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Violence Need Not Be Bloody For It To Be Validated As Such

There are seemingly two narratives in this space. The five thousand bullets were planned months ago to approximate the drug-related extra-judicial killings, with the thought of giving the tally a generous leeway. To date, there are more than 6000 victims, outnumbering the bullets by a thousand. Meanwhile, on the other wall is a single cast of a skirt identical to the Vice-President's wardrobe. The cast recalls the infamous statement of the President regarding the length of his woman Vice-President’s skirt. To conjure symbolic violence against the very real deaths of thousands of citizens seems itself a form of violence and injustice against the dead. But perhaps it is in this reiteration where one can truly see that violence, in its many forms, is but a Hydra with the same monstrous core. 


For every man felled in this war, is a woman/wife/partner who lost her love, home, and dignity. Left alone to fend for their children and living, they have to both seek for help and shield themselves against the perpetrator that is the State. The consumption of symbolic violence in everyday narrations begets violence of other mutations. The women bear the brunt of both status quo and gender prejudice. In the parade of urgent concerns plaguing our society, the woman debacle is not just a dearth whose value is measured by the length of her skirt. 


Her narrative is firmly intertwined with that of the war, as can be seen in a projected actual video documentation. It shows how, after a murder of an alleged drug pusher in Catarungan St., Manila—a woman, holding back tears, conscientiously sweeps the blood of her beloved. It is an act not just meant to clean the desecrated home. It is a careful erasure of the carnage, lest the police come back for her and her family. Where blood has been shed and painstakingly wiped away lies the eye of this political storm—an inertia brought on by infinite pain and silenced rage of the subaltern, obliged to stay and carry the burden of caring for her dead and damned.


La Strada

Jonathan Ching’s latest solo exhibition of new works in painting revolves around the wanderer’s sensate encounter with the street: an exploration of place, inhabited by things, and a revisiting of ways to look at the ubiquitous presences of the everyday. Four paintings attest to Ching’s affinity for delving into such states of wonder, all starting out as images, shot on his mobile phone while cycling around his neighbourhood. Tarpaulins covering surplus machines and roadside blooms, both seasonal and transient in appearance, loom large and fascinating through the artist’s eyes. Ching’s translation of these daily sights and digital images into paintings teases out both volumes and textures otherwise obscured and changes the most ordinary instances of seeing into puzzles or mysteries to be uncovered. This is evident in how Ching titles his individual works: the street and its objects are transformed into indeterminate landscapes, transient yet unchanging like the sea. In the end, what renders Ching’s aesthetic wanderings special is how he manages to uncover other worlds, settled quietly within ours.


METANOIA (Life Studies)


