Interventions • Lyra Garcellano

Jul 31 to Aug 28, 2019 • Upstairs Gallery

The country’s first National Artist, Fernando Amorsolo, with his romanticized imagery of the countryside, promoted the prettified depiction of the Philippines as a nation which the West to this day reinforces as the conventional portrayal of the tropics—sun, smiles and sweetness. With links to patronage that encourages his works to be highly valued in the art market, the Amorsolo brand is also heavily historicized in Philippine art education. He mediated the pastoral as the idyllic—an often wearisome term used to describe his pictures.

My first intervention into the Amorsolo trope was initially demonstrated in the video titled “Tropical Loop” which I introduced at Art Fair Philippines in 2018. In it, I adopted the artist’s most popular iconography “Dalagang Bukid” (country maiden) in a diptych that had me in one video slowly and repetitively navigating a rice paddy set against the majestic Mt. Banahaw. The second video offered a counterpoint where I performed the tradition of winnowing rice as I climbed up and down the stairs; it was an action that virtually replaced the “pretty” and instead suggested Albert Camus’ Sisyphean act of the classically programmed futility of labor.

Here, I propose that even with the impression of nostalgia and so-called beauty, there is a continuing and spiraling crisis.

Amorsolo was a painter who reproduced many of his rosy landscapes featuring locals frolicking in green or golden fields in the series “Dalagang Bukid” He had numerous iterations of his works “Under the Mango Tree,” “Planting Rice,” etc.—visual tropes that were amplified throughout his career. As further intervention, I replicated some of these iconic works but reduced them to recognizable lines and patches of color. I put forward the idea that what is perceived as the picturesque may now just be faceless and vague visions caught in suspended manual exertions.