Sunday ∗ 15 Nov 2009

art on fire!

Not literally of course. Though it’s entirely possible that had the venue allowed it at least one of the 10 Most Exciting Young Artists chosen by Inquirer Lifestyle and Nokia would’ve used fire as a real live element, or burned down an artwork altogether. Which of course defeats the purpose of selling art, but then again, that doesn’t seem to be the point for many of the works here.

Winner Jumalon’s “Shady Tree”, an installation of a life-size resin sculpture of a fallen tree trunk seems simple enough, except that the tree’s crown is created by a bunch of framed black and white photographs spread sporadically on the floor, including one frame placed on the panel saved for Jumalon’s work.

Buen Calubayan’s “My Virgin Mama” meanwhile seems like a traditional looking Virgin Mary from afar, but up-close it becomes apparent that it’s a merging of the faces of the latter and Jesus Christ. Across it is stated, “Diyos dapat ito kaya lang maling medium talaga ang painting e”.  This canvas is submerged in water – which on opening night also had one live fish floating, and pieces of toothpick that Calubayan himself had thrown in for some good “Art is no God!” measure. Not far from this installation is a bottle filled with crumpled canvas in white liquid: trashed art it is!

Art buyers must have asked: how do we even begin to imagine owning this work? But maybe here lies the fire of much of the work in this exhibit: it’s an “Up Yours!” to anyone who expected easier art. There is happily none of that here.

Kiri Dalena’s three installations include “Found Figure 2”, a terra cotta sculpture of a pregnant woman on a tub of water and lilies, alongside a wooden bed filled with the same. Not far from this installation is a digital video loop entitled “Floodwaters”, of how waters rose in Pakil Laguna. These three pieces are a haunting paean to the flood’s aftermath, an imagination of what it is that remains true, without exoticizing the bodies it has rendered defenseless.

Mark Salvatus’ “Crowd”, a mixed media installation of steel birds in various forms of flight and fluorescent lights, is a statement on migration with disregard for destination. It is placed on the floor by an unpainted wooden wall that screams “Cultural Production” in huge black letters, a statement as well on the kind of copying that goes on in the kinds of cultural products we create, even when our main products are our people.

Farley del Rosario’s “Bridged” is a daring take on how communication just might be our downfall. Two miniature clay figures speak through tin cans tied by one string in front of del Rosario’s canvas, in which is his standard figure, surrounded by miniature versions of itself. All of them are bound by the lines that symbolize communication, but instead of tin cans these lines connect mouths and ears in various dimensions and colors. The seeming mess of lines and thoughts, and the way they are intertwined isn’t at all a simplistic view of bridging communication. We are already bridged because we cannot remove ourselves from this mess, this noise, these conversations.

Dina Gadia’s “Bad Art for Bad People” is a rendering of a woman in a leopard print bikini riding and about to slay a tiger. This was obviously a statement on the notions of popular art as bad art, and of bad art being for bad people. It is as well a statement on how what is bad is really intertwined with stereotypical judgments of women, and what she cannot be.

Lindslee’s abstract works stand out not just because it is amidst realism, but because its three dimensional aspect is crazy creative. “Paradox” and “Under Appreciated” appear on two sides of the same wall, bound together by two triangular beams, that seem to protrude from both works. The geometric lines and shapes of the works, its bright crazy colors, vis a vis blank spaces of white and gray, are strangely familiar in their being forgotten. Or just mis-/un-understood.

But the most fire and daring here comes from curator Jay Pacena and his vision for the exhibit. Pacena’s installations on the first floor of the exhibit area become more interesting after opening night, as the square beams in various sizes and positions seem to be installed into the floor, growing out of and into each other. These shapes are used as well on the panels reserved for each artwork, with protrusions of smaller beams unsystematically placed on its sides.

The installation of the 10 artists’ works are interactive and connected, obviously not in terms of form or content, but in terms of an energy that allows for the eyes to travel across various artworks at any given time, from any given standpoint. The panels are spaced apart, allowing for a line of vision to a piece of art by someone else’s hands. So  you stand by Jumalon’s work and see Gadia’s, Lindslee’s, Kawayan de Guia’s, and Dalena’s; you stand between Clairlyn Uy’s two panels, and see del Rosario’s clay installation, and a wee bit of Lindslee.

The possibilities of seeing things differently become endless, the experience of art as interactive happens beyond the artworks and into the curator’s head: what he imagines about this exhibit, where he wants to take you. Having done so much here, it would be most interesting – and exciting! – to see, what it is Pacena and these 10 artists can do with fire.

Posted in: arteng biswal, kultura, review

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