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when the past is always present

The passage of time brings bittersweet comforts— when fleeting moments become lingering memories, when lengthy nights no longer amount to our shorter breaths, when the past is always the present. The participating artists in this exhibition imagine and give definite form to an abstract concept such as time. Kim Oliveros, curator of the show, retraces the childhood joy in a place that has gone through physical transformation. In his painting, the flowering vines taking over a deteriorating wall, adorned with butterflies, encapsulates the passing period and the link between the past and the present. 

Rhaz Oriente’s work responds to the actual site of the exhibition, the Finale Art File, where she also had her first solo presentation. Her lightbox is an optimistic reminder of the beginning and continuation of her own artistic practice. This sense of continuity emanates from Kim Hamilton Sulit “Back to the Old House II: I and II” in an attempt to reclaim narratives that are deeply rooted in his internal conflicts, and in spaces and structures that informed his domestic experience. Jomari T’leon considers his relationship with time as a potent factor in mending the self after enduring a personal struggle. For T’leon, the particular narrative in his painting and art-making both unfold over time. 


Touching on familial bond, Garryloid Pomoy remembers his younger years spent with his mother while making cloth rugs they used to sell; time, like cloth rugs, gets overused and remains unrestored. Ayka Go revisits the idea of home through an object she associates with a family member: a reusable cookie canister turned into a sewing kit. Wrapped and concealed from the viewers, Go’s object of contemplation becomes a symbolic image of a retrieved past.

Former botanical illustrator at the National Museum of the Philippines, Rolf Campos mindfully arranges illustrations of species of plants in reference to their 16th century depictions. Appearing more alike despite their obvious differences, the arrangement of plants by row is his approach to rethinking their present-day importance in an era of climate change. The process of gathering and imitating images that represent the role of digital media in modern life prompts Valerie Chua to portray her subjects engaging in mundane and leisure activities. She delves into contemporary expressions of nostalgia and memory through shapes and hues. 


John Marin establishes paralleled events and experiences among indigenous peoples who are often subjected to violence for defending their ancestral lands. Marin’s “Fire to fire, land to hand” takes notice of this seemingly cyclic aspect of history. In a series of stereoscopic images rendered on mirror, Sid Natividad offers a visualization of the recent oil spill in Mindoro. The immersive and realistic experience in viewing his work reiterates the long-term effect that will continue to take a toll on marine life for years to come. 


How long can the mind hold onto the past and the ongoing moments of existence? Luis Antonio Santos, in a continuation of his prints on plexiglass and silkscreen painting of fragmented jungle, further examines the capacity and fragility of our memory to remember and forget. The imprint of a seascape manifests a certain state of tranquility and calm in Lou Lim’s visual record of time. In her own contemplative recollection, Lim extracted and painted images of a seascape— its surface a form of stillness. 


Their individual interpretations of the different yet overlapping timelines, the past and the present coinciding, give a glimpse at current realities or into foreseeable futures. 


James Luigi Tana

when the past is always present
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