Month: July 2018

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RE-CURRENT THEMES

July 29, 2018 | Archives | 2 Comments

A solo exhibition by Melvin Culaba

Like a Refrain in a Song

Unlike most artists who prefer utmost solitude when painting, Melvin Culaba wants to be in tune with the teleradyo while mixing three coats of paint on his canvases. With an immediate distance from the urban thoroughfares of the hustle and bustle of Baclaran, he is in sync with the goings-on around him from sunup to sundown. From his second floor vantage point, he could witness vendors being rounded up by the police or be enthralled by the glittering neon lights of City of Dreams, Hyatt and Nobu Hotels. That is how close he is to his subjects, and in all his past exhibitions, his third for Kaida Contemporary, “Re-Current Themes” is his most personal and political show to date. 

Culaba is fuming, as noticed in the bolder and harsher strokes, each one with emotional intent and moral undertones. As an artist, this is the only way he knows how to respond to these strange and interesting times. He also deeply reminisces into the milestones of his existence, causing him to pause and reflect while holding his brushes and palette knives in his makeshift studio.

Interiority Complex (Ang Konsencia sa Pagpipinta) is the centerpiece in triptych. Ang Konsencia ng Pintor is his first attempt at portraying himself while thinking long and hard in documenting both what occurred in his personal life, and the recent re-occurrences in his sad republic. For a realist painter like Culaba, nothing delineates the personal from the social. He only paints the way he knows how. Elements of the painting evoke memories of his grandparents, with the haunting presence of a black butterfly on his palette marking their guidance.

Culaba waxes poetic with Bansang-Moro Buchikiik, ik ik ik wherein an abandoned motorcycle refers to recent killings by riding-in-tandem duos. The title is also a take on recent housing projects from armed conflict or calamity-ridden areas built with substandard materials. The artist immortalizes characters he meets and events he experiences as well, the tone of the piece bereft with joy as he includes a stuffed dog with a Thanos tumbler.

Sa Kaharian ng Im-PERYA-l Fukada…Go Bananas is a reference to his sister in an 80s photo with other Filipina entertainers. With the setting cloaked in the familiar violet curtains of a recently-launched Japanese establishment for high rollers, Culaba decries the presence of posh resort hotels which cater to gambling by the presence of dice. Meanwhile, a similar palace acts as background with a crocodile as official symbol of corruption marked by gargoyle-like bulldogs acting as pimps for every kind of patronage. Imperya not only is a play of words for imperial but also for perya or small circus during a town fiesta, complete with roving roulette one aims at the fruits on each head as target which could be in the form of aspirations, dreams, or want for material possessions.

The demonstration of Pandango sa Ilaw pertains to those who apply for cultural dancers abroad. Meanwhile the presence of chicks on top of a coffin call for justice. Additional space fillers are garlic issued by the DFA secretary; microphone in a karaoke set reflecting our penchant for drunken entertainment on the streets; french fries as an ongoing testament to colonial mentality and false diets; the monkey stuffed toy equates the prevalent monkey business and the dinosaur reminds us how age-old and repetitive these concerns are. 

The oval-shaped Ang Larawan, Kabayan is his ode to beauty, or the lack of it, that is often exploited. He hints at artists who for the sake of commerce simply repeat what sells. It also takes a pun at the art scene which falsely depicts beauty as a myth, as if we were stuck in the bygone 50s. Culaba also deals with the 3,000 OFWs that migrate everyday hoping for a better future abroad. He paints an airplane sculpture found in his studio which is a token gift from a fellow artist as an emblem for departure and new beginnings. 

In Sa Letrang BBB at DDD (Dig Dig Dig) he uses dogs that search for the truth by digging it out. Set on top of a tractor’s tracks, dogs could also mean overworked and underpaid laborers. A kidney-shaped space is for desperate measures of selling body organs in times of dire need despite of health hazards. Speedy Bagal pertains to our chaotic road system—our concrete pavements being fixed and before you know it being torn down again when the rainy days come. A snail is his postmarked for delayed service. 

If one seems disillusioned to what is transpiring around us, one finds comfort in the past and prefers to overload in nostalgia. Tipanan ni Undo at Inday sa Luneta….sa Panahong wala pa si Puto-Bomber at si Puta-Shop offers that needed whiff of fresh air when the genteel life was simpler and more basic. Back in the day when there were no malls, one could still take a stroll at Luneta and be photographed at the pristine Rizal statue without the photobomber of a condominium we have for the moment. One can enjoy being carefree and pure fun with the gang or a loved one. Culaba can also eschew romance and is capable of mushiness without the usual angst of an anarchist. 

