Three years into the most impolite government the Philippines has had since 1898, “potahMATIC” emerges as a release valve, a mandatory articulation and ventilation of constipated frustration. What, pray tell, is so frustrating? The desire to have your chief executive lead his nation with a minimum of decorum that inspires even an iota of respect, as opposed to the bullying, profanity-laced, folksy dishonesty with which he feels he renders populism as democracy – a democracy propped up on the least of the least common denominators. In this quasi- fascist epoch, there are divergent art tendencies : Some prefer to deflect into the pleasant, the saccharine, the birds, the butterflies, the kittens, the doe-eyed puppies, the perennial broken hearts of juveniles. Others attempt to view the issues, the forfeiture of patrimony, the abiding martyrdom of the powerless, the roots of oligarch greed, the abandonment of the basic sectors and struggle to come to terms with them with insight and, even, a modicum of elegance. “potahMATIC,” coined somewhat from a knee-jerk expletive, attempts some of the latter.
“Beyond the fiction of reality, there is the reality of fiction.”
Slavoj Žižek, “Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism”
Mark Arcamo’s works study the complexity and nuances of human nature, and the spaces it inhabits. In his latest show “Artificial Staging,” he critiques how our lives, now irrefutably influenced by technology, create a dichotomy where the physical and the imagined are locked in a constant interplay of forces, one seemingly seeking to outdo the other, and likewise resulting in the question of which parts are still real, and which aren’t. Through this, Arcamo taps into the principal concept that perceives the artist as creator of a constructed reality.
In “Artificial Staging,” human figures merge and morph with the realm of technology, suggesting the idea that we are slowly becoming the things we interact with. Arcamo displays a meticulous consistency in drawing together an assorted mix of attractive colours, seamless in its execution, while subsequently highlighting each subject as they are brought to the very forefront of the canvas. They stand out as monochrome figures, familiar in form but strange in representation. Human bodies are depicted with body parts altered to fit various technological equipment; some have heads replaced with camera lenses and video game consoles, others have wires and cables protruding from the chest and torso. This peculiar fusion of the inanimate and the human produces a subtle sense of discomfort, countered only by the impeccable clarity with which the artist splices each element together.
It is clear that the world these subjects inhabit is one which Arcamo himself has conjured. And yet, he incorporates into it an allusion to the process of painting as a means of creation, where the artist becomes the medium through which the real and the created are brought face-to-face with one another. The works in “Artificial Staging” reflect precisely that – a world that is almost completely constructed by fictions like technology, which have begun to permanently alter the way we perceive ourselves, and our relationships with others.
There is a surge of raw adrenaline as
the roar of a motorcycle’s engine is revved into life. Monstrous and visceral
in tone, it urges the senses to awaken, as the sound pierces through still air
and the body jolts forward in eager suspense. Its rider is no longer simply a
passive observer to his surroundings; atop a motorcycle, he is plunged into an
almost overwhelming assortment of sensations, as the wind, noise, and speed pull
him across infinite stretches of roads.
In “Beast Mode,” Angelo Tabije explores the thrill and almost blurred line between danger and the rush of raw adrenaline. Using motorcycles as his primary focus, he renders figures in the process of morphing with these machines, subsequently creating a animal-like hybrid that glides along the boundaries of human and inhuman. Each of his subjects are painted against a backdrop of soft and muted colours – blacks, blues, and greys – similar in composition to a rider in motion, whose immediate surroundings are out of focus as he speeds towards the distant horizon. Splashes of colour – bright, vibrant, and eye-catching – adorn the subjects’ bodies, bringing to the forefront every line and curve, as they twist, cross, and meet one another in a play of light and shadows.
Tabije’s fascination for motorcycles began out of personal interest. In “Beast Mode,” he strives to recreate the excitement and fear that comes with speeding along an uninterrupted road, untouchable even by the natural elements. Depicted as a raw and immersive experience, the rider is no longer a mere observer, but an active part of the journey. The senses are wide alert – conscious of the cool wind as the body speeds ahead, and acutely aware of the hard concrete only a few inches below. On the vehicle, everything is both beyond and within reach. It is, at its very core, an enthralling experience, where every lurch and whim is a response of the moment.
In “Beast Mode,” the figures alternate between human, animal, and machine. However, beyond its physical representation, Tabije also taps into the human psyche by establishing the ride as a means to let loose, let be, and run free. Akin to a wild animal on the move, the subjects are in a constant state of motion, caught only on canvas as a quick snapshot frozen in time. For a very short moment, the journey is paused, and the figures emerge as half-formed creatures that are both beast and machine – wild, dangerous, and ever in pursuit of the distant and unreachable horizon.
