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Ghost Painting (Toldo Series): Pagkalalake

Contributing to the global movement of tropicality rooted within the parameters of the cultural nuisances in the Philippines, Kristoffer Ardeña presents a monumental work that conflates the deconstruction of process, material, and narrative while subverting traditional methodologies in image-making. Reprising the Toldo category of his Ghost Painting series, Ardeña references the use of tarpaulins, indigenous fabrics, and other similar textiles as improvised awnings, signages, and sometimes even temporary dwellings. These materials continue to pervade urban and rural landscapes, which somehow forces the population to a phenomenon of adaptive re-use affirming the potential and possibilities of a material. 

Nevertheless, Ardeña’s recognition of these surface structures and their presence in the immediate surroundings as essential to the deconstruction of painting, seduces us to consider its invisibility while forging the creation of an image— a reckoning that there is no absolute one hand nor author but rather an entire environment producing the pictorial. Situating his practice within a framework that complements both theoretical and practical sensibilities, there is an exploration into the psychology of images that could only be observed through the reproduction of patterns and also, in this case, the appropriation of texts as visual instruments and perhaps, more so than the contexts that they carry. 

Here, a textile locally called “Coco Bapor” is pieced and sewn together, forming a massive quilt. The ornamental designs of the fabric are juxtaposed against texts that mostly spell out vulgarities and obscenities directed at the subjugation of queer identity. The artist compiled these phrases and words in four languages: Hiligaynon, Tagalog, Cebuano, and English. This act can be seen as an attempt to survey collective forms that point to unorganized and unconscious oppression through the violence of language. Yet, Ardeña retakes and relinquishes this layer of power by reproducing them following local practices in making hand-painted signages. This craft is tied to draftsmanship and is linked to the foundation of painting in regional art practices, where academic and formal training in fine arts is almost non-existent. 

In this exhibition, subversion takes two forms: imposing the aversion to the methodology of painting as defined in the Western canon and the disengagement of text as an agency of oppression by disallowing any political rhetorical leanings that could enable its aggression—instead, employing decorative and visceral aspects that excursively disenfranchise it from becoming a force of tyranny. Still, the burden of this validation is on the side of the receiver, who participates in formulating the work’s meaning and importance in the same way graffiti is displayed on the street. It is there to goad discourse, yet it could be just an unnoticed vanishing marking.

Ardeña’s postulation on the notions of tropicality has similarities with the cultural movements such as Brazil’s Tropicália, particularly in the discourse prompted by Helio Oiticica in confronting stereotypical images attributed to the tropics as “paradise”. In dismantling the pictorial tradition of painting, Ardeña solidifies his solidarity to such but in a renewed context that places an emphasis on the place of his art-making and the socio-economic associations linked with material and cultural production.

Curated by Gwen Bautista


Before Sundown II

Kim Oliveros takes deliberate notice of the fleeting intervals in a day of a child at play. From sunset to dusk and between hours of recreation and rest, Oliveros gives visual forms to these shifts, apparent in the composition of his landscapes, blending realism with ethereal elements —  the three-dimensional renderings of flowers appear to sprout out from the surface of his paintings and installations. In the exhibition, his installation made from used kimono fabric resembles a bunch of flowering wild vines and the wooden panels double as a makeshift shelter. The paintings of lush landscapes in muted grey, as if frozen in time, brings the viewers’ attention to the contrastingly vibrant floras, evoking a sense of nostalgia and the desire to return to a former state of being, place, and time.  


In Before Sundown II, a continuation of an artistic project, he derives his imagery from the setting of his hometown in Angono in Rizal, attempting to document the changes in the natural and built landscapes over the years. This attempt, intentional in approach, is evident in the process of producing his collage works where he combines black and white negatives with the mono print and blueprint of an existing landscape image, placed layer after layer in skewed alignment, with the resulting image coming out as blurred — hinting at his idea of movement and change. He then gathers cutouts of garments from magazines and playfully arrange them to form a bouquet of flowers overlayed on the surface. Light illuminates the foreground of the image of the collage, while other parts remain diffused, symbolic of the natural life cycle of flowers: from blooming to wilting. 


His landscapes are both representational and imagined. Mostly based on photographs he took, he paints and constructs his landscapes in reference to the picture and partly, from memory. He is interested in parts of the landscape that are not captured in the photograph, exploring other possibilities in depicting landscapes that have mystical qualities. For Oliveros, these landscapes are not just mere playgrounds but they represent the extent of freedom that our younger self once indulged in. 


(James Luigi Tana)

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