Words by Kinah Praise R. Baguan; photos courtesy of Modeka Creative Space
These strange years made us realize that pandemic had no geographical borders and cultural divide. It changes our perspective about life and death, radically disrupts the structure and cohesion of societies without warning, and somehow alters the way humans interact among themselves and the environment. A lot has been said and written about the importance of art amidst the health, social and economic global crisis. Its main value is its ability to humanize us which led us to further examine and question our prejudices. Art cannot necessarily cure a virus, stop the increasing hunger or bring death to life. Nevertheless, its transformative power has become an antidote in times of chaos — a roadmap for greater clarity and a force of resistance and repair. In their ongoing exhibition, Modeka takes us back to a moment amidst the chaos in the effort to seek new ways to reconnect. Featured artists showcasing their unwavering display for ingenuity and advancement of Philippine art, attempt to capture their creative-intellectual thoughts while traversing their limitations as an artist.
Kundiman, a solo exhibition of Solenn Heussaff, enabled us to appreciate the beauty of the mundane which is often ignored before the hustle and bustle of life. Inspired by the title itself, the series of large-scale paintings were curated by Teresa Herrera Anthony to create a sense of flowing and gentle rhythms with dramatic intervals. Common Filipino people ranging from children to adult women and men became her main subjects, as the artist attempted to highlight their stories surmounting each form of struggle. By further reading, the eye is immediately drawn to her subjects’ gaze which situates the spectators into their shoes. These politics of representation have induced social commentary for romanticizing poverty. Perhaps it narrows down to the permutations of an artist’s competency — her life experiences and social status, socio-ethical concerns, moral compass as well as the situatedness in the art market and its relation to patronage. Thus, it made her works vulnerable from ‘othering’ the other. But it doesn’t end here. Noticed that the display of the jungle scenes has added a certain amount of complexity — whether it frames her subject to look exotic or it nurtures a hope to come. Still, the exhibit is an interesting point of reference as it pressed on layers of symbolisms ranging from socio-economic, gender, and ecological present-day issues.
Unlimited, a solo exhibition of Lilianna Manahan, is composed of pieces of artwork ranging from painting, installations, and ornamental. In embracing the uncertain, her creative approach involves playing with limited media (paper, paint, wax, metal leaf, and huge desk) while pushing the boundaries of her imagination. A combination of line, circle, and squares as well as the tone, light, shadow and luster convey a formalistic approach as she casts a malleable narrative. Her aesthetic creates a rich and dynamic environment by indulging the senses on multiple levels, beckoning the spectators with an immersive experience, intricate details, and delightful understanding through the union of design and contemporary art.
Equilibrium, a group exhibition featuring Alfonso Recto, Ian Inoy, Jun-Jun Sta. Ana, Fitz Herrera, and Sam Penaso reveal gestures of expression through different media. Visual abstraction as part of their creative process in negotiating the horrors of the time evokes a sense of chaos under a certain degree of calmness. Through philosophical contexts evoked by the pieces in the exhibition, it allows the artists to cultivate interplay of skills and unplanned occurrences to uncover their most personal feelings directly through making art, and thereby achieve some transformation — of, if possible, some personal redemption.
Our history concerning the present times tells us that artists of all kinds have responded to the pandemic with new creations. Edward Munch, for example, made a Self Portrait With The Spanish Flu and Self Portrait After the Spanish Flu, based on his traumatic experience of the disease1. In this case, art serves as a call to action and a means of healing for the maker and audience alike. On the other hand, these responses are riddled with subtleties that could very well involve economic class and privilege. How do we situate art in our present-day situation?