at least I won't regret anything
The persistence of oppressive gender norms encroaches onto lines that divide the personal from the political. Since childhood, women have been conditioned that their bodies are not their own. It is a possession of society and institutions: from the time one’s sex is identified to one’s mundane exchanges, to one’s hopes and dreams. Choices that move beyond, against, or even slightly awry from these mandates are often met with judgment, ostracism, and exploitation. In sustained commentary of the female body set against the horizon of social conventions, Mich Dulce’s At Least I Won’t Regret Anything is a diaristic remembrance of her recent journey towards reproductive autonomy.
With these artifacts, one becomes privy to intimate details of the process in regaining control of her own fertility. She shares the empowerment felt in re-asserting the body that is hers to begin with, as well as the apprehension, unease, and insecurity that came with it. Much of Dulce’s adult life and career that has been centered on creation with the use of needles is ironically paralleled by that tool’s importance in fulfilling her childbearing dreams, alongside the need to overcome the fear of it, as blood tests and hormone shots were required by the medical procedure. Anchoring the process to this slender piece of pointed metal and grounded on her Catholic upbringing, she begins the story by choosing to recreate the first important garment in a Catholic’s life: the baptismal gown--a feminine piece that a child, regardless of gender, is made to wear during their welcoming to the Church. Here, she integrates actual syringes used in the process of freezing her eggs.
Excerpts from journal entries that document the intense triumphs, struggles, and doubts during this experience are sewn in cursive using pearls, as though accentuating a certain strength in its femininity. In the recreation of a baby mobile, these sheer robes float and balance themselves on bars above the head, a kinetic fragility that is concurrent to the workings of one’s body and mind.
Enveloping the entire space, a haunting and exasperating sound, an ever-familiar nursery rhyme, plays on loop, indicating the seemingly perpetual insistence of a systemic order of how a woman’s life should be lived. Dulce’s confessional bears its gravity in the truths about fertility and conception, where predominantly the woman alone carries its weight. Perhaps, as it is a norm and an internalized oppression, the possibility of choice is often forgotten.
At Least I Won’t Regret Anything is an opportunity to engage in a much-needed conversation, a reminder: your body is yours. Visitors are invited to take part in the installation by taking a ribbon from the cot and writing their personal sentiments on reproductive autonomy on them. After writing, please take a pin from the floor next to the cot and add this sentiment to the work by pinning it on the various hoops hung around the dresses.
Text by Iris Ferrer
Sound piece performed by Vega
Produced by Tara Lim.
Speck of Dust
Speck of Dust is a collection of imagined landscapes that respond to the current social situation. In continued exploration of his consciousness, histories and present sentiments, Beejay Esber creates intuitive composite abstractions of interestingly atypical details from objects and environments that surround him. Dream-like figures that blur the lines of fiction and reality merge together across the canvas, generating visions that feel vaguely familiar but ultimately unknown. The taking and weaving of these seemingly trifling elements stand in ironic contrast to the tendency of man to conflate the ego, particularly in the advent of democratic platforms such as the social media. This trend of painting oneself as the pinnacle of the universe fosters a world of pride and narrow-mindedness, where there is an often unconscious dismissal of respect and regard for others. As an act of stepping back, he reflects and delves into the significant and often neglected notion of humility and smallness --- where man is but another species, another creature in the larger scheme of things.
Young artist Vyankka Balasabas produces paintings and video-based works from her own personal symbols and background, on the subject of female assimilation into the predominantly masculine environment of the Philippine military. In her artist’s statement, Balasabas recalls growing up as a young girl within a military family based in Mindanao. These memories and her personal response to how maternal and feminine identities are negotiated in such a setting became the subject of her undergraduate works, yielding the material for this solo show.
She notes how the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shifted from an all-male institution during the founding of the Academia Militar in 1899 to one open to women with the enactment of enabling laws nearly a century later in 1993. Balasabas’ works simulate the setting of the barracks by incorporating portraits of female cadets from the Philippine Navy in Mindanao, military textiles, and the Waling-waling (vanda sanderiana), a rare orchid endemic to the region. The works connect maternal and state duties, consciously taking pride in articulating the military’s professed ethos as an institution that fought “against insurgencies, piracies and terrorism in Mindanao for the past 40 years.”
Balasabas’ deployment of these symbols and values, however, yields unsettling interfaces between region, nation, ecology, gender and power. When the context of ongoing realities today are taken into account, these images beg the question of how female identities may be celebrated as individual assertions of power but also how they may conscripted within larger repressive and ideological state apparatuses. Does the influx of women into the service, for instance, significantly affect the existing and painful narratives of civil war and state fascism, particularly the Moros and the lumad peoples throughout history? Does feminine participation erase and efface the mercenary character of the AFP, which generations of dissidents from the other side have written about since the 1960s? These questions offer no easy answers. And the act of seeking certainty promises both a belated welcome and warning to all new recruits in the larger, broader canvas of war.
About the artist
Vyankka Balasabas twice won the grand prize in the Vision Petron National Students Art Competition (2014 and 2015). She grew up in northern Davao and graduated from the University of Mindanao with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (major in Painting). She participated in the 2016 Cinemalaya Institute Screenwriting Workshop.
SYNTHETIC COORDINATES: Recent Collage-Based Paintings
Drawing from fragments of visual culture, Gerry Tan’s Synthetic Coordinates: Recent Collage-based Paintings replicates the layered gaze that is prevalent in today’s culture. The consumption of images in our everyday is inescapable. With every turn, we become unknowing recipients and producers of the constant barrage of optical representation that has become even closer with the advent of social media and smartphones. This is heightened further in the art world, where the visual is its primary currency.
Collected scraps from his surroundings and travels are cut, reproduced, imprinted upon, and combined together to fabricate new impressions, questioning not only the audiences’ perception but also the producer’s assertion of originality. These repetitive and instinctive techniques of intervention attempt to reclaim man’s position into the seemingly uncontrollable progress of one’s surroundings, which results in abstractions that revel in the merging of technological methods with human touch.
Tan furthers this filtering through the rendering of his collages into paintings --- where the deliberate translation into human scale exposes the strokes, textures and flaws in contrast to the smaller dimensions of his collages. In turn, what is produced is a more visceral and direct encounter with its viewers and ironically a return to the originality that was initially challenged. This idea is pushed even more with the pairing of found materials in his paintings, paralleling the aforementioned endless recurring construction of our visual culture.
