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COUNTERPICTURES: Paintings in Drag




Handshakes, Statements & Thoughts


Stagnant Energies


Access Point





Topsy Turvy




Cyber Mystic Tiger


Process of Elimination

For its visitors, the precise arrangement of stone and sand in the famous Ryoanji Garden in Kyoto maintains a playful tradition of conjecture: a mother tiger carrying her baby cubs across the river, islands between the sea, enlightenment, emptiness. Following her exploration of captured phantoms and flash constructions, Nicole Coson’s practice builds upon the way such impressions develop in the mind. Here, stone against sand are like clouds against sky, where the instinct to “make sense” of such formations is a generative but ultimately misleading exercise. A combination of printmaking and painting, Coson’s second solo exhibit at Finale Art File recomposes a rock arrangement through a breakdown of its elements. The stones rebuild their size and mass upon the canvas and at the center, lengths of blue velvet catches the invisible plane of arrangement. 


Nicole Coson (b.1992, Manila) completed her BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2014. She is currently based in London. 


(Mara Coson)


Reactive Painting

Danish artist Kristian Kragelund shares a series of works from a larger and ongoing research project on process-based painting and sculpture. Interested in painting without using actual paint, Kragelund explores image making through combining different materials and chemicals. This series is produced using canvas coated with a mixture of acrylic binder, metal powder, and acid, which chemically reacts with each other to oxidize and alter the paintings’ surface. Combining the processes of control and randomness, the resulting compositional arrangements are examples of what Kragelund terms as ‘staged expressionism’. Connecting the physical process of painting to the broader issue of multicultural formations and intersecting identities, Kragelund seeks to draw out and explore qualities inherent to the material itself, rather than dwell on surface appearances. 


Kragelund is based in London and is an alumnus of Central Saint Martins. He works across a variety of media, focusing on exploring the potentials of painting and sculpture. He has been shortlisted for several awards, including the 2012 The NeoArt Prize, the 2013 Sixth Annual Digital Graffiti Award, and the 2015 Bloomberg New Comtemporaries award. 


(Lisa Ito)


What's My Name?

Taichi Kondo’s first one-man exhibition in the Philippines explores the idea of dualities as perceived by the senses and as part of imagining a new “provisional world”. Posing the question of identity to both self and the public, Kondo shows how diversity is produced through the merging and meeting of binary or dual forces: heaven and hell, creation and destruction, humanity and divinity, civilization and chaos, for instance. The paintings are rendered in a primitive style, underscoring the raw energy inherent in this process. 


Of Japanese-Filipino descent, Kondo was born and raised in Japan. He has previously participated in group exhibitions at the Bikura Art Gallery and Saitama City Hall Gallery in Japan. He co-founded Art Lovers Incorporated, a company and art gallery, with artist Takuma Tanaka in Tokyo. 


(Lisa Ito)



Recent Works

Paulo Vinluan’s latest solo exhibition explores the idea and quality of “objectness”, through a series of works in paper on paper, shaped canvas, and animation videos. The artist reflects on the act of image-production, exploring points where both material and narrative, image and surface intersect. Vinluan narrates how the exhibition developed from a personal archive and amalgam of images accumulated over the years, comprised of random and disparate collections that he constantly revisits in order to seek links between the physical qualities of things. His works, which are generally characterised by their graphic and linear style of imagery, explore the material quality of being an object through the use of the curved sphere as a surface of painting and the use of a knife to painstakingly cut away painted sheets of paper before pasting them onto a larger sheet. These methods and technical interventions transform painting and drawing into more sculptural and three-dimensional media. “My brush follows this curved surface…and color itself becomes an object held in my hand,” Vinluan writes of this process from flatness towards tactility. In the end, his explorations produce works where the narrative is inscribed in the very physical and material qualities of the work itself.


(Lisa Ito)


studies on the movement of water

Studies on the Movement of Water documents the artist’s sensate impressions of changing ecologies. Relocating to the rural seashore, Catalina Africa Espinosa produces paintings that revel in the fluidity and flux of the ocean as well as the land that surrounds it. In surfacing forms that refer to both the surfaces and depths of the sea and the uncountable connections between sky and shore, the artist reveals a cosmic fascination with the “geography that is also myself”, reflecting the proverbial sense of seeing the universe in a grain of sand. This act of aesthetic introspection towards the world beyond is reflected in a recently-penned poem by the artist, where she ends with the following lines: …Decoding the messages of the universe based on cloud observation The birth and death of a star as seen through the eyes of a hermit crab The movement the universe makes as it breathes Multiple faces of the universe being born.


(Lisa Ito)



Vic Balanon explores the idea of place in a three-channel video projection titled ‘Chimera’, occupying the expanse of the gallery’s largest wall. A progression of his multiple channel video works since 2010, this project archives, documents and maps Balanon’s protracted capturing of the city and its spaces we inhabit. The chimera denotes both mythological creature and the state of suspended desire: an illusory object beyond the grasp of the real. As a tripartite piece, the video work surfaces these aspects of lived space seemingly within, yet really beyond, reach. It juxtaposes images of natural ecologies, built environments and the artist’s own studio as separate and interconnected aspects of the city. Balanon employs the animation technique of hyperlapse, which captures different frames of the subject while shifting from one viewpoint to another for an extended period of time, to produce the works. This protracted process of shooting yields thousands of stills and frames, distilled into moving sequences projected on the exhibition wall. Balanon approaches both process and subject as dialectical forms. 