As seen in Culaba’s paintings in “Re-Current Themes,” we continue to confront the same ills and struggles of society spanning five presidential administrations. It seems our national issues just keep on coming back, remaining unresolved. Our problems are systematically bureaucratic, simply because it is the very system that we continue to question. Preferring to be subliminal in his take on the obvious, the artist’s culture-bound iconographies provide politically intense personifications and remind all of us of the quagmire we are stuck in, while still hoping on the power of human capital for redemption which may very well be brought upon by clenched fists.

Words by Jay Bautista

SA PANAHONG WALANG HINAHON ANG POON

July 29, 2018 | Archives | 2 Comments

A solo exhibition by Grace Corpuz

Unnatural Acts of an Unreasonable God

Grace Corpuz in her first exhibition “Sa Panahong Walang Hinahon Ang Poon” creates mixed media pieces that serve as literal signs of the times. By utilizing found objects and applying text, she creates new dimensions to the works, tableaus seemingly culled from true to life news stories. Playing on reality with deification, idolatry and patronage, she uses galvanized iron sheets, a known material used by informal dwellers in creating improvised shanties, to shape figures set in the midst of conflict, displacement, hunger and injustice. 

Her most commanding piece, Ang AniMahal na Poong Makapangyarihan sa Lahat, features an iconized symbol of power, with both sides commanded by his spirit animals, the dragon and the eagle, which others might say would be his real masters. Emblazoned on the piece is one of his most notable quotes, one that he uses specifically to lord over his dominion and administration. 

Same spirit animals are also notable elements on aliPinas, with the map of the Philippines seemingly projected on a marketing poster putting up the whole country and its surrounding territorial waters for sale. Instead of employing the simplistic, touristy slogan It’s more fun in the Philippines, she reworks the word itself, Pilipinas, into something that, in the meantime, translates into something more ominous and may be a bit too realistic for our own comforts.

Corpuz also touches on other pressing issues pervading the national consciousness, with Bigas Hindi Bala portraying a starving family sharing a meal of cold lead bullets. For Oplan Tumba, an EJK victim is shown cordoned off by police lines, scene of the crime markers prevalent with a pair of slippers discarded in the midst of struggle of the life lost. Kalbaryo sa Istrukturang Dayo is a family displaced by conflict, the innocents suffering the burdens of decisions made by the all-powerful.

The artist also references undercurrents of agitation in Ang Mamuhay sa Rebolusyunaryong Kilusan, portraying bombs falling out of the sky as militarization increases death count in the masses in covert maneuvers beyond the reach of mass media’s exposition.

With Corpuz’ deviation from what is expected of her works, she remains faithful and consistent to her established concept and the themes of her flat, vector-bound paintings rife with symbolism and political significance. Her exploration of galvanized iron sheets in creating her pieces not only serve to challenge her own creative process, the material itself—used to construct light shanties congesting urban poor communities—becomes emblematic, as it degrades to rust when exposed to natural elements. In a way, it serves as demonstration of the current weaknesses of the administration, decay and destruction pervading society, the putrefaction of good sense, and a warning of worse things to come as the masses follow an Idol they project their most fearsome rationalizations to as they applaud each gaffe and justify every move. To them, he is a god who can do no wrong, and he lords above us all.

Words by Kaye O’Yek

THAT PLAY HOUSE

July 1, 2018 | Archives | 1 Comment

A solo exhibition by Ayka Go

A Haven, A Safe Place

In “That Play House,” Ayka Go’s third solo exhibition, the artist harkens back to days of innocent fun and make believe as she revisits the written records of her earliest memories. With delicately rendered paintings and hand-wrought paper sculptures, she shares a diary that chronicled her formative years, re-reading, interpreting, reproducing and recreating actual pages reshaped as familiar objects, touching on memory, healing, escape and detachment while doing so. 

