Expat

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Surreal Afternoon

If you’re a news junkie you would have noticed the abortive coup that happened yesterday afternoon here in Makati. For six hours a newly elected senator and an army general with 30 odd soldiers at his back along with some civilian supporters holed up in 5 star pub demanding the Philippine president resign.

Four years ago they pulled a similar stunt which resulted in them being hauled up before the local judiciary from which they did a runner earlier in the day for this reprise. The senator back then was a naval lieutenant and with the general lasted a couple of days before becoming smarter than General Custer.

Yesterdays unfolding saga was shown on TV in real time with a couple of studio anchors calling it like a PBA basketball game. Complete with blow by blow descriptions, instant replays, interviews with leading players from both sides, historical discussions, the whole nine yards. My favourite bit of the telecast was the hour long shot of an empty hotel corridor. Certainly did enliven a wet Thursday afternoon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

54% are Happy

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The Australian election is over and for the most part even the shouting has died down. Looking at the democratic process there seems to be a commonality between nations that indulge. First are the opinion polls published in MSM pre-election, then the real opinion pole on the day itself and then what emerges out of all the hubris. With the latter having a tendency to not look a lot like what was pledged preceding it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Chips and Concrete

First impressions are often unreliable, informed more by the confrontation of preconceptions than reality. When first arriving in the Philippines via Manila’s International Airport the contradiction with the tourist brochures of swaying palms on golden beaches by azure seas couldn’t be more stark. It is a grey metropolis that lays panting rather than basking under the tropical sun. But delving beneath this austere first impression one finds a multi faceted country of many and varied hues and textures.

So it is when entering the Artists Run Independent Art Space’s (ArIAS) latest exhibition “Circuit and Structure.” On the left are the large colourful renderings of cell phone innards by Milimar Onal, on the right are the subdued small abstracts of Choei Delo Santos. And with the pull of TV travel show the eye is drawn to Onal’s work.

On well worked impasto white grounds Onal presents the intricate greens, golds and reds of electronic circuitry. Spindly lines connect satellites to a central mother ship, small packets of information waiting to inform. Attractively packaged these works explore the phenomenon that is the Filipino love affair with instant communication to go.

Delo Santos’ smaller works present a more contemplative reading of life in a city such as Manila. Hard edged geometric shapes filled with a muted rainbow of bush strokes sit on the blue and yellow hues of grey. Here is an older experience informed by its history and climate, the structure that underpins the glitz and the gloss.

These two bodies of work coexist well together each giving substance to the other. As one attracts the other deepens the experience. Circuit and Structure continues until the end of the week at the ArIAS Gallery on the 3rd floor of the LRI complex at 210 N.Garcia (Reposo) St, Makati.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Regime Change in OZ

John Winston Howard the Australian Prime Minister is no more. He led his government to a resounding defeat in the national election yesterday. It also seems that he is also setting an historical mile stone in loosing his own seat. The first time a Prime Minister has got the boot in 78 years. Quite frankly it couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

The new kid on the block is the Labour party leader Kevin (Kevin07) Rudd. He has promised to ratify Kyoto and take the Aussie troops out of Iraq. Maybe there is hope for a land down under after all. That’s gotta be cause for a beer or 3. Although there is a small bit of a concern on the horizon, the new guy is a blonde.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Birthday at Maccas

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Last Saturday the best beloved and I attended a birthday party at one of the McDo's (Mac Donald's) in Ortigas. Why a 12 month old would selected a Macca's for his first birthday celebration is beyond me, a 12 year old I can understand but a babe in arms...........
The food was as to be expected, but as I was hungry enough to eat a sumo wrestlers jock strap, down it went. Although I do find, as age snow white hairs on me, the brown carbonated sludge that masquerades as liquid refreshment quite unpalatable.
What does all this have to do with the picture, not a lot really, except it was taken there looking out the window into the Ortigas' night scape.

