ARTURO SANCHEZ JR.
The exhibition “Heavy Ground” by Arturo Sanchez, Jr. is an ongoing exploration of the ideas of heaven, earth, and hell. For this chosen iteration of a sustained premise, the artist thought of activating the meanings of heavy and ground – the ground or surface of his wall-bound works makes for literally heavy objects when lifted; the subject matter, on the other hand, is the intangible weight of our current condition and our feelings.
Supposedly slated for April coinciding with the Holy Week, Sanchez initially anchored this exhibition to tackle the values of the Catholic devotion to Christ’s passion and cross. In commemorating this ritual, it is a time for reflection and repentance. The installation “Faith Fake Fade” was conceptualized and created in January inspired by the Black Nazarene procession. The image of a hanging crucifixion has always haunted the artist. The study of this three-dimensional piece was a collage shown in a previous exhibition titled “Matter and Spirit” and has now evolved into this evocative experience of an actual suspended figure and sprawling hands; filling in both a massive foreground and providing soul to the artist’s idea. In the middle of Sanchez’sartistic production, all movement was halted because of the pandemic. We were forced to take a prolonged Holy Week holiday –a time for introspection. The direction of the artworks pivoted to a contemplation towards our present situation.
Heavy ground in mining or racing terms is a weak ground; it’s not ideal and can cause failure. It’s a type of land that needs creativity and persistence to be functional. Similar to the experience achieved by the series “Order and Chaos” that appears to be lined-up black square paintings, you can only see the trapped images clouded by smoke and stain through a patient, keener and intimate viewing. The process of hunting and gathering, layering of collage and resin, the shifting of narratives, and the completion of different layers of a story has resulted to the works “Where We Find Ourselves In Now”, Mass Hysteria”, “Suddenly Gray”, and “In the Midst of the Unthinkable”. Each a response to the state of our, more than ever, intertwined lives. The artist marks his understanding of the world as something we can collectively relate to. Having to experience a global pandemic highlights the role of an artist as history’s storyteller. Whether cramped in our personal space viewing the exhibition on our devices or socially-distanced inside the gallery, we are witnesses of humanity’s narratives through Sanchez’s body of work.
Don't Block the Driveway
Inspired by the lives of people in his hometown of Ilocos Sur, Richard Quebral's works are playful yet darkreflections of contemporary material culture contoured and colored by the desire for a better life. Accentuated by the flatness of synthetic paint, Quebral's pop-infused art style subversively deploys familiar visual codes of commercial graphic design casting light on the superficiality and malicious effects of glamorous lifestyle commercially promoted in glossy ads.
This exhibition features new set of artworks created through Quebral's critical observations about theprocess of property development in the province, fragmentation of the life of local community into territories in contestation. His creative brush portrays a suburban home built on a lot as a monstrous body that restrains, mutilates, flattens and devours people into a brute mechanism. The dream of owning a homeis depicted as a horrific nightmare, transposing the notions of isolation, destruction and anxiety onto theideals popularly represented by a house - comfort, security, status and permanence. Never fulfilled, the desire for material wealth restlessly energizes the faceless coercive force that attempts to manipulate the values forming the foundation of life.
In Quebral's paintings, this perpetual circle of desire and vulnerability is translated into an optical space reminiscent of those produced by 8-bit video games. It grants the viewer the perspective of a player,holding the controller while comfortably seated in a couch. However, Quebral's work presents the absenceof a player-character and of the goal, leaving the questions to the viewer. Is the game already over or is it just paused? Would pressing the start button reset the game? Standing amidst the silent dialogues betweenpictorial and physical materialities, the viewer can no longer hold an objective perspective of a detachedobserver, and instead, is immersed in the quest of finding a goal in the game of life, designed by Quebral's unmediated experience and keen observations of the everyday life. (Mayumi Hirano)
Andre Baldovino maps through the similarities of lucid dreaming and painting in this exhibition. What we find here are oddly-shaped geometric forms resembling futurist landscapes; entrenched in scenarios where elements appear to be in suspended motion while clinging heavily to one another. These images are articulations of how the body negotiates while in the dream state. They illustrate the ability of the mind to control what occurs in a dream in between consciousness. The deliberate act of moving in the middle is an intercession linking action and analysis; spontaneity and discipline; manipulation and submission; grip and flow. To a certain extent, it allows the overlap of volitional abilities across such states and the waking life.
The execution of abstract expressionism in painting takes a similar hold when the artist begins producing spontaneous markings and gestures, swinging within the spaces in the canvas. Here, strong patches of colors are mitigated by the softness present along the edges of each mold, a mise-en-scène that hints at vague formations of structures. Sheets of elementary shapes dominate the generality of the space bringing a surge of movement amid the crowded convoluted figures. This suggests the experience of being tangled in a lucid dream where the mind becomes both complex and simple in its inner workings. One feels the entrapment and escape half-heartedly. Stillness and action both attempt a conclusion from a dialogue among the senses.
The unconstrained movements and strokes possibly lead Baldovino to an exploration of automatism but not entirely suppressing total control in the composition. Blocks of shapes and colors direct us to the mechanism of Baldovino’s process at work: recurring images that transport segments from one setting to another; a labyrinth occupied with configuration and symbols from the past, present, and, the imagined. (Gwen Bautista)