Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And in the Blue Corner

Drawing with light is a commonly used euphemism for photography. At the end of his career the great French photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, went so far as to say "All I care about these days is painting - photography has never been more than a way into painting, a sort of instant drawing." Philippine National Artist, Benedicto Cabrera, better known by his non de plum of Bencab, has taken the proposition one step further with his latest exhibition at the Silverlens Gallery. “Related Images” is a series of 30 inch by 22 inch works on paper where the photograph of a female nude is juxtaposed with a drawing of the model in a similar pose.

A self confessed obsessive as far as drawing is concerned with an interest in photography the confidence and the quality, for the most part, of BenCab’s drawing comes as no surprise. That the quality of his photography is also of a high standard is a plus with its often post production solarizing effects adding rather than detracting from the interaction between the two media, although the interaction is more often combative than inclusive.

Of the twelve works on show in only a third do the photograph and the drawing complement each other with #05 and #06 being strong works that reflect effectively upon the nature of the undertaking. In the other works the balance is uneven with either the drawing, with #11 being arguably the strongest drawing on display, or the photograph trumping its counterpart. In most cases when the photograph predominates it is due to weakness in the drawing coming from an anatomically questionable rendering which in representational work such as presented in this exhibition is disquieting and distracting.

The largest piece in the exhibition, coming in at 4 feet by 27 feet, has no photographic connection. “Nude Variations” is BenCab’s homage to the female form in pastel and charcoal. It is a massive work book of 62 nude studies that leaves no part unstudied. One can imagine it pinned to the studio wall as the artist explores ideas and poses that range from detail studies to lighting sketches.

Drawing is said to be the bed rock upon which skill in the visual arts is founded, although photography has been nipping at its heels for some time. In this exhibition, BenCab shows that be it instant or labour intensive, it is a clarity of vision that is the real prerequisite. Little of value can be transported to the page without the artist first having explored as many of the subject’s ramifications as are available.

“Related Images” is on display at the Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City until the 5th of July. For more info visit www.silverlensphoto.com.


Unknown said...

Hello Henry. I have seen the e-vite mailed in by Silverlens yeaterday regarding BenCab's Installation & Book Launching and I think i've seen that (the largest piece measuring 4 feet by 27 feet) before- last year to be exact during a visit (courtesy of Ross Capili) to his studio in Baguio. It so happened that I also had an exhibit at Bliss Cafe and Ross invited me to come over. Can't wait to see the finished work. Regards

Henry Bateman said...
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Henry Bateman said...

G'day Dennis
Related Images is an exhibition that is well worth the time spent in visiting it. With regard to BenCab's large piece it brings to my mind the old chestnut of "the ends justifying the means" which for me invariably ends up at "never mind the quality, feel the width".
Which reminds me of a well remembered incident that happened several years ago. At a touring exhibition presented by the Art Gallery of WA I came across a drawing by Raphael of a youth wearing a floppy hat. I spent 45 minutes engrossed in conversation with that boy and ever since it has become a bench mark for me as far as drawing is concerned.
I guess what I am trying say here is less is more.
Whatever, would be interested in hearing your thoughts once you have seen the completed work.