As with any translation, it is never fully identical. Tan’s manufactured imagery builds on the nuances that one is barely able to see given the degree of our daily entrenchment. Through a witty use of this artistic practice, an amplification and revelation of these experiences occurs regardless of one’s position in the cycle of production.
What's keeping you awake?
In a deliberately more personal show, Isabel Santos showcases a collection of work that is both a creative expression and a look into her interior life. Some aspects of her work for What’s Keeping You Awake? are gestural, borne out of the stored images in her mind and the many things that plague her during her bouts of insomnia. It is during this state of in between wakefulness and sleep that she is forced to confront her inescapable issues: “things to do, things I could have done, my regrets.”
The onset of sleep does not mean rest, as Santos is prone to exhausting, violent dreams that feel real, sometimes reliving a dream version of events from that day, close to the reality but not quite there, leaving her grasping for what the truth really is. The line between her dreamspace and her reality is often a blurred one, and the exhaustion of coming face to face with both realities bleed into both night and day.
What’s Keeping You Awake? is an exercise in catharsis and exorcism, where everything from Santos’s anxiety, anger, and sadness undergo a transfiguration — from internalization into potent and evocative charcoal figures. Every stroke elicited comes from “a strong feeling,” and working on these pieces has been a plea for release; sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The resulting hazy images are what she sees in her mind — at least, the fragments that she remembers — a glimpse of what haunts her mind.
Santos’ periods of wakefulness are the only times she writes in her notebooks, too, often tinged with self-loathing and bouts of insecurity. What’s Keeping You Awake? marks a return to her past thoughts, reacquainting herself with the demons that keep her up at night and the work she has done, so far. While preparing for this show, she encountered at her first solo show, one that she had been remembering less positively but has now chosen to revisit after finding the beauty in them that had been elusive for her before.
Her process for What’s Keeping You Awake?, and the rest of her practice has been riddled with self-doubt and unsureness of what comes naturally to her. Santos is sure of what she finds beautiful, but struggles to grasp the reason for these judgements. She thinks about the importance of the images, whether they have a deeper meaning, and even the act of choosing to portray them, over many others.
What’s Keeping You Awake? is, in many ways, a return and a revisitation, a suspicious and reluctant homecoming of sorts. There is a pull to come back and reconfigure certain moments in her life. But, by returning to the point at which she started, Santos is faced with even more questions: “Have I not learned anything from then? Am I back to where I was?”
Journey: Art: 50: Part III: Beyond Painting
This third in my series of retrospective exhibits marking fifty years in the art scene is a very personal one. The first exhibit in May 2017 at Archivo 1984 was subtitled WORK ON PAPER, and showed fine prints, pencil sketches, pen-and-ink drawings, pastel paintings, photographs, and watercolors covering the period from 1967 to the present. The second, in November also last year at the Avellana Art Gallery, was called SPECIMENS: The Early Abstractions. Featuring damaged paintings done in acrylic on canvas, and lacquer and aluminum on wood during the 1970’s to 1980’s, I referred to it as “show-and-tell for adults”, the rationale of the exhibit being to present what happens to your works when you do not have the good fortune of having a 24/7 temperature-controlled enclosed space in which to store them. You can get water damage, termite damage, roach damage, rodent holes, mold, fading, cracking, crackling, blistering, peeling, tearing, bubblewrap marks, permanent dust stains, handprints, shoe-prints. Take your pick.
The unexpected ray of sunshine came when my agent Albert Avellana brought the expert conservator (also an artist in her own right) June Poticar Dalisay to see the paintings. June did not shake her head or go “Tsk tsk!”. She said the paintings could be saved. Since June and her team did the fabulous job of restoring the Spoliarium at the National Museum, who would know better? I was ecstatic. The only fly in the ointment is that June wants me to do the job myself, inch by painful inch, because she says the person who can do it best is the one who painted the original. This will probably take years, of course, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you, Beng Dalisay!
Although I am known as a visual artist, my background is actually theater. This should not be surprising because my father, National Artist for Film and Theater Lamberto V. Avellana, and my mother, National Artist for Theater Daisy Hontiveros-Avellana, just married a year, founded in 1939, along with some equally young and equally stagestruck friends, the Barangay Theatre Guild. There was no National Theater to speak of at the time, and they were determined to establish one. By the time I was old enough to hold and read a script (about 7 or so), I was appearing on radio and stage, then later, on television.
At home, my brothers and I were surrounded by books on drama and film, picture books on movies, actors and directors, books on set and costume design, plays galore, records of classical music and jazz (my mother’s tastes were eclectic: from Schumann to Shearing and all points in between, as I used to call it. Mama and I took piano lessons at Holy Ghost College, and later on, she enrolled me in ballet.) Also on the shelves there was fiction, non-fiction, history, biographies, books on wars and sundry other stuff, and Shakespeare, of course. Our house was like Grand Central Station. If there were no rehearsals for a play or reading, there were meetings with actors, cameramen, scriptwriters, musicians, set designers, assistant directors, artists, costume designers and dressmakers, special effects men, stuntmen. It was like home study in Humanities, Drama, and Film 101.
So why is there a table setting with two bowls of soup in the gallery? The respected Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the University of the Philippines Professor Sylvia Mendez Ventura begins her interview thus in “Self-Portraits 2: Fourteen Filipina Artists Speak”: (book on the shelf) “Ivi Avellana-Cosio admits that she enjoys cooking only when she doesn’t have to do it. Even more enjoyable for this award-winning artist is pretending to cook in the name of art. For an exhibition at the lobby at the Philamlife Building, she set a table for two, with a placemat, a soup bowl, and a spoon. She poured water in the bowl and sprinkled her daughter’s plastic ABC’s in the water. She called her appetizing, though inedible, installation “Soup of the Day”. Ivi’s playful alphabet soup was unconsciously prophetic, for she soon found herself immersed in alphabet art and eventually became the country’s foremost painter of the ancient Filipino syllabary called alibata.” Truth to tell, I had never made that connection until Professor Ventura wrote about it, but I think of it now as serendipity.
