Words by Kaye Oyek
Flowers and animals have been part of picture- and art-making since prehistoric man first started depicting what appear to be bison and buffalo on the walls of caves in Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain as a means of capturing the spirit of beasts and invoking success in hunting expeditions. Plant and floral motifs have appeared as decorative details in ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese civilizations, symbolizing the blossoming of life and creation.
Today, Filipino artist Bullet Dematera draws on the lifegiving energies represented by these creatures in his pieces for Hidden Places, combining them with human figures to create fantasy hybrids with hyperrealistic features and physical attributes imbued with the artist’s deep knowledge of texture, color and form.
By combining fine portraiture with Dematera’s penchant for rendering flora and fauna in painstaking detail, he coaxes the viewer into witnessing visual celebrations in oil paint, drawing from his intensive immersion into apprenticeship, the techniques of Dutch and Renaissance Masters, and a personal aspiration to represent the best of God’s creations on canvas.
Hidden Places takes audiences into an adventure inside the artist’s psyche as expressed through his brushes, with a series of works touching on fragments of memory, hope, and visions of paradise. Anxiety on current world events manifest in Explore the Outdoor, as gasmasked figures sport wild animals, birds, and butterflies amid a misty forest setting. In some pieces, eye shields made out of flowers protect figures from witnessing the harsh truths of life. Harmony with Nature features violin-wielding women ready to commune with and create music with the sounds and silences found in secluded woods. The Secret Garden series portrays women in various emotive poses, setting them against lush flowers, foliage and the occasional visiting pet. In When Nature and Beauty Prevail, alluring nymphs have opulent bouquets of roses, tulips and cherry blossoms covering their hair, almost obscuring their faces. Blossoming Soul represents beauties from different races set against dark backgrounds, their skins effusing subtle glows echoed by the variegations of dark and light on floral arrangements that enhance their facial features. The biggest pieces in the exhibition, Infinity Series with several horses and a meticulously rendered unicorn in grayscale forming a lemniscate that represent boundlessness and endless energy, and Hidden Sanctuary, with its abundance of wild life depicting the density of a tropical rainforest and the environment’s delicate balance, highlight the artist’s exceptional skills in verisimilitude.
With each gossamery vein on a petal, almost weightless feather and downy strand of fur, Dematera channels vitality and abundance in nature, harnessing power, nobility and wonder in bringing life to his figures. Not everything is at the pinnacle of youth and eternal freshness, however, as evidenced by the intentional placement of yellowing leaves and backgrounds of mysteriously bare copses. Adding manmade objects such as alarm clocks, rubber ducks, clear glass marbles and randomly tossed dice brings contemporaneity and additional layers of meaning– comfort, games of chance, and the passage of time. Truly, as Roald Dahl famously said, the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places, and this artist exposes his previously undisclosed imaginings with both confidence and awe, with works that in equal parts amaze, intrigue, astonish and delight.
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Hidden Places, Bullet Dematera’s sixth solo exhibition, opens on September 5, 2020 and is available for viewing both online and by appointment. Nuzen Art Gallery is located at Mendez Crossing, Tagaytay City. For more information, email email@example.com, text or call +639063153710 and browse their social media feeds.