Walking into the exhibition space, a viewer might feel that they have walked into a sensorial experience set-up, complete with lights, steel, video, and space. What they are actually stumbling upon is a plethora of mechanical reproductions that transcend its photographic sources and displaced ritual origins after being subjected to various techniques of digital manipulation.


Repeating Images, the Past Repeating.


In his 2003 treatise “The Work of Art in the Age of Biocybernetic Reproduction” – a response to Walter Benjamin’s 1935 “Mechanical” version – Art Historian W.J.T. Mitchell posits that a copy is no longer inferior to its original, but rather an improvement on it: the aura that Benjamin argues has disappeared has increased instead. In “A Portrait of the Sun,” Celine Lee expands on her series of photographs printed on mirrors, providing a simulacra of the star through nuanced notions that replicate the sun’s illumination, albeit through indoor lighting. The viewer’s experience of “standing in the sun” is elevated through a literal aura within the space. Meanwhile, the reversal in the relationship of the aura and the copy is also evident in Miguel Lorenzo Uy’s “Astral Prison,” where repeated images of flashes of light reflected on a black screen actually elevates it to a more appealing visual – that of stars out in the infinite cosmos. From the Greek word “to steer,” “cybernetics” implies control, a rigidity of sorts, while on the other hand, “bios,” as many would know, is all about the natural world of organisms – something with a reputation of “finding a way.”  


Transforming elements, the Future Transformed.


Appearing as a suspended structure, “Copper Vines” illustrates Lee’s depiction of an urban transformation where steel transitions into copper. At first it appears as if rust slowly consumes the iron structure, but at the same time presents the copper as a living organism, creeping up the rigid grids and slowly changing its core composition. Further extending into science fiction, Uy regales the viewer with something straight out of a Star Wars film: slow panning, drifting across the screen are monolithic structures one can think of as spacecrafts travelling through the infinite universe. They are actually closer than you think. Architecture from malls and commercial buildings provide the perfect backdrop for an imagined future, looking up and marvelling at physical structures made to control human behavior, with its banality possibly turned on its head by what Mitchell calls “a fantasy taking on a life of its own.” The stars in the background are actually the same flashes of light mentioned earlier.


In fleshing out their notions of a past and a future, Lee and Uy took moments, memories, and fantasies – the biological, and subjected them to the manipulation of the digital code – the cybernetic. The resulting work of art is controlled and communicative, but at the same time rejects control and refuses to communicate – a metaphor for our times where more information has been made available to a greater amount of people through a wider array of media. In the end we find ourselves more disconnected.


(Koki Lxx)


A Past, A Future


Mirror Hill

It is truthful that there is something innate when pictures and images confront our eyes: we can’t resist a bite at the enticement, and long to decipher, decode and comprehend. Visual puzzles are ever present here. In one panel from the triptych “Grassland,” a huge patch of green is walled by purple monolithic mass at each side. It does resemble an arena, a baseball diamond and field of dreams, or a Panopticon? 


It is enticing to offer interpretations about the works presented, especially the layered methods the artist employs that utilize surrealistic virtuoso. In one diptych, “Purple Pane,” oversized windows that appear like monoliths stand on a grassy field, and with an almost non-existent horizon line, held by a sand-filled landscape and a body of water. Instantly, it is a tantalizing, solitary place where one is regaled into a moment of meditative thought and ensuing reflective peace. 


The thematic pane/monolithic image is also featured in the diptych “Mirror Hill,” also the exhibition’s title. The artist explores contextualizing the said geometric shape by placing it amongst romantic and lyrical images – an array of orange fruit and a rich and abundant pasture. 


Taken unofficially from informal exchanges, a vital clue can be arrived at, “(I) am just fooling around with images, perspective and dimensions.” And, “so (I) am employing the idea of mirrors but they don’t reflect the exact or expected imagery,” the artist explains for her choice for the exhibition title. These are, all in all, elements for a very formal approach, and seemingly for the artist, remain to be her most exacting concern: which is to be able to build a painting from ground up by manipulating the iconography that has been in her oeuvre-bag for the longest time, and interweaving its expression with her own standard and newly-discovered pictorial strategies. It is a process she has devoted herself to, explores and reinvents.


It is truthful also that the interpretations we have on the pictorial narratives in our midst may not go in-line with the artist’s own intentions. But this does not dismiss the fact that we have failed; as a matter of fact, both viewer and the paintings have succeeded in just bringing us to that moment of pause where we are invigorated to think.


An aspect of Pardo de Leon’s work that is very hard to ignore, and comes with the enjoyment of these pictures, is a soulful vibe and spiritual aura – its exacting and masterfully painted imagery carry the burden of presenting a few “questions” in the manner that engages us philosophically.


It does well, too, to position her work with the high Dadaists – and rightly so. In Dada, banal images are used to the hilt and bring us to a standstill. It is our perceptions that are engaged and thus, reshape our world views.


Believing not to fall into the specter of Sisyphus, who was cursed to go back to the foot of the hill after laboring to roll the rock up the hill; but rather, in “Mirror Hill,” perhaps, we are pilgrims on course up the peak, and thus are inculcated with one of Socrates’ observations, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” 


(Jonathan Olazo)


a priori / a posteriori

As a fine beam of light enters a space and bounces off a surface, it casts multiple layers of shadows. Here, light in its perceived form is the primary pictorial source that produces meanings and other possibilities. Its visuality and visibility takes the form of illuminations, gradations, reflections and refractions in Rhaz Oriente’s first solo exhibition a priori / a posteriori.


Oriente gives definite form to something immaterial. The pieces are installed from different levels—suspended, wall bound or placed on the ground– illuminating and deflecting to generate shadows and silhouettes on the walls. Images are then produced through the interplay of light and shadow that appears to be fluid or is deployed to be geometric. 


The series of works titled “lightness of being” comes full circle after exhibiting iterations of them in the video room of the gallery in 2021. She presents an entire body of work that echoes a philosophical idea that is then translated into expressions of transparency, infinity, and void. “I want them to feel [like] they're in a large, endless space, not suffocating. To feel like [living] inside a dream, but I'm not sure yet what emotion I would like to depict, but even if it's just an empty feeling, it's still a valid emotion, maybe?,” says Oriente. 


Oriente acknowledges that emptiness or void may be considered as the ultimate meaning of an existence, an idea or an emotion. Both concepts of light and lightness in the exhibition, whether the former or the latter, reveal Oriente’s attributes as an artist that continuously inform her art-making: built up in layers and yet still capable of offering delicateness and fragility. 

- James Luigi Tana