Arranged with exacting results by conceptual artist and curator Nilo Ilarde, “Smalls” delivers a barrage of big ideas in small packages. Mounted on tables that appear like strategies for war games or eureka formulas for a better tomorrow, there is even corresponding sculpture-objects that are the literal small beacons fixed from the ceiling that light our way into the labyrinth of thought and processes. This is the laboratory for our genius.
“Smalls” is a wonder in an invitational group exhibition that covers the entire range of media from two-dimensional paintings to objects and small sculptures to hybrids straddling in-between. But amid the variety, thematically essential in the works on hand is irony, humor and wit.
The whole gamut is a tall order to dissect. Beejay Esber and Cian Dayrit, young artists making their way into everyone’s eye and commendation, find with ease the sculptural translations of their paintings made with a stylistic panache that is mostly a caricature of the prevalent Pop culture. Esber makes full use of epoxy materials while Dayrit uses clay stoneware.
Raena Abella’s photographic images make use of a technically demanding process that enables an image to be etched on glass with the artist’s depiction of objects around her that tells a captivating personal narrative.
Bree Jonson, a very skilled painter, has a suite called “Pages of My Diary” wherein she takes pages with handwritten texts and paints over these with macabre, Twin Peaks-like scenes, and can be easily be conceived as a confessional.
Poch Naval has on hand a series of collages incorporating found objects that want to renegotiate what things mean by negating what they do mean, stripping down an image till it is for the sake of visual pleasure that then triggers another sensation in the mind’s eye.
Oca Villamiel, a very accomplished artist in installation format, presents a triptych tableau of small vitrines in nominal colors but openly loaded with obvious connotations relative to us today. His “smalls” reflect the artist’s political stance and its humane portrayal via the obsessive collection of organic materials, delving into issues that are nationalistic, environmental and spiritual.
An aesthetically hip approach, Juan Alcazaren utilizes metal containers like a lunch box and an adult beverage cover package that can be thought of as the ascending points in a personal timeline, perhaps the brave self-deprecation evoking the highs and lows of an artist’s life – it is a brilliant idea for a theme.
Bert Antonio, fondly one of the drinking buddies from the late 1970s and one of the vital producers of paintings and installations that conceptually question its own viability, has a set of quasi-geometric abstract paintings on grounds, that could be possibly be epicurean coasters, that are attractive yet ironically detached and seems to count the days of waxing and waning of a nagging desperation to come.
A sculptor who has garnered private and corporate commissions, Pete Jimenez has a collection of metal figures made from found metal pieces. Made out to be allusive to paperweights, the combined pieces maintain their original shape – a pair of scissors, tubular pipes, a trowel and so on, it is a casting coup that yields fun, light heartedness, and tends to give a smile to lift a bad day.
Bernardo Pacquing, known for painting with canvases that are lush and at times decisively bare and minimal, creates mini assemblages using objects as both figure and ground while opting to interact with the artist’s own daughter, Paloma. It is a delightful project, giving us a box-full of an air of sweetness, its relational objects inside evoking love and nostalgia.
Lubin Nepomuceno’s “Untitled” piece consists of a bountiful amount of paint shavings clamped down on one of the exhibition tables. Many tales abound, but maybe a favored one is Warhol’s often used quote – you will know me by the skin of my painting. Can one really be caught and clamped down? This work thrives in its consuming non-objectivity.
Lawrence Aliwalas and Milchy Pe have a sculptural stack work called “David” appropriating Michelangelo’s statuesque portrait of the Biblical mortal going against the giant and beloved by the Lord. Having a known work history of producing character figures based on popular hit movies, the collaborative pair’s current initiative of David busts may incidentally say that was that century’s way of depicting their heroes, or may just say about the oversized proportion of its head in the original. Nonetheless, it is stunning and engaging.
Veronica Pee has intricately formed hand-held sculptures called “False Mementos” which allude to actual landscapes thought to be as exotic destinations – a crater, a land formation, a topographic reef. Benjamin said a copy could be as real as the original – is this better with a 3-dimensional one? A memory of a place can be held in one’s pocket.
Ling Quisumbing has inverted glass jars doubled as glass vitrines of virtual pedestals on which stand collected used pencils formed into masts. Called “Pencil Towers,” the immaculately assembled pieces reflect the artist’s penchant for discovering materials in its raw state, finding something sacred in quotidian objects that can only exist in the higher road of intellectual and progressive art-making.
