for him matters most – a lot of spirit, and a whole lot of soul.
Words by Kaye O’Yek