Promised Land

Reflective Thought – One’s Clandestine to the Promised Land Still waters run deep. This proverb rings true in the many facets of Mark Andy Garcia – as an artist, a thinker, and a person who values his effect on people who surround him. Garcia has been present in the art world for quite some time now and the evolution of his body of work has been palpable, if not commendable. Even though he has been painting the same things and conveying the same messages, one cannot miss the shifts and progressions. His once radical, nonchalant, and self-regarding narratives and approaches in his artworks somehow became coded imageries of composure. There has been a pivot in his manner of dealing with struggles where he learned to be kinder and gentler towards himself and those who are causing him pain. Maturity provided him the capacity to handle hostile emotions brought about by tribulations in his personal life.


Now, he chooses to feel calm through landscapes, always opening with the foundational vertical and horizontal lines before he flows into the rhythm of painting. He always includes a view of the horizon. He uses simple colors. He takes inspiration in what is beautiful and existing in his surroundings. In his old works, narratives are dominant. Garcia used to tell stories within the bounds of the image plane, a story in each painting, a segment of his life in each exhibition. Eventually, he came into the realization that people don’t need to know everything and that he has to keep aspects of his life private. This doesn’t mean though that he has a happier life now. It’s still sad at times, he said, evidently reflected on the sustained romantic ambiance of his color compositions. He used to relate to art that depicts melancholy.


Now, he feels that he can be inspired by what is beautiful in his surroundings. The sunflower paintings Thankful Heart 1 and 2 are examples of this beauty that he describes. His current mindset is to focus on presenting solutions rather than problems. Defeat in life is not an option, even if what he has gained in the end are simple lessons on living or just a deeper sense of self. Alive and Well is a self-portrait. This painting, together with Flow of Ideas, was made to tackle the personally challenging color of blue. Garcia said that he finds it difficult to use cool hues because he's more familiar with utilizing earth tones. He was also keen on including the presence of water and the motion that it makes in his new set of paintings. The infinitely moving current runs endlessly and easily, akin to his current flow of ideas.


In his more than a decade-long career, he has created a substantial number of works already. Nevertheless, he always wants to improve the old ones and this motivation produces new ideas for different works. He realizes a lot from this process of reflective thinking; how he speaks, how he wants to be heard or understood, how he wants to be remembered. Promised Land encapsulates the essence of the show. The title he chose for the exhibition and his large-scale work summarizes periods of past, present, and future. Garcia is interested in the exploration of time in his concepts, harmonized by his hue choices. Drawing from memory, he painted a tree he frequently sees and thus, evokes. From afar it may look dry, but as you look closer, you’ll discover the young leaves that indicate hope. The horizon separates the heaven from the earth; the image of the tree symbolizes the way on how we can cross the transcendent phase.


While each experience in this crossing differs from one person to another, Garcia’s faith will keep us assured of our time to receive the benefits of surrendering to the divine – if only for humility, peace of mind or compassion. A reflective practice propels the artist we now encounter. When asked about how he achieved consistency in his style, Garcia attributes it to his years of painting. He used to attempt to paint like a child. Eventually, the hand gestures became natural to him. Even his generosity with the medium, though doesn’t completely define his distinctiveness, is something that matured with him. He also seems more confident in what he’s doing. His paintings and his demeanor exude this. When he was starting, he was searching and projecting an identity as an artist.


But now, his constant pursuit of a trademark has ended. I say because he already earned it. His sense of self was achieved through action and rigorous thinking about transforming who, what, and how he was that was revealed in his artworks. Sometimes, as individuals who are trying to survive in this day and age, we tend to neglect our spiritual selves; that it should proceed after we look after our basic needs. This spirituality doesn’t always have to be in forms of the divine or religious. We can take cue from this artist who thinks before he speaks, who is empathetic, who is working on the self to be better.


(Con Cabrera)


Little Monuments

As a gesture of inward reflection, Elaine Navas turns her gaze away from the ocean and skies in Little Monuments, and she turns it towards seemingly ubiquitous views of her intimate interior life, through the produce that pervade it. In this tender series of works, Navas distills her memories in arrangements of fruits and vegetables, using these paintings of still lives as markers of her own — little monuments to the moments she wants to keep alive, despite the growing distance of her family’s personal geographies.


A bowl set on top of a refrigerator shelf is her daughter’s: something lovingly placed at her eye level, when she used to live with Navas and her husband. A dragon fruit arrangement, seen along a roadside carinderia just outside Fort Ilocandia, is worthy of a different kind of permanence because it was a marker of her last trip with her whole family in the Philippines. A visit to her daughter’s house in Los Angeles is kept alive through a bowl of fruits set against a bright blue table: faces drawn on the fruit by the best housemates her daughter could have had. A vegetable arrangement in Ilocos “acting like fruits,” attracted fat, heavy flies becomes a reminder of a funny memory of her husband. Even more ordinary still, an everyday arrangement of bananas is immortalized because of their brown freckles.


Little Monuments is a study of ‘everyday aesthetics,’ where beauty is seen in each ordinary arrangement. Here, Navas gives the small and quiet moments in her life reverence using the body of the paint that she uses and the movement of her gestures. She imbues life into the images she keeps and makes, magician’s trick that makes each of them much more than a bowl of fruit or an arrangement of vegetables.


Hers is the hand that pushes you to see past the ordinariness of things, to break through the almost automatic register of mundanity and see the beauty in and of itself, not in spite of. These are attempts at keeping still the lives around her (including her own) that carry on moving and changing. Never intrusive or restrictive, Navas’s paintings give honor to what has happened, no matter how small the “event” is and each of them give way for that which will happen next.


In “Bonsai,” poet Edith Tiempo writes “All that I love / I fold over once / And once again / And keep in a box / Or a slit in a hollow post / Or in my shoe.” This series of paintings is Navas’ way of scaling “all love down / To a cupped hand’s size,” to keep forever without holding on too strongly to memories that resist being kept prisoner. In this way, they are kept alive and precious. (Carina Santos)