In his latest show with Galerie Stephanie, the crowd-drawing komikero continues his explorations of the absurd and archetypal
Words by Pao Vergara; Photos courtesy of Galerie Stephanie
In just hours after the exhibit opened, individual cards from an 89-card hand-drawn tarot deck by Manix Abrera began selling fast through Galerie Stephanie’s website, even as the gallery limits the amount of physical visitors in its physical space amidst prevailing quarantine restrictions.
All this is part of Manix’s latest exhibit, Samantala, Ikaw at ang Hiwaga. A recurring unnamed character (who long-time fans speculate is a self-portrait given the hairstyle) who’s appeared in the artist’s silent graphic novels, serial strips and larger exhibits once again makes a comeback, this time as various archetypes in a tarot deck ranging from the hexagram-bearing 4 of Pentacles to the Roman god Saturn.
In each, the artist takes the classic medieval European composition and settings – take the surreal smiling moon for one, or the hand of God popping out of a cloud – of the traditional tarot deck and renders them in the style that has come to define his eye as a komikero.
Taking a stylistic (but not necessarily thematic) departure from the large, wall-size, almost two-storey fully-colored paintings (albeit featuring the same character) from his 2018 Mandirigma ng Kalawakan exhibit also held in Galerie Stephanie, each tarot card is a black-and-white graphite drawing on a paper 2 x 3 inches.
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Perhaps years or decades down the line, an intrepid collector may just attempt to track down all the cards and complete the deck. Aside from the tarot, Manix also crafted two separate series of drawings, one containing 13 drawings and the other containing 3, as part of the exhibit.
In Samantala, Manix, through his unnamed explorer, continues the thread of an individual exploring the universe, if in Mandirigma through bizarre worlds and alien landscapes, then in this exhibit through the psychic interpretations of the Western tarot.
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The glee-amidst-cosmic horror which has come to define the artist’s works remains, as if to remind patrons to take life’s absurdity with a grain of salt and bowlful of humor.
Perhaps it’s from being the child of a national komikero who’s been associated with more halcyon days in the Philippines and an academic working in an institution and field known to expose the contrasts in the social fabric of communities, perhaps it’s from graduating from Fine Arts from said institution, perhaps it’s from all those, plus living in the Philippines today, where kapres smoke Marlboro reds and Tikbalangs drive Honda Beats.
Samantala, Ikaw at Ang Hiwaga runs from April 14 to May 2. Visit Galerie Stephanie’s website for the virtual exhibit or email email@example.com to schedule a visit.