Also, the eminent anthropologist Dr. Jesus Peralta left a note at one of my exhibits, saying the correct term for the syllabary is “baybayin”, and it dates as far back as the 10th C., not 16th, as was commonly thought. This series of paintings of our ancestors which I started late in the 1970’s still holds much fascination for me. There is so much more to explore. I like to think that my upbringing, experiences onstage and off, everything I have read, studied, watched or listened to, places I have seen, people I have known, have permeated my entire being all these many years. I have sifted the chaff from the grain, of course, and getting to where I am now has not been easy on body, soul and spirit. But as I said in my notes for my May retrospective, this journey has been at once wondrous, nerve-wracking, amazing, gut-wrenching, fulfilling, exhausting, joyous, challenging….and I would absolutely do it all over again.
I AM IVI.
Looking at the One Who Looks
Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
Entering the cavernous space of Finale Art File’s Tall Gallery, one steps into the atmosphere of a museum—the gray walls, the gallery lights, the paintings in their gilded frames. It is a familiar sight to those who have made the rounds of some of the most prestigious museums in the world; it is also mildly disconcerting. What had been once an industrial modern space becomes all of a sudden turn-of-the-century (if not necessarily old world), featuring a rare summary of Annie Cabigting’s series of works of people looking at paintings—a subject matter that has become synonymous to her name. Replicating the experience of looking at paintings in a museum, Museum Watching is an ode to the viewer. In the triangulation of the artist, the work, and the viewer, Cabigting places the angle of attention on the one watching—the men and women who visit museums day-in and day-out, anonymous, with time to spare, seized by the desire to look at pictures. In a given day, taking into account all the museums in the world, they are a multitude. A few of them are here now: a man wearing an electric blue blazer and a shock of silver curls; a man in a red shirt craning his neck, showing a bald patch, his hands clasped behind him; two couples, distanced by generation, affectation, and possibly economic status, but united in the devoted act of looking.
In these works, the viewers are solid presences, and the starkness of their bodies against the surface of the canvas asserts their realness, their corporeality. In “untitled (girl looking at Madonna #25),” a voluptuous woman, her wavy hair falling in cascades, her hands by her hips, the flesh of her arms dented and dimpled: she is a raging embodiment of curiosity while looking at a composed Mother Mary haloed and swaddled in ultramarine while holding baby Jesus, sedate on her heavenly throne. The distance between the one watching—a modern-day Madonna—and what she is looking at is at once close and infinite, at once intimate and impersonal, at once bridgeable by her gaze but also perpetually removed by the fact that Mary’s complexion is pigment, fiction. But isn’t the woman in the foreground, having been painted herself, also now shares the nature of the one she is looking at?
Locked in the airless pictorial space, the viewer and the painting are literally one. In looking at the viewer looking at the painting, we become the one looking; we lend the figure our consciousness. Through a radical act of sympathy, we assume the contours of their flesh and the aperture of their eyes and, in a moment of glorious habitation, it is us who sees a child in a red dress tied with a golden sash around the waist, the parade on the street against a ruined city, a woman against the explosive riot of a garden. In paintings where the viewer is absent, such as “Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice” and “Jewels in the Crown of Thomson (After Rubens),” no mediation is needed: we are the actual viewers that enter into a field of dialogue with the painting (and, in a particular work, the absence thereof).
Certainly, there are moments of vulnerability: we may be self-conscious in looking at Cabigting’s works that when we see the viewers in the paintings, we feel as if we are trespassing into a zone of privacy, as if we are interrupting someone praying. But not for a moment do we lose our role as viewers, not for a moment do we lose the thread of attention. We remain the wide-alert consciousness that allows paintings to continue their lives beyond the medium and out of their frames, transubstantiating into strands of narrative, intertwining into our DNA, deep into the cells of our being and, once the opportunity comes up—over coffee casually talking to someone or in a passionately engaged talk about art—the painting comes up and is spoken of as a deeply felt sensation, an experience. The red of the child’s dress is intense, isn’t it? Look at how the light floods the rooms of the world. Imagine at night when all the lights have been turned off, when not a single soul inhabits the space of the museum. The paintings, what happens to them?
Mute, airless, pristine because of their history of conservation, the works have reverted to their state and status as objects, inanimate, unyielding of their secrets. Their afterlives beyond the museum walls will only circulate in the stories we—the viewers—tell to each other. Or they can become alive—activated—again as soon as viewers step in front of the paintings the following day. Each of Annie Cabigting’s works in Museum Watching is a direct address to the one who looks. It is the artist’s way of saying to the viewer: “I see you. You are present to me. Let me paint you.”
Jayson Oliveria’s Painter’s Block strips the artistic process and its aftereffects to its bare bones, revealing its peculiarities and discrepancies to its viewers. Witty quips and jabs are thrown at his own creative production through pieces that highlight repetition, erasures and layers which seem merely instinctive at first but recognized as deliberate upon closer inspection, as well as its audiences through works that take off from commentaries on art.
Questions and ideas on originality and creativity are also touched upon through its deconstruction and in turn a construction of his own definitions. The 7-feet bad copy “Boy” turns monumental the original painting bought from the thrift shop for P500, presumed to be done by a high school student for a school requirement on religion or good manners. Oliveria exhausts painting as a form of a particular stature and history, and uncloaks the sarcastic irony beneath its glorification through an emphasis on mundane references and imagery.
Although decidedly oblique in his manner of revelation, the puns remain exacting with its claims left for visitors to fully decipher. Evident as well is the awareness of his position as a producer, in his ability to draw humor from the supposed seriousness in discerning art. A striking thread of distinct rawness in the works displays an understanding of the landscape on which his practice is grounded upon. A clever remark on the somber method of meaning-making, art is turned askew, leaving more doubt than answers.
Essence to Essence
In search for happiness and satisfaction, man has the tendency to run after an ideal life. This ideal is imagined and believed to be gained through an accumulation of objects that man himself creates and designs. It is however forgotten that the essence of living is found not in material luxuries. Instead, true happiness can be found in the simplicity of the intangible, especially the relations we make and keep along the way.