Natural Born Worker

Tales from Nowhere by Patrick D. Flores

When you look at it, the painting feels like it belongs to a world that feeds on hypermedia, this ensemble of interactive forms of the digital, or even, the post-digital world. And yet, you sense something very familiar, or made familiar, by a range of stimuli, from personal memory to tourism to childhood urges. Otherworldly, you might say, but quite close to your impulses. After all, it is fantasy, and therefore intimate in all its misshapen details. It will seem to you that the fulsome painting does not only flirt with hypermediated images, it is, in fact, the fertile screen on which these images thrive. The intimacy with which the imager maker hews his images is so inextricable, and perhaps obsessive, that you tend to believe that you are immersed in a hypermedium itself and that, like the images swimming around your baffled vision, you verisimilarly breed in its ground. Lugas Syllabus is a young painter from Jogjakarta, an important site of production in the always active art world of Indonesia. The atmosphere of the field is so hectic and the impetus for images is so breathtaking that an emerging practitioner will either have to sink in the temptation or to vainly resist it and consequently create his own imaginarium. It will take a truly discerning intelligence to think through the thicket and labyrinth of signs in this dense social life. It is at this point that you will probably surmise that the artist stakes out his own terrain of inventions and semblances. In other words, he makes his own archive that poaches on a multitude of references. The subject of a vernacular house in Palembang being transported to Europe, for instance, does not only become an occasion to describe the condition of a migrating house or an instance of social commentary on migration in the current global circuit. It becomes an opportunity for Syllabus to set up his own narrative, gather his own iconography, and spin his own fictive context of unexpected scenarios, characters, tensions, and relationships. In many ways, this context becomes very challenging for the viewer. You confront it with a mixture of strange feelings and disturbing sensations. You are confused. You lose coordinates. You do not know if it is humor or the macabre. You do not know if a fairy tale has taken a wrong turn or if it has found its true plot. You finally give in to the chance of traveling to another universe proposed by the artist and ask yourself if his pictorial sphere is still earth or it is just too worldly. One of the ways to portray the world today is distraction. There are just too many demands on the sightseer or the onlooker or the attentive observer. You are inevitably distracted, unnerved, unhinged, regardless how you invest in the labor to pause and take in what is before you with the pace that is not in cadence with the whirl of the planet that drapes you. You are, in short, fixated. And to a great extent, Syllabus makes that possible through his visual practice that is quite daring, heedless, and seemingly liberated from the expectations of the Indonesian art world. That being said, the artist benefits from earlier forays into this sort of arena of highly mediated images. You might, of course, be reminded of the work of I Nyoman Masradi or Wedhar Riyadi and the various expressions lying between these spectrums – and without doubt, the Jogjakarta surrealism of the eighties and nineties. But the corpus of Syllabus is a bit brasher, less anxious about the requirements of either identity politics or the conceptualisms that supposedly define the contemporary. What is obviously the vein of the artist’s art is his capacity for adventure, the kind that had sustained the comics tradition of an earlier era. Thus, the forms are robust, intrepid, quite fearless. You might say excessive and overly grisly. They are rendered in acrylic, the better to make their presence more urgent and immediate, unfiltered by too much art history and too much contemporary art, enhanced by the techniques of advertising, billboard painting, street art. In fact, you might mistake it for being in cyberspace or in a virtual platform, though the painting is nevertheless cogent, confidently built up, and competent in the simulation of plasticity, with very deep perspectives and evocation of rigorous figuration. In his works for Manila, the object of focus is the countryside that is seemingly invaded by both antiquity and mass media. In a statement, Syllabus confides: “Doing arts has been an important part in my life. What I do in my life has a great influence in the creative process of my art, where both attractions and repulsions combined to form the influence.” It is by confronting “attractions and repulsions” that the artist is able to overcome the lure of typical iconographies and venture into bolder, more daring realms of picture making. Like his mind’s eye, such a confusion is generative. It makes you think about the relationship between painting and what is called “second life” in cyberspace. You might interchange his subject or his subject matter with an avatar that wildly mutates and transforms with alacrity. Syllabus is without doubt a painter of his time, a time that he takes seriously and takes it to that limit at which painting dissolves into the sea of hypermedia, and yet floating still as some kind of ebullient survivor, complicating once more the Indonesian reflection on “reality” and the “real,” a wellspring of wonder and unease as timeworn as Sudjojono and as recent as Syllabus.


Thirty Thousand Litres

“The descent into Hell is easy.” - Virgil, The Aeneid


Felix Bacolor’s installation piece makes reference to the continuing bloodshed under the current dispensation. The volume of 30,000 liters, represented through 150 steel drums capable of containing 200 liters of liquid each, alludes to the amount of blood spilled in the course of the administration’s war against drugs since June 2016. The numbers of the dead, whether complicit or innocent in this brutal war, have risen to 7,025 people as of January 22, 2017. Bacolor notes that one person needs around five liters of blood to live; 30,000 liters represents the sum total of lives cut short, robbed of the chance to change. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, a proverb goes. But this paving of ways can quickly morph into an endeavor that devours all in its path. In making visible the volume of bloodshed, Bacolor makes a stand against both the “systematic, industrial-scale purging” and the blatant disregard for human life that has risen to atrocious levels to date. Stacked like goods in an industrial storage facility, the steel drums stand as a continuing monument to loss, complicity and impunity. To pass by its presence as an art object casts a question to the viewer: does one just stand by as this monstrosity grows? 


(Lisa ito)


see no evil

Anesthetized: To render physically insensible, as by an anesthetic. We have become anesthetized to the daily bombardment and overload of images through media. We have become apathetic to poverty; numb towards brutality, violence, pain, hunger and death. Empathy is disappearing. The armor of egotistical survival separates our fate from the lives of the ones most affected; our voices are kept meek. See No Evil 2017 is a sound installation that deprives you of sight. It concentrates on sounds of events and moments that compel you to either stand, leave, stay or listen. The installation desires to stimulate lost sensitivity and to evoke human compassion. It is a reminder that we are part of the greater whole, that we are not separated from everything happening around us. It is a warning: everything will catch up with the reality we create around ourselves. Inside these glass bowls that we blow so confidently around us are the stones of reality that shall sooner or later shatter such shelter, leaving only shards of glass.


