“The Library of Enigmas” group show at Modeka
- THE LIBRARY OF ENIGMAS
- Group exhibition: Christina Dy, Efren Madlangsakay, Grasha Non, Indya Gokita, Joey Cobcobo, Lilianna Manahan, Miguel Puyat, Regina Reyes, Stephanie Frondoso, Wipo and Yodel Pe
- 22 January to 12 February 2022
- Modeka Creative Space, Warehouse 20A La Fuerza 1, 2241 Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City
The Library of Enigmas is a collection of works that bring together art and literature. It examines the endless possibilities of the book form as an artistic medium of expression, ranging from conventional interpretations to more radical approaches to the format.
Art and writing have existed in one form since our ancestors drew on cave walls to narrate and record their stories. As civilizations developed, so did art and literature advance in parallel, clearly seen in medieval illuminated manuscripts. The 1950s and 1960s are considered the beginning of the contemporary artist book genre with pioneering works of Ed Ruscha, Dieter Roth and Alighiero Boetti. Book forms were created within movements throughout art history: Dada, Constructivism, Futurism and Fluxus. Internationally recognized artists who have made their own books include Andy Warhol, Sol Le Witt, Richard Prince, Sophie Calle, and On Kawara.
The existence of books has endured despite the proliferation of electronic reading material. As objects, books are interactive, portable, sculptural and can make art more accessible to the public. Artists have experimented with books’ content as well as its physicality: its shape, size and structure. Stephen Bury defines the genre best: “Artist books are books or book-like objects, the final appearance of which an artist has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself.”
Library of Enigmas features the work of artists Christina Dy, Efren Madlangsakay, Grasha Non, Indya Gokita, Joey Cobcobo, Lilianna Manahan, Miguel Puyat, Regina Reyes, Stephanie Frondoso, Wipo and Yodel Pe. It is a celebration of what books can be, a paradise for both art lovers and bibliophiles.
“I believe in practice, in showing up every day.” Dy is referring to art and to dance, her two most passionate disciplines. She draws every day, be it a full drawing, part of a larger piece, several quick sketches, or even doodles. She selected drawings made through the years 2007-2020 and organized them by subject matter into 14 hand bound books.
“Of Sea and Sleep” is an exploration of how small pieces of flat wood could be assembled to show movement and softer, book-like qualities. Decoupage images of the sea and of banig weave patterns represent the two things he has missed during these times: the sea for adventure and the support of friends, and the banig for proper rest without anxieties or worries. The texts refer to our stages of grief, as we mourn not only the loss of loved ones but also of certain freedoms. Wooden pages are held together by strings and can be spread out as a wave
like, uneven scroll.
Grasha Non presents 2 works: Her first book features a cover made of a soft sculpture of a fox, a character in her story. This book is set within a garden-like structure contained inside a wooden box. Her second book features tiny oval shaped paintings. The paintings portray subjects, themes and materials that Non oft-explores: fantasy and magic, female muses in dreamlike states, vibrant colors. This book is set in the center of a female form made of sculpted and painted wood. The sculpture also contains 2 doors: one opens up to reveal a miniature sculpture from a page in the book, and the other opens up to reveal a little music box that can be wound up to play music. Both of these works are her approach of making interactive book pieces so that books can be experienced through its pages and as well as through its surrounding elements.
Indya Gokita’s work is an object meditating on the parallels between human experience and the larger universe. The pictures illustrate the symmetry observed in life itself, where the external and the internal world reflect each other. Turning one’s perspective outwards reveals man’s own curious realm to himself, simultaneously unlocking a glimpse of the pattern of all things that is constantly unfolding and ever-changing. Interpretation and transformation is key. A page is a leaf is a wing is the air is the sky is the mind.
