Words by Amanda Juico Dela Cruz. Photos courtesy of the galleries.
2021 is the year when people have started finding their lost footings. Vaccines are being rolled out. The economy has softly opened. Limited face-to-face classes are imposed before the year has ended. But as the world wraps up the year of healing, risks and danger continue to loom. The healthcare sector is still in jeopardy as variants continue to mutate. Democracy is slowly being murdered, using the COVID-19 pandemic as a battlefield as much as a weapon itself. And despite the Herculean change the virus outbreak has caused, some forms of oppression and brutality still comfortably sit in the status quo. And so, this question is asked: What really has changed?
Summer De Guia and Ron Mariñas, “Leaving Neverland” (White Walls Gallery)
Summer De Guia and Ron Mariñas navigate the liminal period between being sheltered and building their own roofs. De Guia paints naked women slouching in exhaustion, depicting reality as not all fun and games: anxiously waiting in confrontation with time, shrunken head in resignation to selfless motherhood, and attachment to childhood artifice as a plea for not wanting to leave. Meanwhile, Mariñas shows the difference in men’s lived experience: a morning of self-love, a brotherhood shaping their own future, and bolder acts of self-identity. Juxtaposing their poetics in the context of contemporary time, one of them remains anchored by oppression.
Gina Osterloh, “her demilitarized zone” (Silverlens)
Portraits of a woman fully covered in cuts of reflective tape—sealing off her ability to hear, speak, and see—that becomes one with her skin as marks are left when removed. Another portrait shows the same woman, the artist, with long poles pressed into her eyes. There is violence in the look of the Other. But Gina Osterloh reclaims materials of brutality and exclusion—steel, images, and words—to deweaponize, a contemplation on the human condition: irreversibly torched and scarred like her steel bars. The lowercased title alludes to the vulnerability that comes with abandoning intensity, daunting but imperative.
Fernan Odang Jr., “Evil in the Higher Ground” (Secret Fresh)
Elements that are essentially apolitical but are politicized by those in the higher ground are painted with a creeping air of dystopia—dark and quietly fiery. Familiar faces are mutated into a Nemesis-like creature—monstrous and self-serving. Fernan Odang Jr. creates works that warn more than portray the Philippines’ current political situation, one that reeks of disinformation and manipulation. His works cannot be any timelier now that the country is facing a great crisis in democracy. The Filipinos remain divided and toyed despite the self-evident acts of evil. Now, it begs to be asked: Where did it all go wrong?
Buen Abrigo, Mideo Cruz, Cian Dayrit, Mervin Pimentel, and Iggy Rodriguez, “A Summary of Executions” (Blanc Gallery)
Artists fight back against the atrocities and indignities. Going back to the rationale behind installations and mixed media, there is resistance from the artists to become mere spectacles and commodities. There is rebellion in going beyond traditional forms of art that fits to their act of protest against global capitalism, complacency vis-à-vis the probability of revolution, status quo in political system, breaching of human rights, and the macho fascist regime characterized by extrajudicial killings in the name of war on drugs, militarization, corruption, refusal to honor the legal victory over the rich West Philippine Sea, historical revisionism, and electoral crisis.
Adeste Deguilmo, Benji Goyha, Bong Francisco, Celso Pepito, Clint Pactores Normandia, Fr. Edgardo Alaurin, Fred Galan, Gabriel Abellana, Guido Lubanga, Jojo Sagayno, Karl Roque, Kimsoy Yap, Marlowe Toledo Villagonzalo, Mar Vidal, Melanie Grace W. Impas, Msgr. Augustin Velez Ancajas, Orley Ypon, Richie Quijano, Sio Montera, Sonia Yrastorza, and Toni Vidal, “Sa Kanunay: Stories of Life in Transition” (Florentino’s Art Gallery)
When an artist creates a work, they allow the object to exist, to be perceived, and to occupy space. Their imagination and creativity become a matter. But when an artist creates a work with and through time, their work’s temporality allows it to weave itself into life. Not only does it occupy space, but it breathes the same air its creator breathes. It lives. It participates in contradictions, elaborations, and realizations. Created during the lockdown, the artists treaded on a disrupted temporality. The uncertainty and anxiety over the future of human condition renders the works stories of lives in transition.
Victor Augusts Dumaguing, “Imbuing Presence” (Abong Bughaw Gallery)
Victor Augustus Dumaguing’s canvases inspire a kind of energy that invites to be meditated on. Lukis sulam, or the leaf motif in the arts of Sulu archipelago, are painted with playful lines and forms—the archipelago’s textile—using a needle, the act of which is meditative in itself. These dynamic geometries are confined within a boundary that limits their movements and the space they may occupy. There is an inherent contradiction in what is depicted. Contradictions often suffer from negative connotations, suggesting chaos and disintegration. But from the point-of-view of wisdom, contradictions can be enriching. Disruption is necessary in progress.