Closed Door Meeting • Group Show

May 8 to Jun 3, 2013 • Upstairs Gallery • Finale Art File 30th Anniversary Show

Everyday objects can be surprisingly steeped in symbolism. A door, for instance, is often associated with openings, opportunities and new beginnings, but it is also thought of as a sign for barriers, enclosures and dead-ends. Its dual nature is represented by the two faces of Janus, the Roman god of transitions, passages and doors. Also presiding over peace and war, it is said that in his temple, doors are left open in times of conflict, and closed during moments of calm. In Egyptian tombs, where the earliest recorded representations of a door can be found, it is painted as a kind of portal, which the dead must pass through. Indeed for many cultures, a door is an emblematic hole, and to enter a door is to step into another world, whether it is a strange or a familiar one, real or metaphorical.

In the exhibition, Closed Door Meeting, organized by Finale Art File as part of its 30th anniversary, eleven artists exclusively represented by the gallery utilize the door as an alternative canvas for their paintings. Each artist was given a particular antique door, sourced from different provinces in the Philippines. Both front and back panels of the doors were painted or manipulated by the artists. As is, each door is already embedded with its own unique signifiers and prescribed value. Turned into paintings, they function as individual entry points into each artist’s personal style and practice.

Annie Cabigting hints on voyeurism through her painting of a scene from Lucian Freud’s studio. Like many of her photo-derived works, her door in this exhibition explores the nature of looking and the relationship between the viewer and the subject. Bembol de la Cruz questions the reality of the object through his signature trompe l’oeil renderings. His chosen object in this case is a rifle, which is presented both as a hyperrealist painting and as an actual object. Painted and attached on a solid wooden door, it also emphasizes notions of security, secrecy, violence, and fortification. Wire Tuazon summons up cryptic journeys in his work – a dark, narrow door overlaid with various materials such as silver leaf, a portraits of Van Gogh and Gauguin and a remnant of his earlier installation from the 90s – a lightbox imprinted with the word ‘Exile’. Lyra Garcellano also channels her ‘No’ painting from the 90s in her door, which is unadorned except for the texts ‘In another place and time’ on one side and ‘In another form and generation’ on the other, and both combined with doormats with the words, ‘Never, never, never’. Like her previous painting that dealt with societal and cultural restraint, her new work also tackles conflicted themes of submission and control. Paulo Vinluan similarly juxtaposes texts with images, though in a more playful, lighter style. He also recalls a past work from his ‘Wish You Were Here’ exhibition earlier this year, using the image of a star-shaped compass as a motif to expound on a sense of place and direction.

Keiye Miranda-Tuazon and Liv Vinluan both accentuate femininity by contrasting it with the materiality of the doors. Keiye blankets both sides of her door with a painting of lush greenery and vines, while Liv loosely paints hers with entwining black and white amorphous figures. Robert Langenegger, on the other hand, draws from the infamous ‘Here’s Johnny’ scene in the cultic film ‘The Shining’, substituting Jack Nicholson’s ominous face with a plaster severed head. Carlo Gabuco, likewise, creates a parody through his satirical black and white portraits of people entrapped in the prevalent Internet culture, while Redd Nacpil and Ian Quirante both create spontaneous compositions in painting and assemblage.

The works in this exhibition exemplify various manifestations of painting, from the sensual and emotive to the allegorical and conceptual. The divergent practices captured through these doors attest to the multiplicity of forms and persuasions that thrive in the Philippines today. (RB)