Sunday, February 24, 2008

Does Size Matter?

Published in What's On & Expat 2 March 2008

In the general scheme of things here in the Philippines big is considered better. From the size of the bill boards on the EDSA via the Mall of Asia’s claim to being the third largest in the world to the size of the extended family, mine is at 150 and counting, big is the name of the game.

Rachel Rillo, in her latest exhibition, “Manila”, at the Silverlens Gallery goes against this trend. Thirty nine of the forty four works presented are no bigger than your average calling card, although they do sit within a mat and a frame that makes the final presentation similar to usual expectations. Being presented this way Rillo encourages her audience to get up close and personal with her work and like the period at the end of a sentence it invites reflection on what is being said.

And Rillo’s conversation is about the power lines that adorn Manila’s streets. A newspaper headline along the lines of “Manila explodes in massive short circuit” would not surprise anyone who has visited the Philippine capital. The streetscapes spaghetti junction has the ability to leave first time visitors open mouthed. This impact was not lost on the Californian trained Rillo, although within the monster she found the beauty.

It is these glimpses that she has captured with her camera. In works like “Glider” and “Trapeze” delicate lines dissect the page and interact with each other to create intricate patterns that float effortlessly in their monochrome world. There is the holistic coupling to the mainstream in “East” that contrasts with the many fingered approach in “West”. In “Gossip”, when paths cross the impediment of truth is no impediment to the telling of a juicy tit bit.

With captioning of her pieces, Rillo casts a very wide net with references that range from Hollywood, with the tongue in cheek “Evangelista” to Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig’s principal character in “Curly”. Rillo has also personalized more than a few of her works. There is “Fred” and “Ginger” (Hollywood again?) along with “Charlie”, “Mario”, “Atlas”, “Laszio”, “Fido” and “Lobos”.

One can only speculate as to who is referenced, perhaps family, where clan gatherings for the inevitable arrivals and departures are often in numbers that exceed a house’s capacity. As they spill out onto the street, the exuberance of these impromptu streetscapes can and does rival the confusion overhead.

For Rillo, there is no devil in the detail, which provokes the implication that it is the accumulation of detail that encourages the dark one’s influence. Rachel Rillo’s, “Manila” continues at the Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City until the 8th of March. More info is available online at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Henry!

Thank you for the great article on our Manila exhibit. Just wanted to say that the website for silverlens is