Thursday, November 22, 2007

Questioning Attitudes

"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players;” wrote Stratford-upon-Avon’s most famous son, William Shakespeare, some 400 years ago. And these words come to mind when viewing Jason Montinola’s first solo exhibition at The Big & Small Art Co Gallery. That the generic name for early Greek stage actors (hypokrites) is the root word for the modern day hypocrisy adds a certain poignancy to the show’s title of “Deceit”.

To enter the gallery is to enter another world that excludes the rampant commercialism of the Megamall and be surrounded by scenes which could easily have come from medieval morality plays. For Montinola’s oils on canvas are, in the main, large set pieces presented in a very mannered style with Gothic overtones along with a healthy nod towards surrealism.

Hung on black walls, these works boldly confront the viewer, like in “Tragic Apparition” where a red eyed woman stares unblinking from the canvas. Memories of a man in a kilt, another in a suit with a roll neck shirt and a small girl in a dunces cap surround her and the question in her eyes. Then there is “Jesus Who”, a close up of our saviour’s face presented in red tones with piercing blue eyes raised heavenward. The words escaping from the side of his mouth are left to the viewer’s discretion.

Montinola employs a larger cast in the triptych “Repentance” where a cavalcade of disparate pilgrims parade along a cat walk. Whether Canterbury bound or just our seven deadly friends and their attendants, they are far from repentant as they step out confidently towards the waiting abyss. Likewise, in the 48”x 60” “Greed Dog” in which a salacious canine in a suit stands confidently upright. Whilst to his right, standing in a pink domesticated animal’s food bowl, is a woman singing from a black covered book with her daughter at her side.

The theatrical artifice Montinola has employed to question these stereotypes ensures the works stay with the viewer after leaving the gallery. Which with the very young and innocent in mind, perhaps a PG rating should have been attached.

“Deceit” can be seen until the end of the month at The Big & Small Art Co on the 4th Level of Magamall in Mandaluyong City.

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