1 The moon is an unchanging whole without the sun.
2 Neon: a dazed nostalgia for the lightness of childhood.
3 Why does the heart continue to lust for the beauty of rainbows even if the mind knows that color is an illusion?
4 More courage is needed to stay afloat than to kill yourself.
5 The moon collides with its reflection.
6 Tears turn into salt: the irreverence of being.
7 Sunrise will always break a rogue wave.
A show about life as a constant struggle to find our inner voice and true selves, the space is replete with imageries of light, journey, and reflection; such as mirrors, vessels, sun, clock, moon, lanterns, and sea. Exhibiting a total of 22 pieces at Finale’s Tall Gallery, Ocean hopes to connect with the audience through a layered approach to storytelling as she collaborates with a musician and poet, painting a visceral moment that captures her personal meditations on being and time. “When I create an exhibit, I consider the space as a medium too. I sometimes wonder why people still bother to attend art shows when they can scroll and swipe through images of paintings through the convenience of their screens—within the safe touch of connected isolation. But why do we listen to live music? Why do we watch an actual sunset or walk through forests? That energy can’t be replicated,” says the painter.
Ocean juxtaposes noise and symbols of illusion amidst this luminous mishmash to create tension and depth. In betwixt paintings, musician Nights of Rizal will be performing an original score based on his understanding of Nikki’s intention for the show and the conversations they’ve had around it: “I’m definitely playing around with different waveforms, and different ways of oscillating waveforms. However I think the essence of my music for the show will be less about the individual waves and oscillations themselves but more about how they intersect—willingly or accidentally—which I believe is what Rogue Wave is all about,” explained the composer. “What would seem like chaos is actually a complex cloud of causality,” he added.
“I’ve always found social pressures alienating, even debilitating when they prevent us from expressing our authenticity. And I’m aware I’m not alone. Today, I notice its magnification through social media where people lust for instant self-validation and delusive pleasure. I want to explore how these kinds of distractions cunningly shift the trajectory of our lives, how they delay us from facing ourselves and living our inner truths. Life is finite. It’s so short, yet we rearrange our lives to please the public gaze. A lot of us have become slaves to the opinions of others; in that sense, we become the living dead. I hope people wake up to seek the depths of soulful human connection, to embrace the beauty of presence despite the lure to escape,” expressed Nikki.
By Czyka Tumaliuan
CATALINA AFRICA ESPINOSA
Time Moving in All Directions
Featuring Conversational Adornment by Tanya Villanueva
A backward facing painting looking at its own broken reflection
A double door portal, a doorway filled with light, the key to enter is a bone, a temple guards in sight
Shells chime a melody in sync with the creation of a universe, a hand reaching for a flame receding, a broken clock stuck in a web of time
A book of hours, a place where there are no words (only images and feelings), a manifesto written in sand
Surf lesson as the ultimate metaphor for life and art.
Finding myself with these recurring themes: consciousness, creation, growth, nature, the connectedness of all things, the infinite mysteries of the universe, time, meaning, truth, awareness, love. Finding a space to negotiate my inner life, my feelings with the creative procedure. Challenging the medium by challenging myself to take new paths, to not repeat my past processes. Thinking about how our work changes as we grow as well. How can my artworks reflect the change / transformation within me? I think about freedom within the definition of what we call art. What does true creativity mean? What does being an artist mean today? How can I be free? (as an artist and as a human being who needs to make a living?)
Interesting that I have come back to this concept of freedom, sometimes the art world is full of clichés and stereotypes and that what some people define as art is limited to what is hung on gallery walls. I want to have a practice that is closely connected to my everyday life. We do things because we enjoy them, because it makes us feel happy, free. I let my toddler draw on my paintings.
I Swallowed My Hard Drive
Babe I swallowed my cellphone! I swallow myself in the process Peel to Reveal The Interiors of the Stomach From the point of view of my guts - Glow-in-the-dark Ice Age Presents The Hoarder’s Guide to Find Deep Truths about You in Me The Poison and the Cure is the Same. Delete. DELETE. Space. ENTER. My pet roach just laid eggs in my brain. This is not the end of the hunt but an exchange of recognizable patterns and handshakes. Mutants must wear layers of shoes with stripes and checks for an extreme sports vibe. See Blindness as vision. See Glow-in-the-Dark Slides. Glow-in-the-dark cockroach. Glow-in-the-dark enema. PetitPuberty Glow-in-the-dark Toilet Graffiti Multiple Choice. True or False? Long ago, there were no creatures on earth at all but slowly over millions of years the first living things developed. Their outfits were made of prehistoric algae. They were made of metallic aquatic slush and froth that covered much of the world like saliva sculptures. I like them because they glow-in-the-dark like goosebumps in my skin when I glimpse a friendly ghost. So here is a recipe to reduce rationality that my mother’s grandfather’s father’s half-sister’s cousin’s daughter’s baby’s adopted brother’s aunt’s ex-husband’s wife’s unfertilized egg’s pet crocodile’s whore who was a cannibal passed on to me. This hand me down potions are Failed Science Experiments Executed by Tribal Societies from the private albino jungle gardens of the apocalypse. This is not something that I planned but my only inheritance! Let me put a smile and spew them out like broken teeth. Expect Asylum overdose with this Low-fat, Low-bat, Low-res, Low-carb, Low-Cost Glow-in-the-dark ice cream! Scatter with ancient savage sprinkles made with powdered skulls. True or False? You see that I see you become part of the sky. I name a few cloud formations before it bursts into tears and become anti-fungal creams that smell like halitosis. Even in the harshest climates adapting quickly to change you will find me. What am I? More importantly who are you? What are you to be auctioned online? True or False? Relevant question Is a cockroach clean? I am listening intently with my stethoscope to the ants carrying a dead cockroach explain to other ants gossip about other insects like termites in the parade of pests the importance of painting as their natural habitat. Accumulated dust can be snorted. Paintings should be preserved in honey. I want my body to be some body that designs dreams, nightmares and star signs. Is this clean? Are you clean? My hands are dirty and if the air is too cold I fancy some street slang, but sometimes all the swirls in the tongue in the mouth are hard to recognize when you have frostbite. Fish variations, Cobra variations, Variations with Legs Apart, Lotus positions and then I surrender to the drift of butterflies. These are preparatory exercises for Spoiled Rotten Bratz trying out new force fields in fashion full of wrinkles, gastric folds and dried vomit. True or Falls? If I false would you ever truly, will I ever forcibly falsify? When will I possibly ever? Why do you ever ever ever ever ever ever ever whatever ever ever Bothered by any of the evers in