Drawings from Residences in Japan and France • Edmundo Fernandez

Sep 28 to Oct 20, 2021 • Tall Gallery

This is a homecoming. Bro. Edmundo Fernandez stayed at the Vermont Studio Center in 2010 for an artist residency and shared his works through the gallery in an exhibition titled Suspended in 2011. A decade later, this same space presents the artist’s drawings done in his artist residencies in Japan and France in 2019. Bro. Dodo is known to most as a Lasallian brother and the president of two La Salle schools – a religious and a leader who lives a life of service. “My life is a bit dichotomized.” He said as he began to talk about his college life and finishing a degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines. Manifestly, choosing to be a brother directed him to a different path. Despite the demands of his work in the institutions he belongs to, he is aware that his life journey is dedicated to bridging the seemingly disparate dispositions of art and administration. He walked the Camino in Spain by himself, which was 800 kilometers for 38 days, from town to town. He remembers this as a wonderful experience – it was life-giving. In a sense, this is similar to his immersions in artist residencies. Bro. Dodo feels that he only has time to make art when in recluse in the studio, because art-making consumes him. It’s a complex mindset that takes up every ounce of physical, psychological, and emotional energy of his body. Such a necessary condition in art production makes the artworks displayed rather special.

While in Onishi – Contemplating mortality

The works made in Shiro Oni Studio Gunma, Japan depicts the artist’s fascination and meditation on the transience of life and his abhorrence of war. He’s so enchanted by the fact that there are myriad ways of expressing the value of existence, or even when death comes upon us. He was so moved by the mental picture of persons jumping from the Twin Towers during the September 11 attack in the US. The very intense process of drawing images of Holocaust victims perhaps reflects the minor vocation crisis Bro. Dodo went through during this time. “It might have also prefigured all the death in the pandemic.” He said. In the very serene act of composing small lines to lend light and shadow, it was like hearing the artist think. All this thinking enters his spirituality.

While in Caylus – Freedom in his terms

At one point though, Bro. Dodo grew exhausted from drawing the dead human bodies. A week after staying in Japan, he traveled for the artist in residence program of DRAWinternational center in France. During this respite, the first week and a half were spent inking a meticulously shaded nautilus. The spiral shell drawing shows a very controlled technique. His lines and tonal gradation were exact. However, the encouragement from the artist’s mentor to loosen up resulted in sketching of dead flies. His mentor liked these fly drawings because they were less rigid. Even though they seem unconstrained, the pre-production still consisted of detailed research on the anatomy of the insect. Nonetheless, the artist enjoyed the fact that he was illustrating lifeless flies in a small town far from work demands.

“Just as the bird sings or the butterfly soars, because it is his natural characteristic, so the artist works…” wrote Alma Gluck.

This brother is an artist. Bro. Dodo, in realizing the two lives of art and administration still both belong to his person, is able to summon the necessary skills and creativity as he performs his duty as a religious and leader. This sense of freedom propels his ideas to execution, innovating, and thinking beyond. There is a great deal of courage in imagining futures and reconstruction of values in his context. His drawings are proof of this. He intentionally creates the feeling of flight or suspension or the absence of an environment to focus on single images – with all its intricacies yet a refusal of closure. Sincerely because the artist always wants to come home to art. (Con Cabrera)