Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Ways of Making Art for the Now

From Jackson Pollock’s action paintings to Marcel Duchamp’s ready mades, from Andy Warhol’s soup cans to Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro, artists throughout the ages have sought to find new and challenging ways to express their ideas. Be it deliberate or accidental these new ways of expression invigorated their art presenting their ideas afresh in ways that represented the tenor of their times. And so it is with the latest exhibition at Galleria Duemila.

Two artists, Kidlat De Guia and Leonardo Aguinaldo, present works that, whilst disparate in execution, look at aspects of Filipino life and question the idiosyncrasies that underpin it. Their choice of mediums and presentation not only informs their subject matter, it enhances the exploration of their themes.

In “Sleeping White Elephants”, photographer De Guia uses duratrans, the staple of the fast food industry’s overhead illustrative menus, to present the skeletal remains of “it seemed like a good idea at the time.” His backlit photographs of the abandoned, unfinished high rises that are common sight in the Manila skyline stand as monuments to lost enthusiasm in a culture of increasingly instant gratification. This is particularly evident in “Matalino St (14° 38’ 42.26”N 123° 03’ 01.43”E)”, a dramatic sky behind the incomplete condos with the Golden Arches in the foreground is presented in a concrete with corrugated iron bar lightbox perched upon a plinth of hollow blocks.

Then there is the massive “Turkey Special (14° 36’ 55.62”N 121° 02’ 21.78”E)” presented in similar manner which depicts another incomplete condo with its middle ground guard house and a turkey scratching in the foreground dust. Like their subject matter, these works are in your face and with the GPS locations included in their titles De Guia challenges his audience to ignore his observations.

In the front room of Galleria Duemila is “Connectivity” where folk artist Leonardo Aguinaldo exploits a fortuitous accident with his unique works that extend this highly regarded form of Filipino art. Aguinaldo whilst making rubber (lino) prints ran out of paper, undeterred the Baguio artist turned the rubber matrix into the art work. Filling the cuts with paint, he creates detailed works which explore the events, both local and global, he sees influencing and propelling Filipino life.

In the folk art tradition of utilizing a range of everyday images as metaphors, of which a sealed road that morphs into an electrical plug or outlet is a favourite, he creates imaginative vistas that address his societal concerns. Like in “Travelogue” where a family travels through a lush tropical scene heading for primordial landscape of volcanoes intersected red and yellow highways. Then there is “Tales from the Watershed” in which a workman with tool bag in one hand and trowel in the other stands like a colossus amidst intersecting roads with elves and mushrooms whilst overhead hovers a road map creature from a cave wall.

Like those who have gone before them, both De Guia and Aguinaldo are exploiting new avenues within the available technologies, either appropriated or improvised, to make art that resonates in the 21st Century. “Sleeping White Elephants” and “Connectivity” continue at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St, Pasay City until the 2nd of July.

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