forever Projects. I snorkel for spells conceived by folds of dead skin cells carved in seashells. Sssshhhhhh… Flush first and use the bidet. Bidet. Bidet your body with glitter glue. Bidet your foamy face wash and shampoo with sodium laureth sulfates. The water from the bubble tea near me is from my neighbor’s bathroom bidet. If in doubt Please! Boil! Thrice! Save water! Drink slow! Save files. True of False? Pets stare at pictures explaining the signs and symbols to their humans. Dogs and cats staring at themselves have a vacation online in a tablet of apple and all sorts of memory card readers and usbs. brands like Samsung, Sony, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Coca-cola etc. etc. Do not scream like plants do when they are thirsty. They fall from your hands or you accidentally push over a soda on your keyboard and poof! Emergency calls! You are deep in debt and your savings are spent. Reasons to Camouflage in Captivity. Move to another country. Hide your scented soap smells. Cough up the cheap cologne. You will know You’ve got your troubles and I’ve got mine. You will need a flowerpot, a stick (twice the height of the flowerpot) and a black marker or crayon to mark the position of the sunshine. True or False? Green Potatoes are poisonous when given to children ages 0-100. Beyond these years peeling this potato before boiling destroys the chemical called solanine and best eaten raw but what I would like to do next is Analyze Soil Samples. True or False? Karma is like garbage juice. Drink up. It tastes like live flesh in the computer screen. Electric fluids carry out biological processes. True or False? Pink rainbow drop eye shadow in my feather collection. Starting life as a male I become a female frequently changing sex climate change after climate change. It is painful to change sex in champagne. I will increase your sex drive. True or False? Only if the center of gravity is directly above the base will the object be in equilibrium. Finding your balance takes time but when in doubt try these methods. From a pivot point 1 to a pivot point 2 hang a length of weighted thread from the same pivot and urinate. Urinate on candles, flowers and plants during a full moon. This helps the albino jungle to float in the crust of ice melt for years and years and years and billions of years. In all instances, Avoid icebergs. Peligroso! True enough fungi are very strange curious plants. They produce slime that flies feed on. Fairies collect their spores and droppings then turn them to magic dust. Blow by blow, in and out of the sun, a waterproof skin can be achieved with constant application, maybe 600 times a day until the bottle runs out. No need to recycle. Set aside and wait a few more hundred days after your birthday. Set on Fire. True or False? The lungs is enveloped by a thick blanket of dangerous gases called the atmosphere. Without this blanket to protect you, you we would be stoneware by day and frozen like the cartoons at night. There are special precautions to protect you from pressure effects. Or you will turn into a tiny toon aqua beads. True or False? I weigh about 6.4 million billion trillion gazillion pounds and I look like a giant ball of flaming pink fur. It’s very, very cute. There is no cure. I cannot be explained. What Am I? Which is which? Without a doubt just chill in the toilet and read the vandals. Inject yourself with pleasure and pain. Smash a bottle of whisky. Be born without sexual intercourse. If its not fun its not from the Internet. Do not go further than this debris. Choose Your Own Adventure Pack. Come Visit Nature’s Sweetest Miracle. All you have to do is taste it to understand! Please. Do not scratch and sniff the toilet seat. Put on your best lipstick and leave a note and a kiss on the mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all? Very Raw. Do not Refrigerate.
Control Your Sheet
Abi Dionisio’s Control Your Sheet seeks to define the smallness of man against the vastness of the universe. Tropes on life and the search for balance are overwhelming and often overstated, yet its reality persists as it grounds the every day of individuals. Using the imagery of the sea as metaphor, each work conveys a semblance of our narratives where every man, woman and child sails through its endlessness. Alongside this comes the choice of cruising in solitude or in unison among people. Dionisio visualizes this resemblance of life and the sea through a fusing of realistic and surrealist figures.
Embroideries of sailboats and seascapes merge seamlessly against horizons of faces to reflect these parallelisms of navigating waters with one’s humanity. Complementing these are paintings of miniature sailboats that are laid unassumingly on rumpled cloth, as though mimicking the undulations of the sea. Similar to a boat that requires constant steering in order to acquire stability, one’s life necessitates both acts of navigation. On one end, there is the ballast or in this case a solid sense of self, whose heaviness grounds the boat; and on another is the sail whose lightness and openness to the possibilities of the winds can carry oneself to unexpected routes and interactions.
This dual approach in this voyage allows the prospect of conquering the waves of emptiness from isolation and distractions from external factors. It is proposed that ideals of peace and harmony may be achieved in the constant and careful weighing of self and others.
A Pocket That Could Hold the Universe
A pocket that could hold the universe, Santos explores the notion of totalities by way of fragments and containment. Through a series of ten pieces, she puts together 12 “perspectives,” framed and contained within a smaller plane and each a part of a whole that when put together, still do not quite provide a sense of completeness. There is, perhaps, a bigger view, where a larger image can be seen, but the question of what is lacking also comes up. The spaces in between these small pockets represent, perhaps, what has been obscured, what cannot be immediately seen or sensed.
Moving away from the largely painterly approach present in her recent work, Santos combines illustrative, photographic, and a few literary devices along with her watercolors, a way of broadening her scope of expression in a pocket. These create relations with one another, conversing in a shared language, all of which have been previously utilized though not necessarily in the same space as one another. Each component part is a vessel, where something much bigger is contained and takes the shape of what it is being held by. In a sense, these small “pockets” suggest a materiality of space, where the full expression of what is being shared cannot come to be, given the limitations of the spatial dimension.
What is visible is what can be grasped and kept — that which has been contained — but the expression of the visible also alludes to, and confirms, the existence of what is not available to be seen in the same way. Although these vessels speak of containment, the small fragments are “pockets,” too — a device used to carry small objects — and in this case, small multitudes. Each little plane is a pocket that reveals what it is that we carry with us, but also what we leave behind.
Questioning Relativity In Polynomial Identities, David Ryan Viray delves into particular concepts that bear proof of life’s dualities. Mystified by equations and the operative processes that lead to actual answers, the artist explores artmaking as a means of problem solving and speculating at how everything seems to balance each other out. Viray uses familiar images and renders them in exacting detail, staying faithful to form as he stretches their spheres of significance.
