DR. WILLIAM T. CHUA

PUSO

The heart—the vital organ that is enclosed by the ribcage and is said to be the size of a closed fist—is arguably the most rhapsodized part of the human body. It is present in stories, myths, and religions of all cultures. It is central to the tenets of Christendom, with the devotion to the Sacred Heart as one of the most popular. The heart is often entwined with the idea of the gift, such as when we offer our heart to someone. Corollary, to call someone “heartless” suggests evil devoid of humanity. Until the recent acceptance of brain function as the indicator of life, it was the presence of heartbeat that served that capacity. In popular culture and elsewhere, the passion of the heart is the countering force to the rationality of the brain.

 

It is the resonant, inexhaustible, and all-encompassing power of the heart that animates this exhibition by Dr. William T. Chua, one of the most respected Filipino cardiologists practicing today. Entitled Puso, organized by Crucible Gallery and Finale Art File, it is a veritable lifework that showcases the doctor’s interpretation of the heart—from the faithfully figurative to the soaringly abstract—expressed within a spectrum of media, ranging from prints to paintings to tapestries to sculptures, occupying all of Finale’s three galleries.

 

Meaningfully, the exhibition shares its title with Dr. Chua’s monumental and most recognizable work: the sculpture of an abstracted heart that fronts the Philippine Heart Center. Brilliantly red, expressive, and unmissable, the sculpture provides a counterpoint to the brutalist architecture of the country’s foremost heart hospital. This emphasis on a metaphorical translation of the heart, the swelling evocation of it, is what marks the opus of Dr. Chua, which he has accomplished at different stages of his life as he negotiates the balance between his profession, family life, and art-making.

 

Puso by Dr. William T. Chua is an ode and a love letter to the human heart whose depth and significance knows no bounds. It’s also an invitation to stay passionate and pursue things outside the purview of our calling: to follow our own heart. The heart, as what Dr. Chua has proved, has enough room for what may appear as contradictory pursuits. In meticulously rendering the heart in different forms and media, the artist affirms the centrality of the heart to the discussion of what it means to be alive in this world, of what it means to be human. Despite the ascendancy of the brain in medicine, the heart still represents man in his entirety: to know a man is to know his heart. Puso is the doctor’s benevolent gift to us.