like an ebb of a broken wave to those who have heard the sea
But there are two hard things:
that is, to bring the moonlight into a chamber.
-Quince, Midsummer Night's Dream
Nona Garcia’s paintings are usually vast in scale, taking up most of the space on a gallery wall. “The size of a painting is relative to my body,” she explains. The painter fits herself into her paintings to experience it. And yet the initial embodiment of her current work is comparably handy.
This view is based on her previous work Recurrent, a lightbox of the starry seascape at night made of digitally-manipulated x-rays of dead corals. In this romantic picture, one cannot see the moon. And yet everything is represented by it: the tides rely on the moon’s gravitational force, its transparent figures refracting light. The moon isn’t there, but the picture reflects it.
To the artist, the sea is imaginary: it is an unreachable place from her studio in the Cordilleras. It is also the first time she doesn’t have a hold on her picture, literally, for a painter who is used to painting pictures. She’s used to things being in her control, having a grasp of these things by hand. Only the idea of it is like painting, extending the process to her collaborators to set the picture in motion by virtue of the virtual. She’s never even heard their voices, only communicating through text messages.
Picturing is like waiting, much like the lockdown situation that encompasses this work. The word “ebb” connects to her experience of this lockdown, a ghost in the machine as Gilbert Ryle puts it, with the artist only operating through the para-mechanical to picture her view. “Minds are things, but different sorts of things from bodies.”
By picturing it move, bleeding on the edges of a wall, Garcia is also bringing it to life.
Using photography and painting as her artistic media, MM Yu's works capture abstraction created by interactions between the forces of chance, control and gravity. With a shrewd and humorous eye, her photography frames and turns banal urban landscape into abstract patterns, while her paintings intimately focus on the materiality of commercial colors.
The exhibition presents a series of paintings, which indicates the current location of MM Yu's ongoing exploration of marks made by paint drips. In contrast to her earlier works, in which paint of various hues were simply yet deliberately dropped straight down across the surface, the recent works exhibited here contain a heightened degree of tensions and negotiations made between the artist’s intention and the Earth's gravity, embodied like an unsteady graph. The irregularity of patterns elucidates the unattainability of absolute control. While layers of paint manifest the repetition of the process, it simultaneously conveys the impossibility of replication.
Since the beginning of her experimentation with the materiality of paint, MM Yu has approached the surface as a physical element, foregrounding flatness and depth simultaneously. Immersed in dialogue with the space, her paintings create an environment, where we become aware of the play of gravity that pulls down not only the paint and canvas but also our own bodies to the ground.
The eye also regains its physical presence as an organ that detects and sends the raw data of light and color to the brain, which tries to discern the information by looking for patterns that connect with memory and knowledge from the past experience. Thus, while the mechanism of vision is physiological, perception is subjective. MM Yu's artwork allows us to see such essential variance of perceptions.
To the eyes of some, the intricate patterns in a desaturated color palette may evoke rusts, dusts and decays of the polluted urban life. Others may associate them with camouflage patterns, which stand in stark contrast to serene white walls. The marks of bobbing motions may appear as amassment of heartbeats, or a lifeline. (Mayumi Hirano)
Permission to Rest
Gail Vicente's artistic practice lies in the fringes of her cultural work. As a co-founder and exhibitions coordinator of a gallery space, frequent collaborator to her friends, an archivist, conservator, and collections manager, she has her plate full of endeavors that both feed and inhibit her art production. Her interest in simple activities of the commonplace is reflected in her works that tackle home, comfort, and rest. The familiar impulse of an active member of the artworld, such as Vicente, when faced with opportunities to pause from work is restlessness. Similar to the somatic response of resistance to rest before attaining space for the self, it took time for the artist to realize that to be stripped off of regular comforts will pave the way for feelings of ease and freedom from constraint.
There is something maternal in Gail Vicente's body of work. In her past productions, she used foot rugs because of her predisposition to use household objects. Her tasks in the gallery, in archiving, conservation, and management inform a nurturing attitude, which ebbs and flows in her artistic process. The exhibition Forest Blanket is a collection of tactile representations of transition and declarations of clarity. The artist transitioned to living in Baguio when the national lockdown was announced. Albeit abrupt and unexpected, Vicente became comfortable with her newfound displacement because she was surrounded by people who provided creative energy and support. The choice of fabric as material in her new works is layered with pragmatic and metaphoric underpinnings given her current geographic and relational context. Intermixing text and found objects, the artist fortifies the meaning-making potential of both materiality and language. Even the methods employed in creation provide another layer of significance. The displayed artworks are tender yet instructional: Do not deny yourself pleasure. Love an animal. Dream here.
When mobility becomes limited, we are subjected to enact introspection as a means of understanding. Vicente's recent works reveal the dynamism of this action as they display sensitivity to the present. The blankets of comfort reassure us that it is encouraged to give in to the rhythmical need to rest. (Con Cabrera)