A three-person exhibition featuring the works of Mikko Baladjay, Babylyn Fajilagutan, and Elijah Santiago.
In between spaces
Set against the backdrop of the gallery’s white space, the works from “A Continuous Area or Expanse Which is Free, Available, or Unoccupied” examine the concept of space within the human setting. In a world that is constantly expanding, the abundance of space, and its subsequent lack thereof, becomes a crucial aspect that inevitably influences the way we move and live. Depicted as almost superimposing structures that manage to shift, change, and morph in appearance, artists Mikko Baladjay, Babylyn Fajilagutan, and Elijah Santiago allow a peek into how they visualise space in an impermanent world.
Baladjay imagines space as
larger-than-life. Splashes of bright and attractive colours dot a clean white
background, bringing to focus how space is defined by intricate details, pieces
of nature and everyday life that adorn vast, open spaces. For Baladjay, each piece
is a personal testament to the artist at work, drawn to creating as he
perceives himself within an external reality which, while certainly
perceptible, is also incomprehensible in breadth and form.
Fajilagutan sees space as fleeting
and moving. It is defined by shapes and pieces, parts that are discarded and
have travelled numerous places. These remnants are imagined as having existed within
a prescribed space, and afterwards carving for itself its own place on the
canvas. For the artist, even objects that have fulfilled their purpose and are
thrown away possess their own space and unique identity, where every groove and
texture is distinct and peculiar.
For Santiago, space can be both daunting and fulfilling. Inspired by Brutalist architecture, monolithic slabs of grey structures pierce the dark background of the canvas. They are imposing and intimidating, their sharp edges and corners carefully depicted as if in motion, recreating space as being bound by walls and borders. However, these divisions eventually fall, and the vast and often incomprehensible terrain that space comprises, ceases to be suffocating; instead, it marks a liberation.
Ang mga obrang tampok sa “Pinakuluang Sahing sa Panahon ng Delubyo” ay mga anyong hinubog mula sa luwad. Para sa isang tagapaglikhang-sining na gumagamit ng nasabing materyal, isang personal at maingat na proseso ang paglilinang nito mula sa krudong lupa. Masasabi na ang partikular na timpla ng isang manlilikha ay kabahagi ng pagkakakilanlan niya bilang isang manlililok. Para sa kanya, isang pagsasanay ang pagpapalitaw ng mga natatanging katangian ng luwad sa layon na magbigay-hugis sa kanyang ekspresyon. Kakabit nito ang masusing pag-aaral ng lupa — ng mga pisikal at kemikal na kiyas nito.
Sa praktika ni Catcat Mendoza, ang pag-aaral na ito ay may kalakip na mga salaysay ng danas. Ang isla ng Mindoro ay ang lugar kung saan siya nanirahan at naghasa ng kanyang kakayahang humubog ng obrang luad. Dito, kasamang nauungkat sa kanyang paghahanap at pagtitipon ng materyal ang iba’t-ibang kuwento mula sa mga taong kanyang nakakasalamuha. Ang mga kuwentong ito ay mahigpit na nakakawing sa madalas na masalimuot na kuro-kuro sa lupa, kabuhayan at karapatan. Ang mga ito rin ay nakakabit sa buhay niya at pati na rin ng mga malalapit sa kanya. Ito ay ang kanyang direktang karanasan ng reyalidad sa mga kanayunan na siyang umaalingawngaw lamang sa mga kalungsuran bilang mga abstraktong sapantaha. Ang mga reyalidad na siya ring bunga ng isang kaayusang pulitikal na ang pundasyon ay tubo, karahasan at ‘di pagkapantay-pantay.
Itinuturing ng eskultor na mga
personal na tala ang kanyang mga obra. Bawat piyesa ay mga pinaghabing kuwento
at karanasan na binigyang-hugis gamit ang putik at apoy. Nagsasalaysay sila ng
pag-usbong ng buhay at pag-aruga; gayundin ng kirot, sigalot at kamatayan. Ang
mga pangyayaring ito ay tumatak sa kanyang alaala dahil sa angkin nitong bigat
o kaya’y hatid nitong mangha. Kanyang isinalin ang mga ito sa anyong sining sa
pamamagitan ng malayang paggamit at paglalangkap ng iba’t ibang imahen at
simbolismo. Ang mga representasyong nabuo ay maaaring tignan bilang bunga ng
ritwal sa pagbibigay kahulugan sa mga pinagdaanan. Gayundin, ang mga ito ay mga
pagsipat din sa hinaharap. Marahil ang kanyang mga likha ay mga muhon na
nagsisilbing mga palatandaan sa mga aral na kanyang napulot sa landas na
kanyang tinatahak — mga mumunting bantayog na pinagmumunihan ang mga reyalidad
na balang araw ay kakaharapin.
