Located at the southern point of Manila’s circumferential hi-way, the trade district of Bangkal is home to bargain more often consist of discarded artifacts, either heirloom bartered collectively, or objects of curiosities that have been bought by enterprising individuals, hoping to sell these at the homeland markets. However the case, some of these have survived through various ownerships that carry nostalgic and romantic sentiments. These objects tell their context.
There are many ways to look at the action of painting over an existing work authored by someone else. The exhibition “Bangkal Paintings” operates on this premise and directive. Curated by conceptual artist Nilo Ilarde, the said curator and a host of Underground Gallery’s personnel and owner shopped for paintings that would fit the exhibition’s meaning and intention. To sift through the variety of paintings that typical borders on kitsch- or a style emulated that makes it suitable for immediate consumption, is its own blessing and reward. For the exhibition, some of the paintings have come and painted abroad, showing the flair and style of its place of origination. The unorthodox action of choosing a painting for the purpose of being painted over would ordinarily elicit contempt based on its judgmental stance. But ultimately, it is an assumed dialogue between two artworks, where the end action is done by the artist by painting over a found object—in this case, a found painting in Bangkal. Perhaps it resurrects a found painting?
These actions do have its precursors. Picasso and Braque at the 1890’s sprung a remarkable invention in Cubism that saw both painters painting over existing materials as surfaces and found objects. More evidently is Picasso utilizing actual newspaper fonts and headlines, and using the iconic chair caning. This ushered in the pictorial turn. In the 1960s, this line was recapitulated more extremely by the Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg. In a multi-layered project and using a hand-held eraser, the artist eradicated a charcoal drawing done by the Abstract-Expressionist painter Willem de Kooning.
Various interactions are recorded for the exhibition on hand. The so-called intrusions range from the more direct to the least or barest intrusion that requires judgment and detachment, but most are hand-in-glove fits, as ongoing artistic concerns and styles only reinforce the subject of the painting painted over:
A very skilled painter of birds and animals, Bree Jonson came to an excellent rendition of foxes arranged in an abstract overall composition that is superimposed on an interesting murky landscape of a mystery-clad pond.
Joseph Serrano, a prolific painter who negotiates a range of impastos via a pronounced stylistic brushwork rendering collaged images, turned an entire painting upside down and proceeds to work on a palindrome-like collage of a sheep and a farmhouse.
Romeo Lee, a highly celebrated painter known for his cartoonish and devilish images, arrived at depicting a fallen angel in suspended animation in a very rural scene and becomes a highly symbolic work.
Soler Santos arrived at working on a still life of fruits that sees the artist employing his strategic grids that map out the surface of the painting as well as the subject depicted. One interesting feature is a divided overlay that has one half resembling the grid lines of a window caged in, and suggests a different perception of the whole work.
Cris Villanueva employs his stylistic plastic bubble wrap work and proceeds to cover a landscape depicting a maiden in a garden and brilliantly highlights the thematic innocence and other-worldly atmosphere in the interacted work.
Jonathan Ching inventively segments a seascape rendered with a palette knife, with an impasto-laden landscape that is beautifully apocalyptic with its acid red skies and brooding trees, a stark contrast to the idyllic seascape painted over, and is suggestive of parallel worlds, or perhaps, in a different stance, it is a prophetic work investigating past environmental conditions and what has become of it.
Felix Bacolor, an artist known for controversial artistic escapades, places a toy train in the center of a serene lake painting that is in-between a nonchalant action but could otherwise be a very loaded call of intrusion.
Pete Jimenez, also a prolific and celebrated artist and sculptor, proceeds to make a visual pun in placing a three-dimensional horse in a depiction of wild horses running amuck.
Juan Alcazaren, reputed for working with discarded materials and turning these into objects of interest with the artist’s use of wit and cunning, has a neon sign reading “sorry”, a throwback perhaps from his known repertoire, and places it in a solitude landscape.
The found Bangkal paintings are genuine finds in themselves and evoke curiosity and thought. Rummaging through these poetic layers of debris at the wayside, a “wasteland” of artifacts that gives opportunity to the adventurous mind to see what was once, or still is, out there – more than just what was the vogue of a given era. These thrifty paintings may offer a language spoken, heard and seen, and diagnosing a thread of provenance that is more than an incidental osmosis of technique and style. For the faithful and pursuant artist, the idea of recovering a lost painting in its own perceived oblivion is equal to a graceful decadence, it is its own reconnoitering dialogue, a slight fever pitch of irreverence that fuels the cunning artistic soul..