A solo exhibition by Bam Garibay
Mefenamic (acid) is a drug used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is recommended to be taken with food. Known side effects include headaches, nervousness, and vomiting.
Bam Garibay entitled his first solo exhibit “Mefenamic,” the pain-reliever drug ubiquitous in Pinoy life (impishly referencing the drug war plaguing the country and the popular “Vitamin P series – the world’s hottest painters, selected by international experts” published by Phaidon). The drug stands for the ‘high’ one gets when having fun with friends; and also to the therapeutic practice of painting.
Acid also refers to the psychedelically saturated colors of his canvases and the jarring composition he uses in works like Sun, 18:08 and Sat, 08:38. Stark contrasts and exaggerated angles defined by raw strokes on works like Sat, 21:01 and Fri, 19:31 influenced by Max Beckmann and Neo Rauch, create visually heightened renditions of snapshots from mundane life taken through his smartphone. He blows these photos up on large canvases to make them momentous. He derives the titles from the time stamps of the photos, explaining, “What is important is the moment, not the person. Because people change, but the moment shared will not.”
“The studio is a solitary place where I focus on the serious business of painting even though the subjects I paint are vulnerably personal to me. In this way the process is cathartic but at the same time requires disciplined detachment. Gratitude is always there though, definitely.” This inner sanctuary is seen in works like Sat, 20:35 where a Caucasian boy sleeps on a bed of flowers as his blue dog watches. The color blue pervades his paintings – on the faces of his sitters, the walls and floors of the rooms, and the highlights on the furniture- giving a cool and distant feeling of melancholy.
Garibay cycles between the constant need for both interaction and self-reflection through painting. Here the right dosage and regularity of intake is crucial for effective ‘pain relief’ and to prevent side effects – too much socialization may lead to manic dependence on other people or substances, while too much isolation may lead to boredom, as expressed in the eyes of the girl in Wed, 16:54 or even depression in the resigned look of the boy in Mon, 14:48.
In the end, it is not the effect of Mefenamic (getting well) that is important, nor the subject of the portraits, but the realization that you go through a lot of mild and moderate pains in life and you just have to find something to get you by (painting). Painting captures the temporality of
life, and more importantly, its magic. The largest piece, Fri, 11:13 embodies this constant moving on – a girl, in mid-stride with body pointing forward, looks directly at the viewer with a tired but defiant smile. After all, Mefenamic is just a temporary cure, giving a moment of relief. It doesn’t treat the cause of the pain, but it gets you through it.