Tuesday, December 04, 2007

It Takes Skill to be Green

Environmental concerns are grabbing headlines the world over. Global warming, oil prices heading for the stratosphere, land degradation, they are all grist for the media mill. What we have done to our planet and to a large part our apparent lack of concern are the raw materials that inspire Ruel Caasi’s latest exhibition, Oil Paintings, at the Drawing Room Gallery.

The title of the exhibition would seem to point an accusing finger at only one of the players. For the works in this exhibition are mixed media on canvas and paper with the aroma of linseed oil and turpentine being conspicuous by its absence. With that being said Caasi does use a broader brush within these works to ensnare a wider field of culprits, ourselves included.

The large canvases in the exhibition, which range from 4 to 6 feet in size, are Caasi’s bold statements. Using a palette predominantly of browns, black and muddied whites with the occasional dash primary colour, he creates his abstracted visions of plundered landscapes and swirling vortexes. Abstract expressionist workings of the paint inform “Proposed Artificial Landscape” and “Open Landscape from Satellite” with the latter having an eye catching cadmium yellow lighting bolt. The vortexes depicted in “Photo Sensitive 1 and 2” and “Cast a Circle on the Earth” have varying numbers of small squares applied which are arranged like Victorian lattice windows that have long lost their clarity.

Superimposed on all of Caasi’s canvases are large broken squares that mirror the pictures’ edges with their inner sections eaten away to reveal the underlying painting. This recurring motive is both a part of the painting and a frame that constrains. It also provides a bridge to the smaller works on paper in which the square motive dominates.

Framed under glass, Caasi’s works on paper create a more intimate conversation with his audience. In each a central square sits on a field of one colour that creates a subtle influence over it. The activity in these works happens within the central square or on its periphery. Like in “Catalyst” where the surrounding olive green informs the grey central square which on its lower left edge sits a dark green distorted rectangle with a slim rectangle of almost emerald green at its side.

Whether orating to the multitude or speaking quietly one on one, Ruel Caasi’s concerns for and about our planet come through loud and clear. That he can and does do both in this exhibition not only provides food for thought but also displays his skill as an artist. For as much as these works are about the environment they are also about the man and his materials.

Ruel Caasi’s “Oil Paintings” exhibition continues until the 15th of December at the Drawing Room Gallery, 1007 Metropolitan Ave, Makati.

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