Skyscapes are painted in glorious light to simulate a conversation between God’s Eye View and Man’s Eye View, with scale defining the expected perspectives from each side of the dialogue. If God had feet, these would be the clouds he would step upon to take a peek at his creations – the other outlook would be what a human being sees when he looks up to heaven in supplication towards a higher power. With Polarity, Viray mounts two pieces of thickly-painted color blocks of red and blue. Inspired by his fascination with Stephen Hawking’s theories and the Doppler Shift – or put simply, how light from moving objects will appear to have different wavelengths depending on the relative motion of the source and the observer, which was put into documented experimentation with a race car, he sets off each pure color against the other, warm and cool tones serving contradictions of equal intensity from opposite edges of the visible spectrum. This is an up close interpretation of looking at the night sky and seeing stars twinkle blue light, then red, from millions of lightyears away, or how a frequency change in light can be distinguished distinctly by the naked eye.
Creator vs Creation scrutinizes an artist’s foundation of grounding his means of livelihood on modeling basic shapes to come up with composed juxtapositions that should lead to aesthetically pleasing, or at least conceptually sound, results. It also posits the question if God is the Creator of all that is and humans are reflections of Him, could God have possibly made a terrible mistake if the beings he created used their ingenuity to create antimatter at CERN’s antiproton decelerator in their relentless pursuit of learning? Right Arm is part of a pair presenting the human scapula and the bones attached to it, which might invoke references of left-wing and right-wing tendencies, as well as the controversies involved in literally taking arms for one’s principles and beliefs.
Finally, two sides converge on a center line in Axis, with branches spreading out of to different directions resembling lungs with its interconnecting blood vessels all mapped out. By portraying a tree, the artist seems to be reminding us of the breaths we take for granted each day, and how they contribute to the life cycles of everything else that exists on earth. Technically, polynomial identities are just equations that are true, but identities are particularly useful for showing the relationship between two seemingly unrelated expressions.
Factoring in Viray’s previous exhibitions, the artist seems to have developed not only his critical eye as he investigates atypical ways of manipulating elements and using ingenuity to explore balance, relationships, identities and boundaries, but his and his audiences’ critical thinking as well. In delving into the mysteries of the expanding universe and relating it to his own practice, he draws on both art and sciences as he tries to make sense of it all, proving that validity depends on limitless permutations that may sometimes defy rationality.
Kaye O’Yek, May 2018
Back to Nature
A Braver Beckoning
Oscar Villamiel’s art practice proceeds from the process of salvaging ephemera. He turns his eye towards things discarded and regarded as the most wretched of found materials, collecting discards until they accumulate and are reassembled into new presences. Even the most humble and everyday of objects can convey larger truths about the world. Villamiel is fascinated and drawn to the possibilities of telling these stories: exploring how precious histories, current realities, and urgent lessons inhabit the material qualities of detritus and debris. A sprawling lot of throwaway toys and refuse, for instance, was collected for his installation Payatas (2012-2013) while thousands of carabao horns comprised another massive work, titled Damong Ligaw (2014). Both were compelling statements against the dispossession that persists in this time of vast material accumulation.
In this new series, Villamiel shows how the most abject of things testify to the precarious fragility of our natural environment. Over the past five years or so, he patiently salvaged iron nails, feathers, and skeletal remains across various locations—from scrap yards to aviaries—and, with a team of assistants, produced several works reflecting on how the personal and social experience of nature, and its debris, is intricately intertwined. The exhibition’s colossal centerpiece is an installation titled Black Forest: a grim reinterpretation of the archipelago’s denuded and rapidly disappearing forests. The work was built from thousands of scrap nails, welded into skeletal growths, that are embedded in a vast field of firewood charcoal. Villamiel sourced the iron discards from junkyard wood and old ancestral houses primed for demolition and the charcoal from communities which resorted to the practice in the struggle for survival. Rebuilt and rising from such ruined sites, Villamiel’s forest is a field of grim signs: reminders of what remains after cyclical histories of extraction, exploitation, and deprivation.
The exhibition’s wallbound works, on the other hand, are assembled from molted feathers, collected from birds both endemic and exotic, which are categorized or arranged according to color. Painstakingly stuffed into small clear bottles along with paper and various fibers or individually assembled into collages, the individual feathers collectively convey a sense of saturated hues and lightness of gesture. The individual works are all inspired from scenes, memories and impressions from his rural hometown in Quezon province: waking up at the break of dawn to find a forest covered in haze, looking up at the majestic length and ridges of an old tree trunk, encountering the colors and heat of a summer festival. These memories of being one with nature, bottled up and held dear, coexist with other smaller assemblages that speak of decay, desolation and death. One encounters a bird’s nest and boxed skeletal remains within the exhibition space as randomly as a walk through wild undergrowth: quiet reminders of how such simple beauty and the seemingly timeless expanse of the natural world can be as fleeting and easily swept away as a feather.
Perhaps this is why Villamiel persists in collecting from nature and the debris-filled landscapes of today: to remind one of the precious presences that were lost, and that are continually destroyed, amidst these troubling times of greed, plunder and death. In beckoning the viewer to go back to nature, the artist opens the urgent imperative towards reflection and reckoning: wielding the most fragile of ephemera to create socio-ecological indictments on near colossal scale.
About the artist
Oscar Villamiel (b. 1953) is a multi-media artist who produces large scale installation works through the collation and collecting of found materials from urban and rural environments. Growing up in Caloocan City, Villamiel studied Fine Arts at the University of the East (UE) in Manila. Working as a set designer and entrepreneur during past two decades, Villamiel returned to his first vocation as a studio artist in 2006, starting with group exhibitions. Villamiel held his first one-man exhibition, a large-scale installation titled Wounded Spirit, in 2009 at the Art Center of SM Megamall in Mandaluyong, featuring large-scale multimedia paintings. His second solo show, Mourning Glory, was held at the Crucible Gallery in 2010 while his third solo show, titled Stories of our Time, was organized at Light and Space Contemporary in 2012. Villamiel’s large-scale installation, titled Payatas, was exhibited as part of the Singapore Biennale exhibition, If The World Changed (2013) at the Singapore Art Museum. He continued to produce installation works for his solo exhibitions in 2014 at the University of the Philippines Vargas Museum and Light & Space Contemporary, in Quezon City. Villamiel currently lives and works in Marikina City.