Gaya ng pagyabong ng puno mula sa
lupa, ang ating kamalayan ay hinuhugis ng lugar kung saan tayo ay napapadpad.
Ang pagnanais ni Mendoza na lumayo sa kalungsuran ay isang desisyon upang
maghanap ng kapayapaan at magkaroon ng puwang para tuklasin ang sarili sa
pamamagitan ng sining. Ngunit napagtanto niya na ang katahimikan na kanyang
nadatnan sa bayan ng Mamburao ang siya rin mismong lumulunod sa mga alingasngas
na nanggagaling sa mga kabukiran, kakahuyan, kabayanan at mga pampang. Ang
kaluskos ng ligalig ang tumiim sa kanyang malay. May pagkabalisang nakakintal
sa kanyang mga likha.
Gayunpaman, tanging sa pagkakasikil o
pagkasugat lamang nanggagaling ang landas patungong paglaya at paghilom.
Hinahalintulad ni Mendoza ang kanyang proseso sa paglilinang ng dagta mula sa
punong sahing. Mula sa isang sugat, ito ay nagiging tanglaw sa gabi ng mga
katutubong Mangyan ng Mindoro. Kaya naman, maituturing ang mga obrang ito bilang
mga pagsasalarawan ng pagdadalumat niya sa landas na kanyang kakaharapin sa
panahong ito ng delubyo. Kanyang hinahandog ang mga karanasan at kuwentong ito
sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng sining. Ito ay mga paanyaya na kilalanin ang ating
mga pinagsasaluhang sugat sa layon na mabatid natin ang landas patungo sa
A group exhibition featuring the works of Cian Dayrit, Racquel de Loyola, Doktor Karayom, Boy Dominguez, and DengCoy Miel.
Reflecting on the crucial issues of the current times, “Yugto” considers and confronts the white space as an arena where narratives of continued struggle are realized through different art forms. Art critic, Alice Guillermo, wrote in “Social Realism in the Philippines” that “the artist consciously situates himself and his art in the historical process and in his society.”(1987) Thus, the artist’s critique of the centralization of power to the country’s one percent in the time of a looming fascism is vital. The works of the five artists in this exhibition are charged with political criticisms and agenda — an invitation through visual forms to engage and organize against the forces keeping the status quo. The word “Yugto” caters to a multitude of meanings; however, all are tied in one trajectory: something that can mean both action and platform. Hence, the exhibition is similar in this regard wherein a spectacle yearns for mass action outside the gallery’s four walls.
The works of Cian Dayrit navigate
through ideas of sovereignty and China’s imperial ambitions dating back to the
15th century. Commissioned by the Ming Dynasty, a Chinese admiral by the name
of Zheng He led a treasury expedition through the Indian Ocean. Dayrit reflects
on China’s exercise of soft power today and undermining jurisdictions in
smaller and impoverished countries by examining the empire’s earlier bids on
Developmental aggression is at the
centre of Boy Dominguez’s works. The long and violent history of displacement
among communities belonging to the indigenous people and the unjust treatment
of the urban poor are illustrated in Dominguez’s vibrant paintings. Behind the
wondrous are tales of human rights violations, state-sponsored murders, and
lack of social justice.
Commenting on the country’s present
state of affairs, Racquel De Loyola’s works invite the public to write down on
a piece of cloth their agonies, pains, and frustrations under the current
socio-political climate. The cloth will be then pinned to the sculptures
representing vital parts of a human body. An attempt to capture collective
memories or ideas to define what “nation” means, De Loyola ties personal
concerns to that of a grand telling that mirrors the pulse of the masses.
The blunt and hard-hitting comic
illustrations of Dengcoy Miel bring to the fore layers of society’s ills: from
satirical depictions of men in power to what appears to be a cartographic
sketch of the Philippine Islands filled with dead bodies; images that depict
the perils of an impending tyranny.
Doktor Karayom’s haunting line
drawings portray the different stories of people manifested in a display of
overlapping images and chaos. A mesh of personal accounts interspersed
together, Doktor Karayom’s works mirror the wailings and cries of a nation in
It was in the August 1, 1955 issue of Life Magazine that the term throw-away society was first used. The article featured a monochromatic photograph of a family enveloped by various disposable items suspended in mid-air. The scene is frozen in time, as if in celebration; scraps of food and litter float like weightless debris, a still image of a people fascinated by what was then considered a novel concept. The magazine piece alluded to our entry into a new era, one which opted to see the tedious and often time-consuming process of cleaning up after oneself as an activity of the past, and where fast living has become the basis for progress and economic development.