Romina Diaz, 2017 Manila, Philippines


Hybrid Pictures

Pictures never lie. Or do they? Hypothetically, this poised doubt consists the crux of its seduction and hold over a viewer. In its supposed falsehood it remains as the truthful mirror that reflects back, and, ambitiously, it is “the” probable tool for mastering an examined life. Soler Santos proceeds to tell the tales of picture making in “Hybrid Pictures,” a suite of works in various media and mostly on paper and a couple on canvas that make the exhibit title hit the mark. The crossbreeding mostly occurs in a stylistic pitting of charcoal drawing that beautifully mimics, in its own way, a photograph collaged on the picture’s ground. The works herewith evidence Soler at his very best – an artist exploring the boundaries of medium and its meaning, technique and its translated form, that coincides with the artist opening up to something riskier and bolder that puts him on the cusp, if not precipice, of artistic epiphany that marks an artist’s own pilgrimage from one level to the next. As a spectator-audience, what is immediately captivating about the recent works is Soler’s departure into drawing, mainly using charcoal, and that also departs from the artist’s signature brand of photo-realistic painting. What is on view is produce that is freer, more graphic, strong, and exuding with the grime and traces of physical, artistic labor that are rarely permitted in the artist’s outputs. The push and pull of the image-copied and image-offspring reiterate the conceptual underbelly that structures the technically proficiencies of Soler’s oeuvre. “Hybrid Pictures” appears to tackle the problem in a number of ways. An obvious discourse is the variety of techniques employed in executing a picture. One of the works on an intermediate scale and on canvas features a photo-image of a tied-up animal – presumably a horse, collaged on the picture’s ground. A couple of images serve to complement, one that features a geometric array that consists an abstract painting, and the other an image of an anonymously assembled sculpture. The drawings emitted from these three central images go all over each other, superimposed, subdued, encompassed, and forms the artist’s stylish manner of composition. Another artistic problem presented is the idea of the real. The “real” meant is the idea of what is truth and absolute that is, more often than not, given the current scenario of the times, opposed by the man-made copies that are proliferated especially in the mass-media systems of today. Since the beginning of conscious intelligence, Plato poetically opposed the idea of artists making copies via representations in painted landscapes and still life genres. On to the modern age of the 20th century, Picasso and Braque (agreed upon by many art thinkers) decided to put the real into each ones’ Cubist painting by pasting real and actual objects from the outside world. Introspectively, do the paintings with objects pasted on it become part of the real world? Some disagree, but quite optimistically, by calling these excursions not equilaterally real but more real than what is real – it is a hyper real. Art seems to grow as an autonomous entity that consumes life itself. Echoing Plato, again, should it still promulgate? The more immediate problem, the last but not the least, though it could have been placed second in the order of notes, is more pleasing, or pleasurable, as it extricates its issues from the first two, but is connected somewhat with the first point. It deals mainly with the creation of the art object. Soler seemingly raises the question that understands the source of inspiration – what comes first, the model for a work or the resulting work? In creating a simultaneous space that allows for both to exist on one picture plane, the question is posed but, somehow, naturally, obliterates itself – rendering the question irrelevant if not unnecessary. Ordinarily, one is encouraged to assume it is an exercise of sorts, or a reality-TV program where one demonstrates before the public his ability to draw by including his reference. But the thought never really crossed the mind. In the context of a parade of palimpsest paintings in recent times – from Picabia, Ernst, Salle and Polke, the superimpositions of images only betray the genius of its authors in destroying the naturalistic perspective that often confine the traditional painter. In making the “Hybrid Pictures,” he resolves the quandary of priority in which is more significant – the copy or the source. In this case, there is no way to separate each – the coexistence is vital. It extends the directive of a closed system. In one big work, Soler superimposes charcoal forms over pictures of Greek statues, and these are regarded as perfectly proportioned models. But the drawn image, or which is the copy in the course of this discussion, magnifies the experience. Not by making a bigger scale, but magnifying the perception of the model, and thus enhancing our own experience in its entirety.