Your Manifest Destiny
In the middle of the 19th century, a term was coined to express the United States’ ‘inevitable’, God-ordained destiny to pacify, civilize and expand dominion unto North America and beyond. This term was called Manifest Destiny.
Liv Vinluan was born in the year 1987 into a family of academicians and artists. She is great-granddaughter of Norberto Romualdez, Filipino statesman, Supreme Court Justice, writer and champion of the Tagalog language. Her paternal grandparents, Numeriano and Lelis were school teachers in the town of Pozzorubio in Pangasinan. Her father is Filipino abstractionist and Professor Emeritus Nestor Olarte Vinluan, former Dean of the College of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines, where her monumental undergraduate thesis triptych, Sin Vergüenzas, won her the Dominador Castañeda Award for Best Thesis. She was later on selected as one of the nominees of the Fulbright-PAEF Scholarship in 2014, but ultimately decided to defer the scholarship to concentrate her efforts closer to home. In 2015, she completed the watercolour piece, Cariño Brutal, another monumental work which was Shortlisted for the 2016 Ateneo Art Awards-Fernando Zobel Prize for Visual Art. In early 2016 she was invited and commissioned by the López Museum & Library for the exhibition EXPOSITIÓN. The following year, her work for EXPOSITIÓN, Ang Cabilogan ng Isang Cuadranggulo (The Roundness of a Square), was nominated for the 4th Edition of the prestigious Asia Pacific Breweries- Signature Art Prize. She lives and works in Antipolo, where she shares a home with her husband Ian, and three adopted cats.
Bloom where you are planted
Where Colors Bloom From Grey
“Creation is grey”, as a Polish poet says it, “and sometimes it merely catches light. Other times it blooms”. It is my first fine thought while looking at the works of Kim Oliveros. It’s this very mood of greyness shining through, a knowing mask pressed on these vivid faces of invention. It’s a kind of greyness that speaks and yet does not say much. It wants to reveal— perhaps one’s identity, a broadening artistry, sense and philosophy, influences, a personal life, and the true heart kept behind his art. And yet it’s difficult to know. This greyness relates to the grid of canvases where I can imagine how the painter’s brush is poised and strokes grow into images, life-like like lush white orchids. They take branch and root, are pruned, shaped and presented to the spectators, tender on the brink of criticisms and appreciation.
There is the portrait that I love. It catches my introspective eye. It’s called Saving Things That Eventually Die. It tugs the heartstrings of my own kind of visual admiration. Looking at it, I can sense remembrance straightaway, furiously surrendering and telling behind the elaborate exterior. There’s a nostalgic quality to it— how it appears on the surface like a novel representation of an Oriental portrait. And yet there’s more to this humble work. I wonder why colors are subdued. How flowers are carried and seem to mumble their eventual yellow fading, and how the face of the woman in a kimono freezes in the gentle feeling of discomfort, perhaps of knowing what is finite and holding it as long as she can. It’s as if she is holding on to these flowers that matter to her, her keepsakes.
While reading some essays he wrote, notes and anecdotes, there seems to be a profound and fundamental understanding, even poignant, to Oliveros’ maturing artistry. “It also signifies my attachment to my belongings that have sentimental value and transitioning into something unknown,” he writes. From his still life paintings, his subtle portraitures, the pleasant oddity of mental vignettes coming in fragments— they all represent a way of seeing—his own— and of hoping, in the world that only he knows fully and can translate in paintings and mixed-media art. There are other works to navigate. If one is drawn to know the nostalgia which is a central psychological element to his works, each painting can be like a lit path to discover the full labyrinth of his oeuvre. In fact, it is almost as if the very life in each work, this very abundance of soul put into it, Oliveros is reaching to us to remind us. We go on our endless loop of remembering, despite distances and change of seasons. There’s a part of us that also desires to paint with such intimate detail, like bits of garments whose stark colors dwell inside our heads and still haunt us.
Images bright as kimonos live, they go on living, through this love of remembering, the passion it fuels and relates to other people. In a time when so much seems to slip out of our grasp of remembrance despite our frenzy of mental documentation, we can learn from his works. His works form a beautiful elegy for the viewing world, for those who feel they may never return, but are still dwelling in such fevered longing. Greyness that mourns and also celebrates, and only art can transcend and immortalize it. Throughout the brushwork in an artist’s life, a way of understanding, Oliveros continues to create in hope to map the unnameable landmarks in memory, and as he says it, “I am looking forward to more unknown offerings and more transitions.” Life is grey. It may bloom, it should, and it doesn’t end there.
In Pursuit of Fragments that Bloom To pass by a spectator’s moment of notice is to reveal stories. Her own. How she is there, tender, wearing a kimono, a perfect fit worn today, sown years ago. How she takes pause, such close-up of eyes doleful in the nature of keeping things— a vase of yellow flowers. Her hands that know only two things— holding and letting go. How, perhaps, before this moment arrives, she has taken poises of carrying herself. Perhaps she knows too well how to sophisticate from her spine, her neck now in a supple twist, the way a native woman discerns a horrifying nuance from a distance, slighting the far-off danger. How she must move carefully. And now, she’s there, profile-perfect as she waits, in transience between breathing and remembering 'til the painter freezes her in canvas, her most perfect compliance, that memory.
by Arian Rey Tejano
GALLERIA DUEMILA ARTISTS
A Celebration of Friends
“Duemila @ Finale: A Celebration of Friends” The Philippine art scene might be marked by intrigue and rivalry, but the eternal spirit of camaraderie and affection exists and is made visible by the friendship and cooperation between two of the country’s leading art galleries, Galleria Duemila and Finale Art File. Both galleries now join forces to present “Duemila@Finale: A Celebration of Friends,” opening with a reception at Finale Art File on August 7.
Galleria Duemila was established in 1975 by Silvana Ancellotti-Diaz while Finale Art File was founded in 1983 by Vita Sarenas. Through the succeeding decades till the present, the two galleries have been at the forefront of contemporary Philippine art. Moreover, Diaz and Sarenas have shared a deep friendship that has endured through the years. Both have launched and promoted the careers of many of today’s artistic luminaries. In this celebratory show, Galleria Duemila’s artists will be exhibiting their works at the country’s largest art venue, Finale Art File.
