A solo exhibition by Eric Guazon
Weapons of Repression, Technologies of Violence
In “A Distant Cloud of Smoke” by Eric Guazon, his eleventh solo exhibition, the artist uses his paintings to remind viewers to always be mindful if they are being led astray. The bright colors in his pieces serve as both warning and beacon shedding light to the cognizance of what is actually going on, instead of our sights being misled by illusions perpetrated by those in power.
The paintings in the exhibition serve as platforms for his razor-sharp commentary as the artist utilizes his toy soldiers motif to site the present administration’s “War on Drugs” into context despite its current popularity and wildly proclaimed approval ratings, which is only part of a bigger agenda: acceptance and normalization of the government’s deal with China, the occupation of the West Philippine Sea.
Guazon’s Occupied Territory tackles this issue, as we hear the President himself announcing at his recent State of the Nation Address that guided missiles currently exist in the Chinese-occupied islands in contention, that “can reach Manila in seven minutes”, calls the sinking of a Philippine vessel with 22 endangered Filipino fishermen a “marine incident”, and admits that though the West Philippine Sea is ours, it is not under our control. The artist depicts Chinese-built structures on this piece as seen from above. As he inserts a mirror imprinted with the image of a starving child flanked by a red launch button and compasses, he seemingly asks where we as Filipinos go from here. The viewer sees himself reflected in the mirror, confronted by undeniable truths as he is surrounded by toy soldiers, other structural installations with X marking the spot, fish and faces in relief, as well as a small Philippine flag raised on the West Philippine Sea that may appear too small to be significant to the powers that be.
X-Site, Tandem and Boy-Toy locate the artist’s molded toy soldiers into different settings, each bearing a different significance — that of pawns to a markedly bigger war on lives misled by propaganda in an effort to lessen resistance to issues of sovereignty, a horrified glance and cry for survival with the word HWAG in the last moments before a riding-in-tandem ambush (now averaging four killings a day, according to PNP statistics), and the involvement of children as they bear witness, and fall as victims themselves, to the scourge of unlawful attacks brought upon by the incitement of killings of small fry suspected of involvement in drugs.
It is in Smoke Screen, however, a four-by-six-foot diptych, where the artist strikes back. In the midst of mundane advertisements for plumbers and termite control seen everyday on street posts, Guazon inserts defiant messages that belie the death count, state administration directives and its victims, and assert the true signs of the times from the perspective of artists. In this piece, he uses cardboard, commonly used as temporary cover for felled bodies, thoughtfully placed handle with care warnings and images of faces that may be substituted with the viewers’ visages if only they let their imaginations go there.
At this age where the words of those in power are weapons used to repress, and even violently wound with hate comments and false claims, where foreign power-wielding and technology far more advanced than ours cowers national leaders into submission, Eric Guazon’s “A Distant Cloud of Smoke” is a foreboding and a fair warning that these brutal exercises in ruthlessness should be viewed as engravings on a passenger side mirror as we hurtle into an unknown future as a nation — they may be closer to us than they appear. With propaganda disseminating fear and confusion amidst the haze of incoherent, profanity-peppered proclamations, it is time to be wary of the ruse.
Words by Kaye O’Yek