(Jonathan Olazo)








redyellowandblue fever

Unpainting Paint a line Paint a shape Paint a color Paint a texture Paint a form Paint a meaning Paint a question Paint an object Paint layers Paint a memory Paint a history Paint to start Paint to end Paint to taste Paint life


Private Viewing

‘Private Viewing’ is both the culmination and continuum of an experiment that Annie Cabigting started in 2012. Toying with the concept of concealment as an extended and possibly permanent exhibitionary state, Cabigting’s solo exhibition at that time titled ‘Under Wraps’ presented a series of concealed paintings positioned on pedestals. The sequence of carefully covered canvases remained in this state of prolonged suspension: eluding the anticipated act of unveiling within and beyond their existence in the gallery space. This exhibit revisits and presents images from ‘Under Wraps’, five years after they have been dispersed throughout individual collections. The cycle of their lives as objects for private viewing goes full circle in this show, revealing their states of display half a decade after this initial act of anticipation. What has changed? What remains and may change? Cabigting’s long durational gestures tease out the nature of painting as both concealment and revelation: transforming the act of covering into the process of conjuring.


Independence Day



Objects has its purpose of use They are created for the function they are assumed to be use for. These basic hand tools have solid character. The imagination for misappropriating this objects are enormous. Objects may lead to use as a weapon. A person surmounted in anger and hatred creates the psychological impulse to use objects in a different way. Reflex and initial reactions for defense lead to faulty use of certain object. It can happen anytime, anywhere whether it’s spontaneous or intentional. Basic hand tools with a misleading use enforce a great agony and torment both physically and mentally. Objects that are being misused and abused.


Smoke 'Em Phantoms Out


Painting in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)

Twists and turns in the practice of painting are navigated in this joint exhibition by Monica Delgado and Michelle Pérez. The first time for the two artists to show their works together, Painting in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing) gathers their series of recent objects mainly produced using poured and layered acrylic paint: vividly-colored and viscous forms shaped through both controlling the medium and letting it flow. What the two artists have in common is a sensate respect and wonder for the material qualities and the physical form of paint: how it can go beyond being a means to producing an illusionistic image to being the object of visual perception itself. The medium, reanimated, harbors vast possibilities. When wielded in different ways, paint assumes an entire horizon of colors, textures and shapes: it can flow freely or be contained, cut, coiled, and manipulated. 


Pérez shows paintings created in the course of a year through the physical processes of flowing and pouring. Her Color Chart (Influx series), comprised of 48 small canvases forming a color chart, is patiently made through letting multiple waves of poured paint settle on gently inclined canvases to produce muted monochromatic and sculptural planes. The circular work White Water III could be considered as a culmination of such a process: producing forms that connote the flux and ebb of tides. Much bolder hues and more sculptural inclinations, on the other hand, emerge in her Post-it and Paint Drops series made from collaged drops of dried paint fused on to different formats: from the vertical rod to shaped canvases. 


Delgado, on the other side, offers parallel explorations of acrylic paint as a physical medium: one, dried as long strips resembling thread or rope and then coiled and tied to wooden stretchers and, two, cut up as composite paint chips and fused into blocs. The series reflects Delgado’s interest in exploring the physicality and materiality of paint as a means to make three-dimensional objects. Paint assumes the quality of other three-dimensional objects: rope and textile, grit and stone for instance. Delgado also shows interest in reanimating the idea of drawing through a series of works in graphite in a gel medium suspension. 


Working with this medium and process, Delgado and Pérez explore in their own ways the possibility of painting without the tools of painting: perhaps pointing to how, within the practice of contemporary art, painting may not be in trouble, after all. 


(Lisa Ito)



SKIN is a series of photographs accidentally captured before or after a significant event. Within each of these photographs are instances fossilised in a flurry of stretched lights, flashing limbs and blurred figures. Coson’s images capture lost details within anonymous spaces evoking an open story which focuses on the act of viewing rather than what lies within the photograph. This leaves the viewer attempting to grab visual cues and familiar shapes to build a narrative. However like memories, images cannot respond to you. Each snapshot carries only the residue of a moment never to be repeated again yet these moments remain ever present before our eyes on a distant yet perpetual loop. Within the space, memories are fragmented and reassembled chronically spanning four years of Coson’s life. Each frame a fraction of a second, but once arranged together the collection encapsulates years.