A three-person exhibition featuring the works of Pin Calacal, Annie Concepcion, and Noelle Varela.
While the term “uproot” typically connotes the rough displacement of something tangible, in the exhibition “Uproot” artists Pin Calacal, Annie Concepcion, and Noelle Varela paint this process as it occurs within the human experience. The pieces explore how “uprooting” takes form in our everyday lives, as a series of occurrences that are non-singular and ultimately decided by factors that are uniquely personal.
Pin Calacal takes a more direct approach to this process. The subjects in her works are anthropomorphic by design, largely inspired by the ents and entwives, a race of creatures that resemble trees in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. These figures are the central axis on which Calacal explores the show’s main theme. They are in the process of motion, whether voluntary or involuntary, and placed within various surroundings in an effort to portray the experience as unpredictable and able to occur at any given moment. More so, the feeling of being displaced while situated within a familiar space is also depicted, turning the discussion inwards as the audience is led to ask the role that personal choice may play in these situations. And much like the ents and entwives, the subjects have feet, driving home the point that while one may feel severely rooted in place, we each still possess the ability to move.
Annie Concepcion depicts “uprooting” more within the realm of movement than displacement, where to uproot is to step away from what is comfortable and familiar, and move towards something completely novel. Her works feature human body parts as if arising from a sea of birds and flowers, colored in strong reds and blues as they frame each subject carefully, bringing to the forefront the centrality of the human person in the experience of being uprooted. Moreover, this “movement” is likened to a “transition” – a shift from an old reality to a new one which, while at first glance may seem uncertain and rather terrifying, transforms into something that is ultimately liberating.
For Noelle Varela, the act of “uprooting” is the almost instinctual reflex to remove anything and everything that disturbs the harmony between the self and its environment. Her works take on a more literal form, as flowers and small plants are depicted sprouting from in between crevices of walls and floors, fighting to grow and take root amidst the cracks on these hard surfaces. These breakouts are likened to disturbances that occur within the self as it clashes with society and its environment. And instead of seeking out the reason behind these disturbances, much like the flowers that find life in between the fissures of sidewalks and concrete walls, we pluck them out, creating an endless cycle where we continuously uproot and remove the things that ruin our coexistence with our surroundings.
In this exhibition, the process of “uprooting” does not happen in a vacuum. Neither is it confined to a singular experience. Uprooting can turn inward towards oneself, or outward as a response to one’s surroundings. It can be liberating, freeing. In a world strife with turmoil, we take solace in this act of uprooting as a means through which we find refuge. It may disturb, but it may also question, and in effect, answer. In the end, it becomes a personal experience that delves deep into the human psyche, creating ripples that continue to dance and move within and around our lives.
Words by Elle Lucena