Text by James Tana; images courtesy of Art in the Park
The global health crisis has changed how people view the world and the way shared narratives— the inability to keep closeness and the supposed intimacy that this unseen distance hinders— are being articulated.
Art in the Park featured artists Henrielle Pagkaliwangan and Yvonne Quisimbing draw out their artistic utterances from either mundane or poignant moments, and experiences of struggle and vulnerability during the pandemic.
“I made seven drawings composed of the objects in my studio [and] living space, each one representing a typical day in the course of a week, and some hand-pulled prints based on an illustration of my bed,” says Pagkaliwangan in an interview with Art Plus.
In “Within Walls”, Pagkaliwangan documents her time in isolation through the everyday objects inside her space: an unkempt bed, a worktable, wrinkled clothes, window blinds, and wooden doors, to name a few.
Henrielle Pagkaliwangan’s “Within Walls”
“The objective of the project is not really about structuring order because things are in disarray; instead, the output I think is an account of self-knowledge,” she adds.
The accumulation of objects, appearing to be arranged on a flat surface, serves as a visual record and a recollection of memories that are reminiscent of the artist’s emotion and mental state.
On the other hand, Quisimbing’s “Wrappings of the Mind” examines how the pandemic exposes greed, pride, and envy, three of the Seven of Deadly Sins as the root cause of human and social ills during the pandemic.
“The paintings came about after a reflection upon the past year’s climate wherein these vices are magnified or heightened,” explains Quisimbing in a separate interview.
In another piece, “The Great Health Puzzle” alludes to the hardships of mothers amid the pandemic and suggests healing and remedy as portrayed in the artist’s use of medicinal plants as visual element in her work.
“[The piece] features Philippine medicinal plants that can cure women’s ailments specifically from conception to the postpartum stage.”
For Quisimbing, her artwork, a juxtaposition of flora and fauna with human figures against geometric patterns, “underlines the value of each human life, as a piece of the puzzle, vital to complete the healing of a motherland.”
Online and in-person engagement
With the shift to online platform of this year’s fair, the response and engagement of the viewers may be different as compared to seeing and experiencing the artworks in person.
Pagkaliwangan acknowledges that there are some physical aspects of the exhibition that may not be fully translated virtually such as “how the pieces are curated in a physical space, [and] how the works converse with each other and the audience.”
“My works are quite small and detailed, so I think they are best viewed in person and up close,” she adds.
However, both artists view virtual exhibitions as a way to make the artworks more accessible and to continue engaging with the audience albeit online.
“Behind online platforms are intensive efforts to provide a way to connect artists and their viewers or audience. I believe, given the present limitations, online shows accommodate this line of communication,” shares Quisimbing.
The need for more visual narratives
The interpretation of shared realities, through visual narratives, is crucial in reflecting certain truths and, at the same time, in depicting signs of hope for a better future; the arts make all of these possible.
“I think personal experiences and narratives feed our art practice, and our living conditions as individuals relate to [or] are a part of the bigger picture of shared histories,” says Pagkaliwangan.
Quisimbing emphasizes on the importance of creating more visual narratives that concern and discern truth.
“The pandemic is shaking our world in extreme ways that artists all the more need the outlet to tell the stories.”