“Lola 101” is a compilation of interviews with the elderly, recorded over a span of 4 years, traveling around the Philippines from Bacolod to Baguio. Each subject relayed fascinating stories, accumulated throughout a lifetime. They are from all walks of life. The project began at the Balay ni Tana Dicang house museum and exhibition space in Negros for an exhibit curated by Albert Avellana of Avellana Art Gallery. For the show, Cobcobo made a portrait of Tana Dicang, the house museum’s legendary matriarch. He etched her portrait on leaves and discovered that inking the leaves and printing with them on Shifu pinya fabric made for good results. The mini books are digitally printed on handmade Japanese paper with handsewn binding. Cobcobo is an accomplished printmaker and is a longtime member of the Association of Pinoy Printmakers.
“Songs in the Key of Mundane” is a collection of Lilianna Manahan’s sketches that she began making in March 2020. They serve as a visual diary expressing a fictional character she had been drawing for as long as she could remember. Whenever Manahan has nothing to draw, this character is what emerges instinctively. The images are the result of musings and a record of observations in pandemic life, through the everyday activities. It is an ode to childhood books that eventually inspired her work: Archie Comics, Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Little Nemo, Japanese illustrations and William Blake. It is also a reflection of the deepening creativity that came with prolonged solitary confinement.
Miguel Puyat uses a flip format akin to desk calendars, with 7 pages for the 7 days of the week. He uses this form as part of his ongoing investigations on how viewers can participate in altering the work. Cut out colored paper patterns are inside transparent slides; flipping the page changes the image compositions.
Inspired by Marcus Aurelius’ book “Meditations”, Regina Reyes’ accordion-style book is composed of chapters, with each chapter containing written meditations on subjects such as the ocean, magic, motherhood, change, cats and displacement. The paper segments are sewn together to represent a continuous narrative as an exploration of ways of combining art with creative writing.
“Fractured Fairytale” is a mini installation composed of a carved-out old and damaged book, given new life as a planter. It comes with a small solar lamp to keep the plants alive even while indoors. In literature, a fractured fairytale is a storytelling genre in which the original tales are modified with unexpected character profiles, plot development and point of view. A favorite is the animation film “Red”, a rewritten version of the popular children’s story “Little Red Ridinghood”. In “Red”, the little girl and her grandmother are admirable heroines instead of victims. Fractured fairytales are often more reflective of modern ideologies. The artwork is an attempt to portray a fractured fairytale as a living sculpture that grows and changes, just like fairytales’ oral tradition, changing with every telling.
“Herbaria” are 3 books from a series of personal herbarium books, recording plants in her pandemic crisis garden. During the Age of Exploration, botanists would bring home exotic plants to study their medicinal properties and collect them for botanical gardens. They would preserve these plants in books called herbaria. To this day, one can see at institutional herbaria the plants collected by Charles Darwin and plants from Captain James Cook’s expeditions. Frondoso’s herbaria were created for artistic rather than scientific purposes and feature common tropical plants such as hibiscus, ternate, ginseng, taro and ferns. She chlorophyll printed plants onto plants, thus making a double record of the collection.
Wipo compiled a series of images from 2015–2021. These images represent how we see things in different perspectives, draw our own interpretations and imagine them uniquely. It is an experiment on memory in autobiographical format.
Yodel Pe focuses on the art of bookbinding as a medium for her ideas. She combines the objectivity of design and the subjectivity of art, endeavoring to test the boundaries of a book’s structure and the elements that make a book desirable. Her recent works explore the inherent impulse to own books. To this end, she has been visiting second hand bookstores in search for unwanted books to breathe new life into them. In spite of the well-worn maxim warning against judging a book by its cover, she attempts to capture the visceral power of first impressions and their impact on the senses.
With “The Reign of Greed” (Jose Rizal) and “The Snap Revolution” (James Fenton) she discovers that both books have multiple parallel strands, despite one being a work of fiction and the other, an anthology of articles and stories.
Both books touch on themes of greed, freedom, revolution, violence and peace. Her intention in using only Filipiniana books is to create an instant connection between viewers and objects. By imparting alternate lives to these books, she highlight the importance of adapting to change, which is a constant in our lives. The third book, made a few years ago in London, explores the sculptural possibilities of a deconstructed book, recontextualizing it for exhibition.
Text and photos courtesy of Modeka Art.