By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz
To connect may mean to converse. In these conversations, similarities and differences surface. The similarities are rooted in collective unconscious, shared experience, and communal beliefs. On the other hand, the differences are due to limitations. These differences are conveyed, and must be discussed and evaluated according to the work’s historical and theoretical context. Connecting islands through art is displaying the commonalities among these islands the same way it is initiating discourse on understanding one’s socio-political and cultural narratives. For the first time, artists from the Visayas and some from Luzon gather in one space to reconnect, form new connections, and foster existing relationships.
Joel Chavez, Sulat, 2021 (R Gallery)
The narratives and depictions of heroes are like letters penned by artists. These letters may reveal the long strand of their peoples’ identity embedded in their respective individualities. They may be cautionary tales too, showing the pattern of civilizations and their struggles. In one canvas, Joel Chavez stills the time when heroes—from pre-colonial to contemporary, men and women—made their most valorous decisions. The artistic depiction is an honor as much as a remembrance. What the reader makes out of it is hopefully that which ignites bravery to fight for civil liberties because the battle is not yet over.
Luke Alarcon, Keep, 2021 (R Gallery)
The elements are framed as if they are sharing the space of an unidentified room. The little girls, the robots that are like toys, and the rug reek of domesticity, suggesting that the room is that of a house. Attention is split between the human figures and the machine objects, a concern prevalent during the pandemic when the boundary between personal life and family, and work in the form of a personal computer is tested, stepped on, and eradicated. The rug designed for IKEA by Louis Vuitton’s menswear artistic director Virgil Abloh stirs one’s preoccupations ironically welcomes as one enters.
Dale Erispe, Metabolism 1, 2021 (The Working Animals Art Projects)
An imposing building in contrast to the vastness of the sky shows the confrontation of man and nature. Man merely creates. Nature is itself. No matter how Herculean manmade structures are, they will always be blanketed by nature through its very presence. In the work, the colors of the after-hours envelop the building. In no time, the building will succumb to darkness, when it is time for the sun to shine in a different place and for the stars to shine over this man’s creation. Neither man nor their creations can do anything to stop nature from its own cycle.
John Marin, Refinement, 2021 (The Working Animals Art Projects)
The composition contemplates on the complexity of nature’s aesthetics by going back to its most naked form. The audience is drawn to its texture. Its jaggedness evokes resonance on its rawness. Its brittleness mirrors esoteric fragility and ephemerality. Its being monochromic image isolates the experience, allowing time to flow in experiencing one thing after another. To take time is to make the self vulnerable to deep feeling and thinking. The slow process inevitably and expectedly leads to reflections on existence, divinity, identity, and materiality, while devoid of preconception and morality pressed by the exterior forces. Contemplation is an owned experience.
Zabiel Nemenzo, Politically Connected, 2021 (Orange Project)
The world tree is a recurring motif among religions and mythologies. It connects the underworld, the terrestrial, and the celestial. In Zabiel Nemenzo’s work, it is the very world which is governed by politics. Politics as in the power relations that affect people under their noses. Like the world tree that thrived from a point of origin, politics must have been built from something. The artist challenges the point of origin of politics, regardless of its significance, hypothesizes that it must have been built from inequality and injustice. The pyramid alludes to the food chain, the top benefitting the most.
Brandon Braza, “It’s only Hair.” “Exactly.”, 2021 (Orange Project)
When is hair a mere protein filament that grows from follicles? Revisiting the humanities reveals its religious and cultural ties shaping today’s body politics. Quran instructs Muslims to remove underarm and pubic hair to maintain purity and cleanliness. Sikhs allow their hair to grow out of respect for God’s perfect creation. Sleeveless dresses defined the 1910s fashion for women, since then depilatory industry started capitalizing on the undesirability of underarm hair. In the work, hair clogging the drainage comes back to parts of the body where it usually grows, signaling the woman’s refusal for hair to be weaponized against her.