Omens in Time
“I think I may have entitled this show Buwitre (Vulture) because maybe, this is what is left and picked off after a pandemic – some hefty personal introspection and many, many lessons learned. I am just any woman trying to maneuver my way through a hedge maze of house chores, being a wife, a daughter, a sister, making a living, making sense of a pandemic, and being a painter.” Wrote artist Liv Vinluan as she communicated the essence of her current exhibition. The vulture holds a venerable symbol of “purification, compassion, and maternity” in ancient Egypt. The bird of prey performed the necessary service of cleansing the world of stench and rottenness when it was taboo to touch dead bodies. This seemingly morose association to the displayed sentimental works brings the discomfort that is requisite for the idea to permeate through our consciousness.
The work Burning of Manila captures much of our recent days – being witnesses to tragedies as they unfold. The artist asks “What does it mean to make and engage in art in the time of a raging pandemic?” Beautifully merging her concerns, Manila is Burning II shows two young artists paint the inferno that is Manila while standing on a massive floating battleship. In her representations, she brings to the fore trivial inquiries without oversimplification, but an attempt to untangle the complex baggage of being both a Filipino and an artist. She is heavily influenced by the history of art and nation, visibly shown in her use of the glazing technique done by old masters while investigating the cyclicality of our country’s narratives. Layering paint and chronicles from dull, dry shades of gray with horror stories on land and sky. The process has a waiting period that creates a push and pull dynamic allowing for space and time for contemplation. Another day, another battle.
It is often imagined that artists live in recluse, inside their creative worlds. In Liv Vinluan’s body of work, the contextual plane is rendered more evidently to accommodate an understanding of the interdependence of personal and social conditions in artistic production. The works of art are positioned in intertwined epochs, relating to the artistic vision that is not separate from existing. From where the artist stands, it is clear that as the vulture consumes death, rebirth is not far from the horizon.