Contributing writer Jazminne Joice B. Peña reviews E.A Arcilla’s “Hope, Tragedy, Salvation” that was on view at Art Underground Manila.
Humanity has always had an undying need to explore the unknown. The idea of uncovering mysteries has been so inviting that the quest for answers never lost its appeal. Fifty years ago, the moon seemed like an impossible dream.
Now, we have manned space stations in low Earth orbit. However, every conquest of greatness has its own price to pay. The journey towards an uncharted territory offers the excitement of unseen treasures but also unforeseen dangers. It may be a perilous voyage but this does not stop us from seeking answers with the hope that someday, the questions will run out.
It is perhaps with this same thought that Erikson Arcilla decided to create an exhibit that embodies the journey through space in his exhibition called “Hope, Tragedy, Salvation” at Art Underground Manila which opened last February 23, 2019.
As the name suggests, the exhibition is divided into three parts, Hope, Tragedy and Salvation. Each part shows the different faces of space travel.
Hope displays the innocence of dreaming, of the times when dreams are still part of the reality and not just a mere play of a child’s mind. It is a depiction of what we usually aim for before the logic of reality sullies what we actually want, before the world tells us that we can’t. Incorporating details seen on a daily basis such as sneakers, Rubik’s cube, pencils and many more, Arcilla made each painting more mundane, creating a feel that there was actually a time when our dreams did not seem too far away.
On the other hand, with the exception of the Rubik’s cube, Arcilla uses a palette of gray and black for Tragedy. This exhibit appears to be more somber from the rest, perhaps due to the mood that the artist wants to convey. Once the idea of a dream is exposed to the world, hope somehow becomes a fleeting emotion. No matter how far we’ve gone through the stars, we cannot deny the fact that we had comrades who risked and continue to risk their lives to sustain humanity’s search for answers. Tragedy shatters the ideal space exploration adventure that the next part of the exhibit, Hope built up. Its unequivocal portrayal of the harsh reality of space makes sure to imprint upon the viewer of a ferocity hidden beneath its veil of stars.
Lastly, the exhibition’s conclusion couldn’t have been more appropriate than Salvation. Humanity has come a long way since Apollo 11. Today and in the days to come, we continue to reap the fruits of our brethren’s bravery. It was a tough road. We’ve lost some but we’ve definitely gained more.
This is not to say that the losses were miniscule compared to the gain. Instead, a better way to think about it is that we’ve already given so much to stop. Salvation is more of like the aftermath of space explorations – how there is actually no aftermath but only continuations, that like stories bravery can also be passed on and the ultimate reward, answers to the questions that we’ve always asked.
The entire exhibition is a picture book of the realities of space travel – the excitement of dreaming for the stars, the bitter taste of failure and the persisting urge to go on no matter what. Art Underground Manila described the show as something dedicated to those that have and continue to risk their lives to further the horizons of man’s quest to explore the unknown universe, which is only fitting. Arcilla was able to give a detailed representation of each part through his attention to detail while still leaving something for the viewer to ponder on. The recurrence of the Rubik’s cube on each part, a little different every time but is also still oddly the same weaves Hope, Tragedy and Salvation all together. He was able to give the audience a glimpse of space through different eyes, a kid, an explorer and an observer. Quoting from a young adult genre writer, Rainbow Rowell, he said, “…art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something”. Arcilla’s works were beyond beautiful but was also able to fulfill art’s very goal, to make its viewers feel something.