In hyperlapse, for instance, the relationship between motion and stillness is reversed. He talks about how, here, the camera remains in motion, capturing something that is still. “The camera is the movement,” Balanon says of this process. This same sense of reflexivity is implied in his images, where the urban landscape is broken down into components and encounters with the banal: centering on trees, buildings and walls, which often fade out of one’s consciousness and memory as mundane objects. Yet these structures actually comprise the very backdrop and fiber of our own recollections and understanding of the city, converging in the image of the room: a personal space invisible yet inhabited by all. Perhaps this is where the illusory chimera resurfaces: a signifier of how senses, perception and vision are interchangeable and in flux. 


(Lisa Ito)



Ian Quirante’s show of new works takes off from the process of automatism, defined as the performance of actions without conscious thought or intention. Referenced in the surrealist manifestos of André Breton and by succeeding generations of modern artists, automatism has retained its appeal and power as a means for surfacing images of desire, self, and dreams. Ian Quirante’s employment of this process for his works yields a series of new works about the idea of the progenitor: the genetic and ancestral origins from which the current has evolved. Inspired by what the artist calls “anatomical landscapes” and structures influenced by Brutalist architecture, the series delves into how we as humans have, in the artist’s words, “become the progenitor of the modern age [and] the architect of our future, who possesses the means to create, enhance and destroy”.


(Lisa Ito)


Pure Sun Pure Rain (The 3AM Paintings)

Infinity in Your Hand With a catchy and haiku-like title in “Pure Sun Pure Rain (The 3am Paintings)”, and marking her 2nd solo exhibition, artist Michelle Pérez acts on the posited challenge to artists that involves a critical engagement of painting and its processes – negotiating the vital and fluctuating relationship a painter has over his thematic and material muse. Does the painter manipulate his medium to make a window into another world or does he allow himself to be authored by the self-proficiency of the materials on hand, the accepted higher mode. There can be a conjugality of both, a flexible straddling of these disparate mentalities that, perhaps, makes way for another viable option. 


A brilliant pun in referencing the “pure” adjectives found in the non-representational works of the monumental Russian Purist Alexander Rodchenko, “Pure Sun, Pure Rain” is a take off on the brand of paints Pérez uses in her studio – setting the tone in defining a primarily pragmatic aesthetic. Comprising the exhibition is a conundrum suite of paintings that does not overtly seek to tell any story, convey a nostalgic narrative, nor pose a political proposition. Thematically calling the current work the “In Flux Series”, Pérez has rationalized the work’s theme in the constant state of “changing” inferred by the processes employed. The steady motion and movement, characteristic of the artist’s technique, inadvertently reflects her worldviews. For Pérez, the appointed series nomenclature and exhibition title clue in on her working process. The paintings ironically exude warmth in its pronounced and positive plasticity. A visit to the artist’s studio sees these panels propped on paint cans and angled perpendicularly with the floor and adjusted accordingly to the viscosity of the paint as it is allowed to move slowly when reaching its point of maximum pull. 


Amidst all this activity, Pérez keeps a very private and portable notebook where she scribbles out her ideas, navigating through the endless mutable possibilities of scale, proportion, volume, foreground and ground, color, negative space and emphasized space; all of these are considered and pondered. She has carefully mapped out the exhibition on hand with its rationales, envisioning four sets of paintings that comprise PSPR 3am Paintings. The paintings in their configured systems seem to reflect Pérez’ meditations in her notebook: “I’ve always been searching for what feels true and real deep down on the soul level. I can’t just accept what is passed on as absolute truth,” and concurs, “I guess it was this yearning or searching to find my truth that led me to the spiritual – in art, I find answers and insights too.” The simple addition and subtraction in the measures of scale and volume can arguably stir the mind and its senses and inevitably move the soul. Pérez has allowed herself to be a willing vessel or conduit for these pragmatic transformations that tip to the sublime and beyond the physical. It is interesting to make known the intentions of the artist behind these. 


Summarily, Pérez has pitted herself with the positional framework and lexicon of abstract painting and has regurgitated her own understanding and expression. The artist is endeared to citing books, quotations, and memorable conversations from movies as sources of inspiration for her pieces. Pérez cites one particular work that she regards as the primary seed for the current “In Flux” paintings. In monochrome red and parlaying her signature paint flow and coagulate painting process, this precedent work however has yet to feature its one-directional flowing of paint units. Pérez explains the said work was about depicting the nocturnal routine of wanted slumber, of the in-between region of sleep and awake, between the realm of dreams and the harsh consciousness in the land of the living, thus the “3 a.m.” title adage. And, conclusively marking and reflecting the enormous and tedious processes evidencing the “In Flux” works, one of her forwarded cornerstones in a quotation is apt, from Blake: “To see the world in a grain of sand (perhaps in our circumstance – the miniscule building blocks of the artist’s signature paint flow units) and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in your hand and eternity in an hour.” Gravity and the passage of time do seem to cease in these pictures, and one is allowed access to a world of open possibilities and wonder. 


(Jonathan Olazo)