By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz
A month into the most crucial election in the country’s recent history, images, colors, jingles, gimmicks fill our newsfeeds and streets. One is not safe anymore from information and sensory overload. It is rare to meet someone disengaged in discourses and arguments. In this bombardment, artists take their works within the confines of the gallery walls: to seek for the self lost in the ocean of chaos, to preempt what could be based on history’s facts, and to seek silence amidst the din.
Pio Abad and Stephanie Syjuco. “Crime and Ornament.” Silverlens.
A mannequin in a terno, its print is a repetition of Heinz Sandwich Spread’s packaging, is confronted by banners with “BE UNGOVERNABLE” written in bold black ink, frozen in different motions, and by photographs of green painted flags, sticks, and barriers. Behind are silk twills with the former First Lady’s iconic angle, displaying her splendidly coiffed hair and beautifully made-up face, with statements in bright red ink, “HISTORY has its EYES on YOU,” “FORGIVENESS DEMANDS JUSTICE,” and “THE SEQUEL IS USUALLY WORSE THAN THE ORIGINAL.” This isn’t a mere revisitation of the history, but a premonition of a new dissent.
Audrey Lukban. “A Docile Body.” MO_Space.
On one wall are portraits of the self caught in intimate pauses: washing her hair, sleeping deeply, standing as if in the in-between, and dining by herself. Two of these canvases have another self looking back at the viewer, consciously observing the Other’s look paid to her unaware self. On the other walls are her psychic shadows depicted metaphorically. And on the table are compartmentalized paintings of her physical body: her hands painted multiple times in one canvas reaching out for one another, her face in meditation and in enlightenment, and her unmade bed in different times of the day.
Cheryl Owen. “Hiraeth.” White Walls Gallery.
Paradisiacal landscapes—sunsets, mountains, coastlines, and rainforests—painted within human silhouettes. Flora and fauna—flowers in full bloom, bees, butterflies, and century-old trees—flourishing and intermingling with portraits of humans yearning for a home. Hiraeth, a Welsh word for that feeling of nostalgia, longing, homesickness, and grief towards the memory and all its realities that can never be brought back. It can be a metaphor for the Old Normal as the world adapts to the New Realities. It can be an unconscious depiction of human’s longing for its old psychic self, the one rooted in nature, intuition, wilderness, and wisdom.
Mr. S. “Reflections.” Gallerie Stephanie.
Vignettes of a boy’s journey as his pensive gaze meets different Japanese mask personas are dreamily rendered. While in some depictions, he’s removing the mask to reveal an equally ruminative look. Other times, he looks at his own reflection or a doppelganger appears beside him, both of which reveal not his bare face, but a kitsune. Noh masks conceal the emotions felt behind the woodwork. In the boy’s narrative, he and the mask engage in a dialogue. His round eyes scream of self-awareness, a self-reflection or a self-confrontation. The masks pose the reality that they must be worn to survive.
Jose Inocencio III. “Persona.” Cevio Art Haus.
Confronting the many selves while distinguishing the real “I,” different masks emerge from the seemingly rummages of paint. These are masks worn depending on who the self is speaking with, where the self is, and what is asked of the self. But despite the many selves, the consciousness always goes back to the real I, the Self. It is the Self when it is not under the look of the Other. It is the I acting according to its own will and no else’s. The works are the artist’s personal s/Selves mindfully yet mindlessly revealed through his paintings on canvases.
Arnold Lalongisip. “Simply Grey.” Art Underground.
A wooden bench is placed at the center of the room, inviting the viewer to not only look at the works, but to sit with them. A tree installation embraces the viewer to become one with all the works pinned on the blank walls as if the installation has sprung out from one of the canvases. The vastness of mountain ranges, the sky, and bodies of water, the wisdom of trees grounded and of birds soaring, and the abandoned boats all in monochrome grey palette are an opportunity to bask in the subjects’ stillness and to hush one’s mental noises.