Misuse • Bembol Dela Cruz

Jun 2 to Jun 26, 2017 • Upstairs Gallery

Bembol Dela Cruz dwells on the social life of things in this series of new paintings, reflecting on how straightforward hand tools assume a more sinister character as they move and circulate within the world.

As functional objects, hand tools such as hammers, pliers, hatchets and wrenches are created for the neutral function and constructive purpose of building, repair, and maintenance. Dela Cruz’s seven works, however, represent them as objects which are often “misused and abused”, being associated with violence, destruction and criminal acts in popular culture.

Referencing Rene Magritte’s 1929 painting, the series implies how such things assume a life of their own as ominous symbols. The artist correctly observes that these tools have also been used for purposes beyond their original function. Whether intentionally or spontaneously, these things have been appropriated and used as weapons for either defense or assault, reinforcing their presence as physical and psychological threats to one’s sense of security.

“The imagination for misappropriating these objects is enormous,” Dela Cruz writes. Perhaps, this statement subtly underscores the artist’s own position in pursuing this series. In framing such violence as the misuse and misappropriation of otherwise useful things, Dela Cruz quietly veers away from detached observation to nascent commentary on how signs reflect the treachery of the times we live in.

—Lisa Ito