Participating artists are: Gus Albor, Freddie and Isabel Aquilizan, Agnes Arellano, Pandy Aviado, Jinggoy Buensuceso, Benjie Cabangis, Norberto Carating, Valeria Cavestany, Lina Llaguno Ciani, Charlie Co, Allan Cosio, Ivi Avellana-Cosio, Igan d’ Bayan, Daniel Dela Cruz, RM de Leon, Duddley Diaz, Romina Diaz, Ramon Diaz, Rock Drilon, Edgar Doctor, Junyee, Lao Lianben, Julie Lluch, Tiny Nuyda, Jonathan Olazo, Romulo Olazo, Ramon Orlina, Impy Pilapil, Cid Reyes, Jose Tence Ruiz, Ross Capili, Tony Twigg, Trek Valdizno, Roy Veneracion, Nestor Vinluan, Denise Weldon, Betsy Westendorp, Edwin Wilwayco, and Phyllis Zaballero.
A Glimpse of Bukidnon
Davao-based artist Judelyn Villarta reveals the rich details of the rituals and beliefs of indigenous people of Bukidnon in her first solo exhibition A Glimpse of Bukidnon. Men and women dressed in traditional clothing and posed in their quotidian practices are set against dreamlike backgrounds riled with patterns reminiscent to their tribes. With eyes closed, the portraits express a semblance of reverence for a vibrant culture and heritage that continues to live in modern times.
Villarta received her BFA in Painting from the University of Mindanao in Davao. She has been part of group exhibitions such as "Ugnayan Artistic Impression of Mindanao Life" at the Abreza Mall in Davao in 2018; "Southern Sensibilities Second Series" at the Manila House Private Members Club in Taguig in 2017; and "Southern Sensibilities" at the SM Art Center in Davao in 2016, among others. (IF)
Atsuko Yamagata's "Uncontrolled: Artificiality" draws from experimentations done with organic materials. Ink, water-based paints and water are fused with glue revealing in the process the innate malleability and constraint of the media. Allowing the assimilation to emerge, the hand of the artist turns into mere facilitator for the movement of the substances. The mystery of shapes that are produced also seem to parallel microscopic organisms found in nature: web-like tendrils reaching out to irregularly shaped, overlapping ovals. This is paired with variations in opacity and transparency that play with the weight of the abstracted forms. Bleeding and overlapping into each other, the final image becomes secondary to following the shifts and fluctuations dictated by the chosen materials. In contrast to the usual superimposition of the persona of the artist, the series admits the uncontrollability of materials and deliberately contradicts the artificiality produced by the artistic process. As though imitating nature itself, Yamagata embraces the freedom in creation, consenting for the medium to be itself. (IF)
MM Yu's compulsive urge to document her surroundings is revisited with her drip paintings in Untitled Pantone. A registry of colors is set beside and layered on top of each other on canvases that inadvertently resemble the hues of the Manila landscape. Parallel to this is the manner of positioning the boards on levels, by size and shape, to insinuate abstracted structures. Such quiet mundanity is framed and exhibited, allowing attention to often forgotten and repetitive details of the city. With no specific markers, the identity of the subject, on which parts of Manila are recorded, turns irrelevant. Recognition is not the intent, instead a more subdued and underlying familiarity is made to be incited. Through the manifestation of varying tones deliberately arranged by Yu, a new and nameless environment is recreated. The focus in the works is in its materiality and process, as paint is allowed to be taken by gravity in its raw form. This comes in contrast to the usual and traditional control imposed by the wielder of the brush. What is achieved is a balance between an unencumbered exposure of paint as medium and the aesthetic resolve of the artist. (IF)
PAM YAN SANTOS
It takes effort to put things together.
Details of artwork: It takes effort to put things together. (set of 15), 2018, serigraphy and collage on wood and wooden box, 24 x 30 inches each
The whole is more than the sum of its parts, and in It takes effort to put things together., Pam Yan-Santos includes the process of putting things together in the equation. Spanning the entire second floor, It takes effort... explores the tension between the mind’s inclination for categorization and breaks down the process of getting there. In the upstairs gallery — a set-up that resembles a workshop — an installation of serigraphed monoprint collages on wood, cut into puzzle pieces, occupy one long wall. The pieces are an amalgamation of documents kept by the artist for a variety of reasons: college papers, children’s doodles, their first son’s recorded utterances, architectural drawings, letters, and discarded material from previous art projects.
The pieces — 30 in total — represent the days in a month, tangible and personal recordings of the passage of time. In the center of the space is a table and a stool, lit by a lamp. On the far end, a bundy clock with space to record time and labor. The makeshift workspace is an invitation of sorts, for the viewer to experience the effort of piecing together the different parts to create a unity, a whole. The act of putting together the puzzle pieces is a process that never seems to quite make sense until it does, when everything finds its rightful place. In putting things together, there is an effort to understand. Finding each specific place creates context and reveals the bigger picture. In this wide expanse of a seemingly incomprehensible collection of data and memories, things will only make sense, perhaps, as each separate piece finds its place within the unified whole. One thing out of place changes the meaning or eradicates it entirely. The parts out of context may not mean anything by themselves, but working together in their own contextualized space, they can form and express the magnitude of the bigger picture. These represent the everyday negotiations between what can be done and what can be put off for a later time; what can fit in each limited space in a way that makes the best sense. The workspace is paused on a moment of processing, the very act of putting things in place. On the table is a puzzle, in the middle of being solved and put away neatly in a box. This imitates how our minds are wired to find solutions for what is not immediately apparent.
Outside, in the upstairs gallery, it is the mind’s chaotic nature made manifest. Crossing the threshold into the video room echoes the labor of categorization. It houses the containers, with some puzzles already arranged together in the wooden boxes stacked on three steel shelves. These boxes are labeled in neat categories, numbered and put neatly away. Within these boxes, the “whole” is in sight, and there is a calm that accompanies the categorization of the separate pieces. Here, we find the objective: to keep things where they ought to be. In doing so, we are able to make sense of what may initially seem to be nonsensical. Joining the two rooms — two disparate but overlapping spaces — together is the wall that makes space for the time cards and the bundy clock. Passing through that which stands for the time and labor of processing things, from the bigger space of disarray into the place of order, “neutral ground,” imitates the mind’s inclination to find solutions to make sense of the incomprehensible. It is proof of presence, a personal process and declaration made tangible: I was here, and this is what I know.