BEMBOL DELA CRUZ
Despite its trend in the last few years, the stigma of having tattoos remains. Often correlated to prison culture, carriers of these markings are easily presupposed to be immoral and malign. Bembol Dela Cruz's latest series Labeled assembles depictions of friends and colleagues who sport sleeve tattoos, as a manner of diverting the usual practice of portraiture that focuses on faces. With each imprint carrying its on narrative, the permanency of ink on skin reveals more about the person than that has of faces --- an awareness that has brought the artist to emphasize each unique design exclusively carried by these individuals.
The redundancy of gas masks while facing to the left parallels the societal fallacy of condescending sameness among people who have tattoos. As though a form of toxicity, the conventional view of modified bodies still receive fear, apprehension and distress, as though physical taint deserves smearing of the person where judgement precedes any possibility for introduction and even engagement. For its bearers, the stereotyping brings forth suffocation, as though unable to be seen even as human. Paired to the paintings is a wall-bound wood cut-out that resemble the experience of getting tattoos, where pain intensity fluctuates from the moment the needle touches one's dermis to the point the design is realized. Highlighting the reality of physicality for such sessions and the endurance required to achieve its beauty shows the gravity and seriousness of the markings.
Beyond aesthetics, tattoos speak deeply of one's struggles, beliefs, histories and presents; they are chronicles of moments and impressions of selves concretely committed to skin. These stamps of identity, in its intricacy and spaces, speak volumes of the person beneath it.
Henrielle Baltazar Pagkaliwangan continues her fascination with Manila Bay as viewed from the Association of Pinoyprintmakers (AP) studio located at the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas, formerly known as the Folk Arts Theater. Almost completely surrounded by land, Manila Bay serves as the womb for maritime activities and important events in history. It is also known for its scenic views which are captured and reproduced over and over again that it has become a part of our collective memory. Each print in this series shows the breakwater and the dock stretching out into the bay as buildings and vessels seem to sink below the horizon. At sundown, these structures glint in the night sky as light reflects off the dark waters.
Both sky and water are subject to the whims of the sun as their color changes at different times of the day: sunrise, sunset, night, and the moments in between. Henrielle recreates this panoramic view of Manila Bay with its famous Manila skyline multiple times while applying gradations of color to evoke varying tone and mood. She employs drypoint, a printmaking technique in which the image is scratched into the surface of a plate—in this case, an acrylic sheet—with a hard-point needle. Using this technique is a matter of course for Henrielle whose pen and ink and watercolor drawings, with their fine lines and soft details, exude the qualities found in these prints.
With the arresting image of the natural harbor recorded at specific times of the day, Timestamps is a meditation on the fleeting nature of time. Small in scale for a subject matter as vast and iconic as Manila Bay, these works serve as personal mementos of a shared experience among members of the AP, who also respond to their artmaking as a communal practice within and beyond the space of their studio. Printmaking, the art of reproducing text and images using a template, is akin to the act of remembering—a series of repetitions laced with subtle nuances over time.
(W. L. Guzmanos)