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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Expressive Forms are More Means than Ends

It is the expressionist artist’s aim, to get to heart of the matter, to discover the driving force that responds rather than just comment about the appearance. For them the journey of making the art is as important, if not more so, than its destination on the gallery wall.
The currently extended exhibition at Galerie Astra by Jose A. Ibay, Dante Perez and Jose Tence Ruiz convey their journeys with a mix of figurative works in Korpus 2. Each in their own way uses the human form to explore their ideas about the vulnerability of living in uncertain times. Where Ibay and Perez take an intimate view with their subject matter, Ruiz steps back to present a more worldly view.
In “Apres Moi Le Tsunami” Ruiz depicts a nude mechanic at work oblivious to mounting walls of water at his back. With the broader and somber brush work of the overhead machine and the mechanic he creates a silhouette against a tighter rendering of impending waves. In his triptych “Supa:Nanu, Supa:Uod, Supa:U2” the bush work is less evident as Ruiz employs a comic book approach to explore the evil that resides within the heart of man.
Dante Perez’s work focuses on a single figure in each of his canvases which fill the pictorial space and bring the viewers into his subject’s vulnerability. With the blue bulls eye of “Running” his intention is unmistakable as is the red torso of the one armed “Insurrecto”. Whilst with the acrylic and enamel “Umbra”, Perez’s expressive brush work within a blue and amber palette, his vision broadens to include alternative possibilities.
The ranges of possibilities that flit across the faces of Jose Ibay’s portraits give them the strength to confront life vicissitudes. Using acrylic paint and oil sticks each mark on the canvas adds to the sitter’s character which in turn enriches the viewer. With “Saplot na Paula” is the small red garment in her hand a gift being given or received? Likewise in “After the Rain” the questions are asked, the answers are bravely left for the viewer.
Korpus 2 has a few more days to run before the growing number of works on the floor claim their space on the walls. Art like life is not always a tidy affair especially when the emotional aspects bubble to the surface. If you’re quick you can catch these paintings on the 2nd floor of the LRI complex at 210 Reposo St, Makati City.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Recipe for Good Times

The third issue of the Expat Travel & Lifestyle magazine hit the streets yesterday and the event was celebrated in fine style at the New Orleans Restaurant. Situated in the modern mall that is Bonifacio High Street, all glass, concrete, steel and grass it could well be transplanted from a made for TV sitcom.
A jazz trio of sax, piano and bass played a wide selection of numbers ranging from a slightly shaky version of ‘Take 5’ to an excellent version of Australia’s unofficial national anthem, ‘Waltzing Matilda’.
A fine selection of Kendall Jackson wines were on offer with the 2004 Cab Sav being a delightful drop. The kitchen served up a consistently high standard of food over the four courses of soup, salad, main and desert. The best beloved went for the tuna steak with filo pastry and your humble scribe had the spare ribs, massarup!

The assembled writers, editorial staff and friends intermingled affably under the attentive eye of mine host, the Expat’s editorial and publishing consultant, Murray Hertz and the ever helpful restaurant staff. Of which the lovely but incorruptible Miss Claire was collecting business cards to go into the monthly draw for a free meal. She declined my offer of 500 pesos to unsure my card was the one, for the New Orleans Restaurant is very deserving of a second visit.

Monday, November 05, 2007

5th of November

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
I know of no reason why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

If you haven’t seen the movie V for Vendetta it is 132 minutes of time well spent.

A futuristic tale that unfolds in an England that has become a fascist state. The main character, known only as V, is a masked freedom fighter who uses terrorist tactics and a wonderfully verbose vocabulary to fight the oppressive society. It’s Batman with a brain. It also has a script to die for, with many quotable lines.

“A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having!”

“Gentlemen, I want this terrorist found... and I want him to understand what terror really means.”

“My father was a writer. You would've liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.”

“I'm not questioning your powers of observation, I'm merely remarking upon the paradox of asking a masked man who he is.”

“But again, truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty you need only look into a mirror.”

“I have not come for what you hoped to do. I've come for what you did.”

“Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.”

Saturday, November 03, 2007

All the Words Out There

I usually avoid blog memes like the plague but this one started by Peter Plagens at Grammar Police about art blogs was just too much to resist.

What's the purpose of your blog?
Pushing words around is a nice change from pushing pixels around.

What are the boundaries of your blog?
Boundaries? It's all grist for the mill.

Tyler has cited Joy Garnett's NewsGrist blog [hyperlink added —ed.] as doing a great job of "placing art within a sociocultural and political context." What I see on NewsGrist is a magazinelike interspersing of short profiles, exhibition reviews, op-ed pieces on how other people are covering things, and Village Voice–like political takes. But what does Tyler's comment mean to you, and why are blogs in general better positioned than print to do what he describes?
He’s sucking up? Dunno, never heard of NewsGrist until this thing came along, took a look and found it pretty boring really. Although blogs are better positioned to provide a voice that isn’t controlled by corporate interests unless self imposed.

Why can't blogs go further, to the point where there's hardly any discernible difference between artist and critic/commentator, blog and work of art?
Who says they can’t?


What scope and degree of editorial control do you exercise over your blog?
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, read The Expat at your own risk.

What about posting comments from readers, and what about anonymity?
Comment away, if its spam I’ll delete it, but anything else goes.

What's "trolling," and why don't some of you allow it?
If trolling is dissenting or disagreeable comments, you post it; learn to live with the Flack.

Is trolling really so easily identified and universally bad? Is having posters register a solution?
Now who is getting anal?

What about liability coverage?
Sue me, I could use the publicity

What's the economic model of your blog?

A freebee, although it has jagged me some MSM writing gigs so I guess it could be considered an earner of sorts.

How do you see your blog's relation to the established print art media?
When I write for the established media, arts or otherwise, I must play by the publications rules on my bog I make the rules.

How do you attract readers/posters other than by word of mouth?
Any SEO strategy I understand enough to make work.

In general, is blog art criticism more open and liberal, and print criticism more closed and conservative?
Well this is a no brainer, of course they are if they are independent, with the caveat of the blogger’s personality. If they are the online version of the print organization they will be constrained by the vested interests that constrain the print version.

Some people say that there's a dearth of art criticism at length on blogs. Is this true? If so, does it have more to do with reading on a computer in general, or with art criticism in particular?
Why say in a 1000 words what can be said in 300, unless you are being paid by the word?

Art magazines come out once a month. Newspaper art reviews usually appear once a week. Blogs appear more or less daily, and sometimes have updates by the hour. Do you think that the faster pace of blogs will start to affect the pace of art-making.
Only if the art is made for critics with blogs.

Tyler just said that there's more good art being made by more artists in more places than at any time in history. Is this true? And if so, what's the reason?
The increase in the world’s population?


Do blogs help correct the geographical bias in print art criticism, i.e., the tendency to think that most of the important stuff happens in New York or Los Angeles, and the difficulty of art outside those places to get national attention?

Perhaps, although I suspect that population density and disposable income have a greater influence.

One index of a city's gravity as an art center is young artists—perhaps recent MFAs—from elsewhere coming to set up shop. Is that happening in Philadelphia and Portland?
Ask someone from Philadelphia or Portland not the Philippines. As to a city’s arts gravitas, young artists are just a part of the mix. I suspect that low rents are more important.

Is there any constructively negative edge to your blogging and, if so, what is it?
Occam’s razor

Let's throw something back into the mix: naked human ambition. Unknown bloggers want to be little bloggers; little bloggers want to be bigger bloggers; and bigger bloggers want to be called, as is Tyler's Modern Art Notes, "the most influential of all the visual-arts blogs" by the Wall Street Journal.
And the question is?

Where will your blog be in three to five years?

On the internet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Neither Confirm nor Deny

Like a nuclear armed super power elusive graffiti artist Banksy refuses to either confirm or deny his presence in a photo of graffiti artist at work published in the London Times.

The clandestine nature of his work obliviously makes anonymity a prerequisite whether the same can be said about the US warships is a moot point. If Banksy has been outed will it make any real difference? One suspects, nay hopes, he will continue decorating drab concrete walls with his unique sense of humour and irreverence.

Whereas a floating platform of death and destruction in my back yard, mmmmmm no thanks. Although I did read about one of them having a bulls eye painted on its side whilst in a Middle East port.

To see a portfolio of Banksy work click here.