Sunday, December 23, 2007

Filipino Art on French Walls

Published in What's On & Expat, 23 December 2007

The French have a long and proud tradition of association with the visual arts with many 19th and 20th Century French artists being household names throughout the world. Who has not heard of Monet, Degas or Duchamp to mention just three? Less well known is the 17th Century French printmaker Jacques Callot. His innovations improved etching to such an extent that his work became a favored collectable of the Dutch master Rembrandt, a formidable printmaker in his own right.

Continuing in these footsteps, the Alliance Française de Manille is host to the Philippine Association of Printmakers’ latest group exhibition, The Medium is the Message. Meandering throughout the public spaces of the Alliance’s Nicanor Garcia St premises, this exhibition showcases almost the full gamut of techniques available to the contemporary printmaker. From serigraphs (screen prints) via wood cuts, lithographs, mono prints, intaglios (which includes etching and engraving), lino prints known colloquially as rubber prints to digital prints, which are often referred to by the French name of giclee, all are represented.

Two impressive woodcuts by Virgilio Aviado hang by the exhibition’s catalogue table. Architypal Pinoy I and Architypal Pinoy II are full length scrolls depicting life size renderings of contemporary Filipinos. The first is about the male of the species presented as a peace loving, guitar playing hippy on the left and a baton holding security guard on the right. The second shows 3 women, a nun in shades of black and grey is center with a teenager in crop top, short shorts and boots on her left and a society queen replete in a green gown holding a light gold clutch bag on her right.

Behind the information desk and a little to its right is a lithograph by national artist Jerry Elizaide Navarro. It is a1999 untitled commedia dell'arte inspired rendering of the comic/tragic theatre masks. Where the comic mask wears a salacious leer and the tragic mask questions the audience, it is a delightfully whimsical reading of the age old cliché.

On the wall of the corridor leading to the toilet, just before the restaurant, is a group of works that includes the African inspired works of Angelo Magno. The three rubber cuts and a monotype are recent works that explore the artist’s relationship with the Dark Continent through line and color. Babaylon: Medicine Woman and Diety are red faced mask like renderings with multi colored halos while Black Mask uses multi-colored lines to delineate its features. The monotype Mater Delorora is a black and gold depiction of a shrouded figure with a barely discernable halo.

Inside Le Coude Rouge restaurant hangs Bencub’s digital drawing Sabel with Moon, depicting a woman’s nocturnal affair with her pillows which are both her comfort and her nemesis. On the opposite wall is a pair of Janos Delacruz intaglio prints and on the mid point of the stairs to the second floor are two more. Pepito and the Urban Jungle shows a wide eyed, open mouth youth amid the extravagance that is a modern city and Traveling Insomniac hints at the terrors of enforced sleeplessness.

Upon reaching the upper level of the Alliance building, amongst the rewards, are four recent serigraphs by Bernard Temperosa. In these two tone, red and black, works two calligraphy inspired characters cavort in varying scenarios, each an environmental dance between danger and opportunity.

This multi-faceted exposition of the printmakers craft has many more gems than space constraints here allow to enumerate. The Medium is the Message at the Alliance Française de Manille, 209 Nicanor Garcia St, (formerly Reposo St) Makati City continues until 11th January 2008. Visit for more information.

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