A solo exhibition by Lui Gonzales at the ArtistSpace Gallery of the Ayala Museum
The faces in the crowd, the din of conversation in galleries and bars, the feel of body next to yours: this suite of works by Lui Gonzales for her second solo exhibition, “Circa,” evokes the familiar, the particular, the willfully remembered. Organized by Kaida Contemporary Gallery for ArtistSpace, the show comes into terms with the fugitive nature of memory, of how our remembrances blur and bleed into each other, achieving the trailing proof of music or a flash of color to the eye.
For much of her practice, Gonzales has been drawing on tracing paper portraits, objects, and scenes, layering them and tearing those layers intuitively to highlight, subdue, and partly conceal details as a way of showing how events and our recollections of them are nebulous and never transfixed. Shifting, sliding, and synthesizing, they are always in flux, prone to revisions and mutations, fixed permanently only through the deliberate notations of art.
Every work of Gonzales then is a study in attentiveness. But while, say, in a conventional painting where we just see one event depicted synchronously, meaning all at once, in the works of the artist, we are asked to peer through, to combine and recombine, to re-assess the resulting image. Chronology is the arrow that flies through these works. When we look at them, we see the works unfold through time and in time, perceiving a tentative narrative in one occasion, which may vary the next time we look.
The title of the exhibition, Circa, is an apt word to describe this quality of tentativeness present in her works. It emphasizes that what we see in front of us is not a faithful recording of a scenario at a given moment, but a tender approximation, an accumulation, an aspiration to achieve the composite. The people (and, in one work, a self-portrait) Gonzales has devotedly drawn reveal their multiple selves, their change of moods and temperaments. A recollection of a gallery opening may bleed into the intoxicant atmosphere of a bar. The crowd becomes a collective.
Her life as a musician and as an artist is what binds these works together, particularly marked by the faces that regularly circulate in the spaces that Gonzales frequents. As she observes and examines them, they become “a way of finding out where I am at this certain point in time.” Her act of drawing them becomes the extension of how a certain memory would be rendered, transformed into art. They are the works’ center of gravity.
But Gonzales is cognizant about the possibility of forgetting. “I do not wish to forget even the smallest moments that I like, but it is out of my control,” she says. “I can only control the things I can create. I’ve decided to create more and more, in an attempt to depict everything and everyone that I encounter: to try to see them all at once.”
The vestiges torn from the paper symbolically represent the details that have been forgotten, kept in bottles to honor what has been lost. They accumulate with neither hierarchy nor plot nor any organizing principle. But when you hold a bottle and turn it in the light, the images glimmer like “colorless confetti,” which was the title of Gonzales’ first solo show.
“Circa,” as a show, is an antidote to amnesia, as it fearlessly confronts how memory is prone to degradation, disappearance. It’s a soothing notion that art can arrest transience. And in the deft construction and deconstruction of Gonzales’ visual notations, something gets recalled again and again: a friendly face, a well-meaning word, the brush of warm skin against yours which is its own proof of life.
Words by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana