By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz
In Literature, personal essays and memoirs are arguably the most difficult to write because they talk about the self. Ironic, but penning about the self requires the writer to be vulnerable, to introspect, to find wisdom in what may feel like meaningless struggles. It demands the writer’s naked self. This is true for the visual arts too. Yao Samapana and Binong Javier confront their personal struggles and how these pressures can turn them into something better, something great. Babylyn Geroche Fajilagutan and Chino Yulo reveal their personal windows with the former through her studio’s window while the latter through his scuba diving adventures. Nashreen dives deep into her unconscious mind to seek for her wise inner self.
Yao Sampana. “Hollow.” White Walls Gallery.
On one canvas is a hand with white flowers struggling from its grip to the brink of crushing the poor little things. On another is a hand with similar flowers gently resting on its palm that one blow of wind could fly away the beautiful flowers. These works could be a metaphor for the Zen concept of attachment and detachment, respectively. The crucial role of the hand figure is evident in the other works too as the artist masterfully conveyed hollowness, denial, and fury through their violent engagement with the chest, the back, and the face of the human figures.
Binong Javier. “G.” Art Elaan.
The painstaking techniques of pointillism combined with the artist’s formidable aesthetics equip his works to transcend the flatness of a once blank canvas. Through color precision and narrative inspirations, the works of nonrepresentational art fuel a cataclysm that leads to something great. In one work, the narrative of gold being under intense heat is depicted as gold and red wrestling against each other producing a dramatic gradient of the two intense colors. The melting of gold under 1,064°C, enabling it to be molded into a functional object, sparks hope that pressure, pain, can bring out the best in a person.
Babylyn Geroche Fajilagutan. “soft windows.” Kaida Contemporary.
Challenging the position of the looker, the works of art act as if windows installed in the walls of the gallery. What can be seen are those that can be seen only through a window, through the artist’s window that served as her shield as much as her timepiece. The artist lets the looker peek through the window of her studio: inside looking out making the looker mere passive observer of the time passing during the pandemic and outside looking in revealing the personal space of the artist. But the windows permit only to some extent: watch from a distance.
Demosthenes Campos. “Dekada.” Art Verité Gallery.
Banking on the plasticity of the pigment, what is produced are works mimicking the surface of a wall that has worn multiple coatings painted over the course of time. The metaphor for the artist’s fifty years displays his mastery of the form. Adding different fabrics such as linen, carpet, and fur honors the life forms that were born at the different stages of life. The creation of textures and the expansion of materiality are the accumulation of conditions, choices, and histories. The tension of the thickening layers demands to create an organization, which the noticeable geometric forms attempt to mimic.
Chino Yulo. “Depth.” Pintô Art Museum.
Circular works of art are a reminiscent of the bubbles formed when air escapes scuba diving gears when underwater. The artist takes advantage of the light-reflecting properties of his chosen material, etched metal, to pay homage to the presence of light in the sea through the sun in daytime and through the moon at night. The gallery lights illuminating the works of art mimic the experience of looking at the waves: tranquil movements and subliminal vastness. These are the faces of the sea: the calm before the storm, the obliviousness, the age of exploration, and the silent life forms underwater.
Nashreen. “Breakthrough.” Art Underground Manila.
Flowers, birds, moons, and butterflies peculiarly interacting with other elements like pillows on tranquil waters, a floating anchor, a candle with dimmed flame, and a little girl taking refuge under a big leaf are painted delicately. Mist embraces the artist’s subjects, emanating comfort and security. Glow peeks through the fogs, evoking a sense of self-enlightenment and of optimism. In one canvas, a bird, a butterfly riding a paper plane, and the moon uncannily meet at one point amidst the bleakness of the space. All these images represent what seem to be a dialogue the artist had with her feminine psyche.