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.