Tents, forts, fields of fresh grass, paper flowers, dolls and boats serve as landmarks of an unblemished and happy childhood, setting a reference point to where the artist has been and the journey she’s travelled so far. Sepia tones contribute to the feeling of nostalgia, blurring the time line and giving a glimpse of an unsullied view into critical bits and pieces that serve as the foundation to a relatively young life. Shades of warm creams, beiges and browns not only provide notions of purity and safety; condensed-milk-tinged, sticky sweet remembrances invoke feelings of comfort that serve as refuge during trying times. 

For Go, art has been a part of her life since she was very little. Through her diary entries and doodles, she gets to relive a phase of her life when everything seemed perfect and untainted by the stresses and psyche-damaging effects of external factors that muddle real life. A little girl’s whimsical imagination is brought back to life, where both the tangible and the dreamlike meld seamlessly, creating a universe of magical objects and fantastic creatures. In this pretend world, she is a princess who rules over everything, and all her wishes and desires come true by absolute decree.

A few pages from her actual diary are exhibited, along with several small pieces of paper sculpture that use scanned pages, so the diary itself is kept intact. The replication of memory, along with the simplicity of random objects reminiscent of play and home life becomes an instrument of intimate disclosure without being intrusive, as it is still the artist’s choice whether or not to share the contents that lie within. She folds some pages, fashions petals and paper walls, carefully deciding which details to conceal and show. It is still her world, after all, her sanctuary, and her very own Play House.

Words by Kaye O’Yek

ANGGULO

July 1, 2018 | Archives | 1 Comment

A solo exhibition by Jonathan Joven

All This Glorious Mess

In his third solo exhibition, Jonathan Joven presents “Anggulo,” his new take on perspectives that plays on the direct Filipino translation to the words angle (anggulo) and turmoil (ang gulo). Known for his worm’s eye view paintings, Joven with his latest offering explores divergent perspectives while playing with mixed standpoints and altered proportions. 

Arko ng Hangganan portrays a toddler as he escapes on his scooter to a cornfield. While household pets watch by, he slices through bumper-to-bumper traffic to create an arched portal to another world. Innocent, steadfast and focused, he breaks through obstacles as only a courageous child can. Papunta Ka Pa Lang, Pabalik Na Ako may be likened to an out of town trip, where traffic is made up of different modes of transportation on wheels. A child rides a bike with glee and a shark seemingly swims on thin air. The juxtaposition of elements and play of proportions explore scale and define the scene with a surrealist bent. In Sa Ugoy, a seated little girl swings happily with boats on the background, a carabao-driven caretela, an airplane lifting off from the runway, and your normal day-to-day EDSA heavy traffic. Child’s play and utter innocence are posited against land, air and sea travel, perhaps predicting all of the places she could possibly go. Tuwa is another play on positions and direction, as kids enjoying a laugh together seem to be set against a forest canopy and two pairs of adult feet. As the artist includes children, animals and modes of transportation in his works, he further reinforces a sense of play and randomness bordering on chaos. Whether in action or at rest, the artist’s figures on his slightly textured canvases add to a feeling of wonder and the exploration of further possibilities. Stuck in the everyday struggle of everyday traffic, somehow the artist’s subjects find ways to enjoy themselves, and, sometimes, even excitedly make their escape. 

Joven also introduces several framed mixed media pieces utilizing tracing paper, layering architectural plans with figures and line drawings from Leon Battista Alberti’s perspective theories to challenge the viewer’s point of view while addressing issues about society and the environment. Tahanan portrays a beggar making the streets her work and rest place, as she has a sole puppy for company. Bangkito piles together different chairs, from a plain plywood bench and humble bangkito to standard-issue school desks and fully-upholstered seats of authority and luxury with their leather covers and embellished wood turnings. Bahay-bahay features a child rocking on a leather chair that resembles a tumba-tumba, while a mansion turns turtle and presents a poorly constructed shanty in its stead. Further expounding on housing issues, Joven also presents Two Stor(e)y, with two carts – one a horse-driven unit peddling and delivering native crafts, the other kariton serving as an improvised temporary shelter for its inhabitants, with protection from the elements provided by what appears to be reused pieces of election campaign tarpaulins.

As Anggulo’s varied directions and intentional disarray present Joven pushing against self-imposed limitations, he drives his and his audiences’ perspectives into more ways of seeing life. The artist’s message, for this show at least, may mean Yes, life can be a mess, but sometimes all it takes is a different standpoint to make sense out of the chaos.

Words by Kaye O’Yek