Words by Amanda Juico Dela Cruz. Photos courtesy of the galleries.
Just when galleries and museums were starting to open their doors last month, Metro Manila and some parts of the Philippines were put in the strictest lockdown classification again. With the increasing cases of Delta and of Lambda cases, it is safest to stay home and observe the health protocols with utmost urgency. Good thing that art spaces have adapted well to the pandemic to aid the survival of the art world in a time when art is not considered essential.
This August, artists prove that art meets a different kind of necessity—from Katrina Bello’s visual poetics of her migration journey, to Japs Antido’s reminiscence and provocation of Filipino values, to Geraldine Javier’s and Jason Dy, SJ’s botanical and aesthetic explorations, Maralita’s daring autobiographical and socio-political metaphors, and to Arturo Sanchez, Jr. and Hamilton Sulit’s not-for-the-faint-of-heart confrontation what the fall of man is.
Drawing the Farthest Land, Katrina Bello (MO_Space)
Drawing the Farthest Land, mounted on MO_.’s white spaces, renders the poetics of breath, concentration, focus, and center. Inspired by Katrina Bello’s own migration journey, the artist closes up on the seemingly minute details of tree barks in Wyoming and Florida, revealing their resilience that keeps them thriving. Her different vantage points of the West Coast measure the vastness of its waters. The forest fires in Grand Canyon were a meditation on the two but interconnected views—one that isolates an area from its wider context and one that allows its own little world to flourish—both are equally crucial.
The World That Was, Japs Antido (Art Cube Gallery)
Traditional subjects fused with modern elements, Japs Antido uses impasto and vivid colors to paint festive sceneries of The World That Was, gracing the bleak walls of Art Cube Gallery. On the one hand, the turn-of-the-century fashion is a metaphor for nostalgia for the good ol’ days. The artist’s surrealist blend of iconographies from children’s books evokes simplicity, innocence, and wonder. On the other, he challenges the oppressive systems embedded in the Filipino values. “Karaniwang Tagpo” breathes new air into courtship, suggesting that it need not be an exhibition of manly triumph, but a mutual enjoyment of each other’s company.
Five Gardens, Geraldine Javier (Artinformal)
What do Derek Jarman, Gertrude Jekylle, Frida Kahlo, Claude Monet, and Geraldine Javier have in common? They are artists and gardeners. In Five Gardens landscaped in ArtInformal, Javier asks the importance of gardens to them as artists. Javier pays homage to Jarman’s most loved plants. She responds to Jekylle’s eye for color. An installation was put up to rekindle Kahlo’s garden as a stage for herself. Javier draws a parallelism between Monet’s garden and this generation’s consciousness for planting. Lastly, Javier cultivates her own: Three Sisters, indigenous plants, sculptures, and wicker baskets and wooden planks as an acceptance of decay.
nature is never spent, Jason Dy, SJ (U.P. Vargas Museum)
Nature remains a stronger force than human drive for production and consumption. nature is never spent, found in UP Vargas Museum, is a confrontation on how life forms can never be entirely conquered and unequivocally consumed. Jason Dy, SJ meditates on the tension between humans and nature. COVID-19 virus mutates along with the emergence of studies about the newly produced vaccines, leaving the latter pressured to catch up on the variants. Dy’s works are a botanical, aesthetic, and philosophical cogitation on nature’s destruction and regeneration that humans are concomitantly compelled to and repelled by. How should humans live with nature?
ONGAAA!!!, Lorebert Maralita (Altro Mondo)
ONGAAA!!!, plastered on Altro Mondo’s walls, is Maralita’s daring roar. It is a rather loud echo of unga, an arduous and guttural sound made by a water buffalo. The title is seen as a nod in agreement, but it is heard too as a requiem for pain. Maralita’s exhibition visually renders both in his woks: a nod to his past and the fulfillment to his artistic calling, as much as a requiem for growing up in Northern Samar being treated badly by people in power. His realism defies the comfort of norms by throwing together the sacred and the banal.
Lost in Eden, Hamilton Sulit and Arturo Sanchez, Jr (West Gallery)
Lost in Eden, is a two-man show in West Gallery that dares to show a future that the present eerily promises. There is no fire in Arturo Sanchez, Jr. and Hamilton Sulit’s hell. Instead, hell is haunted by madness, and a hodgepodge pile of creeping figures and human body parts grabbing the subjects down with them. The fall of man is envisioned through macabre and tormenting imageries of despair and apocalypse, one that does not offer a glimpse of what may still, or should, happen—a dead end, a bleak uncertainty, a condemnation of existence. Does it ring a bell?