Also employing found objects and glass containers, Juni Salvador pays homage to Piero Manzoni’s excrement in a tin can by using scrabble letters to form words that are synonyms to the word SHIT. Salvador is a stalwart provocateur, making use with profound hubris, simplistic objects that carry the burden of a collective exasperation, but maybe, hope is found in this magnification of numbness and indifference.
Known for commissioned public sculptures, Reg Yuson’s sheet metal pieces called ‘Contained Spaces” are configured and cut using puzzle patterns. Cut precisely using industrial techniques, the literal weightiness of the work subverts the playful function of board puzzles and in another turn, taps into marking and maneuvering mental and perceived spaces.
Jonathan Olazo’s objects utilize the use of burlap and wood and reference the materials used in Philippine abstract painting in the late 1970s. For the artist, it is a continuing project that involves the idea of using modernist painting as a metaphor for an autobiography – a circle cut into a flat board and made into a geometric box are lightened by organic shapes fashioned into birds with moving parts.
A geometric shape with four sides has chameleonic meanings, appearing as a monolith at the ending in the movie “2001”, thus portraying a culminating point in humanity’s consciousness. It is a perfect non-representational symbol for the Godhead. In Annie Cabigting’s exquisite painting, a small cube rests on an extended forefinger. This Citizen Kane-like scene suggests the hegemony of scale and its bigger picture, hence could easily be the title image for this exhibition.
Michele Peréz has gainfully employed a paint coagulating process and has used it for her 2-D and 3-D works. In one instance, the artist does an array of bedazzling colors on swatch-like grounds. In another, she has taken to using glass bulb objects, ingeniously picked from a household store, and fills these with the said coagulated matter – and in another option, covers the entire object with the same layers of waiting-to-dry paint. It is tedious yet meditative, and reflects Peréz’ coming to terms with a dialogue with one’s self and something spiritual.
A youthful generation has taken root, all having prodigious stints at the university. Kitty Kaburo, adept at using unorthodox materials, has a small-scale construction of shards of objects and materials creatively and delicately put together, appears to be like a small painting rammed by a hatchet. It is a prophetic vision of our modern times.
Gale Encarnacion has a mini tableau of a variable number of edible bread with a couple placed on portable mirror vanity kits. The surface of the bread is painted over to appear like fungus has started. The strange tableau conveys the artist’s concern for aesthetic beauty and its selfish conventions.
Nicole Tee’s chosen impetus is to gain a constant awareness of issues in her immediate sphere, and depicts these with her own unique and detached manner. For “Smalls,” her pieces are obviously not linear but nip at the artist’s regard for the environment in general, allowing interesting objects and photos to represent her viewpoints.
A meditative calm has always pervaded Atsuko Yamagata’s works in paper and its related materials such as strips of handmade paper and ink washes. Resembling dream sequences and organic forms in suspended animation, these paintings and drawings, a number of which are succinctly placed in transparent vitrines, stay consistent with the artist’s cognition of abstract space, pegging moments in time that are viable for solitude and meditation.
An artist in her mid-20s but already a sought-after artist, Jel Suarez has a set of surrealistic collages that abound in its distortion of form and perspective. Part Dali, maybe Kafka, and must-be reminiscent of the great de Chirico, the thwarted juxtapositions give evidence to the complex thought and process of anticipating disparate images in making a moving narrative.
Lara de los Reyes has a setup of objects and paintings – a monkey figurine reading a book on manners and a small canvas that has a derriere passing gas. Quite rebellious and aplomb with attitude, the artist is deft at her chosen genre’s prose and lexicon.
MM Yu’s prize small work is a catalogue box with index cards of canonical artists. In each of these the artist ledgers works of artists given the nod as turning points in the history of Western Art. Reminiscent of Yu’s landmark project is wherein she cut through and pasted random pages from an actual art history volume. It blurs classifications and demarcation lines, and incisively critiques the response of the other culture vis-à-vis Western art.
Last but not least, Soler Santos has a collection of small square canvases wherein heavy painted grounds are painted with representations of pebbles and stones, anonymously looking yet having their own unique character. Recently working on canvases that feature the artist’s excursions to dilapidated and condemned spots all over Manila, the subjects currently portrayed could have been part of that insemination. Or can simply be from a joyous walk by the seaside.