Beyond the box
It starts with the almost ritual act of taking shape: how form and space trace their history, how the corporeal and the material yield to will. The force of the creative drive—whether unconscious or deliberate—defines the contour, and perhaps even the trajectory, of what is and will be.
I love painting and painting loves me: this statement can be read as a gesture of reflexivity, an explicit reference to the subject pointing back at itself in ironic jest or in all earnestness. Designed to commemorate Finale’s third decade as an art gallery, this exhibition of paintings on shaped canvases brings together disparate sensibilities towards creating the visual: merging the pictorial, the sensual and the conceptual in a single collection of objects.
Gesture of genealogy
I love painting and painting loves me is a show of shaped canvases. The format itself is an unconscious, though telling, gesture of genealogy. Though shaped canvases are as old as the medium of oil itself, as traditional Renaissance tondi would attest to, these would be used more widely and in more experimental forms since the days of postwar modernism in 1950-60s Europe and the United States—the formative milieu of another seminal generation of Filipino artists such as the late Roberto Chabet (1937-2013).
On the other hand, the gallery artists represented in the exhibition offer a look at a part of Philippine contemporary art that has grown, or unraveled with, Finale’s own journey since the early 1980s. Mostly born in the period from between 1971 to 1986, these artists belong to a generation literally birthed during a time of dictatorship, growing up in a post-EDSA metropolis and in a way embodying the wide range of contradictions of the times. In terms of influence, the artists share related backgrounds and institutional spaces of artistic practice. Most, for instance, have taken up their formative training in studio work at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts in Diliman, while some have held their first solo or major exhibitions at Finale’s various spaces over the years.
This historical transition from the traditional to the contemporary is also reflected in the gallery’s own history as an exhibition venue. Finale started out in 1983 as a “sliver of space” in Makati’s Atrium, meant for exhibiting small prints and drawings. In 1991, it joined the roster of galleries that moved SM Megamall’s Art Walk, mounting increasingly experimental shows in a predominantly commercial setting. 17 years later in 2008, Finale moved into a converted warehouse in Pasong Tamo, its largest space to date.
Installed at the Tall Gallery, Finale’s largest exhibition space, the show runs simultaneously with Closed Door Meeting, an show of paintings on doors, and Double Feature, which brings together video-installations by art duo San Juan Industria and a collaborative project between young artists Redd Nacpil and Robert Langenegger. When viewed as an integrated series, the three exhibitions reflect the different venues of contemporary artistic expression that Finale as a space has embraced and supported over the years: it has featured video art, installation, and sculpture but has mainly centered on painting.
The works in I love painting and painting loves me memorialize the process of taking shape: offering a series of images imploding, exploding or even morphing beyond the traditionally rectangular confines of pictorial space and even the linear recall of time.
Some works deliberately trace the contours of real life objects: Bembol Dela Cruz’s Little Boy of Nagasaki and Fat Man of Hiroshima, for instance, appropriate images of the infamous nuclear weapons used against Japan in 1945—arguably the most concrete images ever produced by man representing weapons of mass destruction. Ominously looming over the exhibition space before the second of implied detonation, the works are a silent reminder of how the act of creation is also a process of annihilation. Nearby, Annie Cabigting’s diptych, entitled Two Slates, can also be read in a parallel way: two blank boards reminds us of how erasures can make way for new writings on the wall.
Other paintings in the exhibition range from exploring the geography of the human subconscious to the flow and fade of forms in the natural world. Scenes are plucked from the artists’ psychological and historical landscapes and re-presented on canvas.
Ian Quirante’s Origin series, for instance, delve into the rich symbolism of the subconscious and return with unexpected images from this journey into the realm of self: structures and body parts, familiar objects and distant landscapes. Lyra Garcellano’s Cocoon explores the corporeality of the personal, where physicality and the psychological intertwine. Liv Vinluan’s work, The Orb and the Poles, meanwhile goes beyond the primal realm of the id to the superego: the space where the ebb and pull of human morality takes place. Is a visual taxonomy of ethics futile when the final battle between good and evil is oftentimes a play of smoke and mirrors?
The paintings are rendered in various styles of representation—from Keiye Miranda’s use of translucent washes and detailed realism in her Resonance series to Paulo Vinluan’s employment of graphic and symbolic elements. The reference to human form—the profile of the living and the skeletal skull of the dead—is juxtaposed in Carlo Gabuco’s Matters of Consequence series and Wire Tuazon’s Chasing an Image series.
Still, other paintings within the exhibition merge the visual overload of the contemporary with implied questions of representation, identity and history. Two of the youngest artists represented in the exhibition, Redd Nacpil and Robert Langenegger, create images that border between the provocative and the impudent to raise important questions about sustainability of vision and practice. In Three Marias, for instance, Langenegger represents the marriage between Catholic iconography and animism, reflecting on the fecund ecology of the earth. Nacpil, on the other hand, paints compositions as a cry of visceral horror and satirical anguish at the everyday.
Seen as a whole, the shaped paintings in the exhibition give the viewer a glimpse of some thematic and material concerns that this generation of Filipino artists is exploring. It is a marker of a still unfolding story, but I love painting and painting loves me reflects the merging of institutional and individual histories, traditional and contemporary practices. In the end, it is Finale’s toast to thirty years of birthing within, and beyond, the box.
Artworks from the Show
Two Slates, Annie Cabigting, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas and wood planks, size variable
Little Boy of Nagasaki (Prevent this Tragedy), Bembol Dela Cruz, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas and wood planks, 96×24 in
Fat Man of Hiroshima (Prevent this Tragedy), Bembol Dela Cruz, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas and wood planks, 96×36 in
Matters of Consequence I, Carlo Gabuco, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 89×71 in
Matters of Consequence II, Carlo Gabuco, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 89×71 in
Cocoon, Lyra Garcellano, 2013, Oil on canvas, 66×84 in
Three Marias, Robert Langenegger, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 88×39¼ in
Double Entrendra, Robert Langenegger, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 47¾×52½ in
Resonance II, Keiye Miranda, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 30×30½ in
Resonance III, Keiye Miranda, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 32×28 in
Diyos Ko Day, Redd Nacpil, 2013, Oil on shaped wood, 48×38 in
In the Name of the Father, Redd Nacpil, 2013, Oil on shaped wood, 59½×48 in
Origin I, Ian Quirante, 2013, Acrylic on shaped canvas, 82×48 in
Origin II, Ian Quirante, 2013, Acrylic on shaped canvas, 82×48 in
Chasing After an Image I, Wire Tuazon, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 49×38½ in
Chasing After an Image II, Wire Tuazon, 2013, Oil on shaped canvas, 49×38½ in
The Orb and the Poles, Liv Vinluan, 2013, Oil on marine plywood, 79×65 in
Between Two Points, Paulo Vinluan, 2013, Acrylic on shaped canvas, 72×48 in
Sleep In, Slip Out, Paulo Vinluan, 2013, Acrylic on shaped canvas, 72×84 in