Presently, some of the world’s most
progressive societies have been able to successfully incorporate this so-called
throw-away culture into everyday life,
subsequently establishing a system of living heavily dependent on ease,
accessibility, and disposability. Framed as a modern innovation symbolic of the
contemporary and urban lifestyle, everyday products and household items are advertised
for their one-time use, to be discarded once they are no longer functional. Decades
later, we are beginning to feel the ramifications of our throw-away culture.
More than a habit, it has transformed into a grim and definitive attribute of our
Janelle Tang delves into this phenomenon in her latest show “Sachet Culture.” A direct reference to the plastic sachets often used to package food and other basic necessities, the exhibit seeks to explore how deeply entrenched throw-away culture is in our collective consciousness. Familiar spaces are transformed into grim snapshots of a reality that is almost lifeless and lacking in spirit, framed at places by eye-catching and attractive colours – a testament to our strong affinity for the things we find pleasing to the sight. Much like the photograph from over six decades earlier, each work is a pause in the everyday flow of our lives, rendered from both within and without, and where the viewer becomes a witness and participant to the ways in which our surroundings continuously shift and change.
In “Sachet Culture,” there is an emphasis on what seems to be our growing need to exploit the things we consume. What began simply as a quest for ease and comfort has transformed into a fundamental aspect of our everyday lives, a necessity we find ourselves incomplete without, and which continues to affect not only the way we live but the decisions we make. As society grows more conscious of how dependent we have become to this lifestyle, “Sachet Culture” invites us to pause and look, to step back, observe, and understand, how every action we commit ourselves to, no matter how seemingly insignificant they may be, leaves an almost permanent impression on the world we live in.
Artists Catalina Africa and Jeona Zoleta team up under the name “J0L3NA” to present their latest collection of works. Draped in a kaleidoscope of bright colours, glitter, and a variety of found objects, the installation serves as not only a window into their creative process, but also a personal reflection of their careers as artists.
A group exhibition featuring the works of Carlmel Belda, Cezar Cardel Jr., Christian Carillaza, Mark Francisco, Siefred Guilaran, Lyndon Maglalang, Isidro ‘Manong Jon’ Santos, and Franz Marion Vocalan.
A fraction of a whole
“By judging everything based on a single unit, we enter into conclusions on mere fractions rather than eventualities and collective manifestations of a whole. Our thoughts are limited to what’s in front of us, and our imagination is too lazy to go beyond the immediate. Our gaze is fixated on just a part of a bigger picture, focusing only on the physicality rather than the potential.”
“Vista Parcial” is a play on the senses. Using a variety of media, KUTA Artists Group members Carlmel Belda, Cezar Cardel Jr., Christian Carillaza, Mark Francisco, Siefred Guilaran, Lyndon Maglalang, Isidro “Manong Jon” Santos, and Franz Marion Vocalan create a series of works that provoke and challenge the way we typically perceive reality. Each piece becomes a window to a new world, where buildings, figures, and everyday objects are carefully draped in a choice combination of colours and forms, every shift and nuance in hue an attempt at depicting a reality that is often changing and, at least for the human eye, quite fleeting and difficult to grasp.
Taken from the Spanish phrase which directly translates to “partial view,” the exhibit allows us to realise the human mind’s tendency to assess reality only in fractions, always gazing towards a significantly limited view of what actually exists, and in the process, ultimately simplifying the physical into smaller, distinguishable elements that are easier to comprehend. Varying in composition, form, and technique, the subjects come to life as semi-real possibilities of the realities we tend to overlook. They are presented in multiple sets, each possessing a distinct character that prompts the eyes to move, from one frame and figure, to another, and the next, and so on, in a steady rhythm that stimulates the sight to imagine, observe, and identify, between the things we can see at first glance, and those which conceal themselves beyond the sweep of our restless eyes. In “Vista Parcial,” the act of seeing is transformed into one of seeking, where we eventually are able to tap into a reality that is often obscured and hidden from plain sight, and where singular fractions of reality shift and blend into a fuller and more encompassing perception of the physical space we reside in.
Words by Elle Lucena
KUTA Nabuo ang KUTA Artists Group noong 2005 mula sa dating magkakasama sa grupo na KAKTUS kung tawagin. Si Isidro ‘Manong Jon’ Santos ang tagapagtatag nito. Dating kasapi si Manong Jon ng Neo-Angono at Angono Junior Ateliers. Kabilang sa mga kasapi ng KUTA sina Siefred Guilaran, Gretel Balajadia, Dzen Salanga, Cesar Cardel, Franz ‘Nano’ Vocalan, Aui Suarez, Christian Carillaza at iba pa. Karamihan sa kanila ay mga naging estudyante ni Manong Jon sa workshop na kaniyang naibigay at mga nag-aral at nagtapos sa URS Angono College of Fine Arts.
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
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.