By Amanda Juico Dela Cruz. Images courtesy of the galleries.
Less heard narratives become part of the mainstream consciousness when artists use their means to put a spotlight on what needs to be heard. For the month of July, the list focuses on artists that go back to the roots—can be the core of being a human, the indigenous knowledge systems, the significance of being in touch with nature, the essence or lack thereof of one’s gender, and universal truths and facts—because only in establishing a strong foundation can one move forward.
Joe Geraldo, “New World Order,” Orange Project.
Terracotta sculptures and acrylic paintings figure out what it means to be human during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, the terracotta sculptures confront the human as-a-body that is vulnerable and fragile. On the other, the acrylic paintings contemplate on the human-as-a-systems-of-humanity that is equally capable to inflict pain and to allow illnesses to spread. The existential and socio-political themes of the work are a commentary on the fluctuation as well as on the spike of power in person-to-person and in citizen-to-government relationships. Cracks have long existed in these relationships, the pandemic merely exacerbated the ill situation.
Leonardo Aguinaldo, “Imprints,” BenCab Museum.
Countless works of art about the COVID-19 pandemic have been created already since the strict lockdowns in 2020 until now, the emerging new normal. The common denominator is the isolation and the alienation of people in their homes and of frontliners in their restrictive personal protective equipment. The works of art that are on display portray a different and less heard narrative: the Cordillera healers’ wisdom. Told through woodcut prints, the artist collated their experience of the pandemic into an exhibition that can almost be treated as an anthology of ecopathographical works that analyze the effects of diaspora and labor.
Yvonne Quisumbing, “Cartomancer,” Silverlens.
Symbolic fashion designs. Beautifully-arranged medicinal plants. Mystical archetypes. The sculptural substrates take the viewer to the journey of the muse in the form of the Fool, the innocent stage in the Tarot deck, towards attaining wisdom. The Jungian idea of the enantriodomia, the tendency to become the opposite of what one desires to become when pushed to its threshold, is counterbalanced by Ayurvedic medicine. The artist engages the mystical beliefs, the Eastern scientific knowledge, the Western aesthetic, and the Filipino folk healing to go back to the roots to achieve self-individuation. The goal here is to de-ostracize the shunned cartomancy.
Ioannis Sicuya, “Crevice Bloom,” Eskinita Art Farm.
Reminiscent of the intricacies of termite mounds’ internal structures, the works of art juxtapose the pest’s colonial and ruinous tendencies and the tendency of humans to do the same but for socio political ambitions. The architectural layers of the series of works come from different cultural points: of Japanese appreciation of naturally-shaped rocks termed as Suiseki, of Chinese landscapes sense of quietude, and the Italian concept of architectural fantasy in the form of Capriccio art. From a farther point of view, the works look like geographical land mass found on maps. From ecological dynamics to self-centered aspirations, the result is inevitable destruction.
Archie Geotina, “Pearls,” Qube Gallery.
Women in Filipiniana clothing, a dress with several layers for the sake of modesty: a camisa, a panuelo, a saya, and then a tapis. Often these women are elegantly posed for portraits. Other times, they are portrayed doing domestic or farm labor, a deviation from the hustle and bustle of urban life. In the artist’s photographs, however, women dressed in Filipiniana ride the waves of Siargao. The black and white photographs focus on the force of waves, and the carefree attitude of the women. Filipino women are re-envisioned not as Maria Clara, but as empowered women who cannot be tamed.
Derek Tumala, “Tropical Climate Forensics,” Museum of Contemporary Art and Design.
The online project was created out of the artist’s research during his residency at the Manila Observatory, also one of the key biomes in the work that has been released already alongside what seems to be the Sun that represents the rapidly heating planet. There are five more biomes that are yet to be unlocked on the Philippines’ position being close to the equator and within the Ring of Fire, and how super typhoons and volcanic eruptions are affected by climate change, particularly by global warming. The work is not only scientific, but also gives space to indigenous knowledge system.