Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Through Australian Eyes

Next Tuesday (March 4) evening at 7pm will see the opening of my first Philippine exhibition. Sixteen of my photographs will be on display at the One Workshop Gallery until the 4th of April.

Fourteen of the works were shown last September at the Australian National University’s Photospace Gallery and an extra 2 works have been added for the Philippine exhibition.

"Easter Shrine I"

"Filipino Dreaming"

Document my last 3 years of living in the Philippines these works concentrate on my experiences and understanding of shopping, religion and the provinces of my adopted country. These are areas that stand out for me as they contrast most markedly with my Australian experiences.

Shopping is a social event here. Even when they have nothing to buy, Filipinos still go shopping; it’s called “malling”. True people hang out at malls in Aus but not to the same extent, here it should be considered a national sport. If “malling” were an Olympic event the Philippines would take home gold, silver and bronze.

Religion in Australia is a much more private affair. When you see someone in public cross themselves in Aus it is a last act of contrition before meeting their maker. Here you can be quietly riding in a jeep when all of a sudden your fellow passengers start to cross themselves. OMG what calamity is about to befall us, Oh we’re passing a church.

In the provinces you become acutely aware of your foreign status. Less English is spoken and my Tagalog is at best “konti lang” and you become an object of curiosity. Kids peeking out at you from behind their mother’s skirts would be disarming if it weren’t so damn cute.

If you have some free time and are in the area next Tuesday evening drop by and say “Hi”.

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 www.silverlensphoto.com.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Smile in the Face of Adversity

Publish in What's On & Expat, 17 February 2008

In the Greek legend of Pandora and her box, it is well known that upon its opening all the troubles of the world were unleashed with the last to emerge being hope. Although considered by many to be a virtue along with faith and charity, to others, such as the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, hope is the worst of troubles. About hope he says “In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man's torment.”

In her current exhibition, “After the Rain” at Galleria Duemila, the Italian based Filipino artist Lina Llaguno-Ciani tends towards the more populist view. The oils on canvas in this exhibition, inspired by a severe storm in Bicol last year, are presented with a definitely optimistic palette of endearing hues.

Some of the works even have a photographic recorded moment in time feel about them. Such as “After the Storm” where a butterfly, three ants and a dragonfly inspect a ravaged fence line or “Bird Song” where a small song bird debates which tune will best express the fate of the precariously balanced leaf below its perch. These paintings portray Llaguno-Ciani’s extensive graphic abilities and the lovingly captured detail she includes in the works showcase her excellent drawing skills.

And these skills are clearly evident in her other works. Like the detailed rendering of the pinned leaves and butterflies in the superimposed panel over the bleak leafless trees of “Tree Tanaga 3”. Along with butterflies, which provide the foliage for the twisted tree with an egg half buried at its base in “Tree Tanaga 2”, the egg is a recurring motif in Llaguno-Ciani’s work. In “Tree Tanaga 1” the branches of the twisted, leafless tree are adorned with eggs, one of which shows an embryonic fish like creature as occupant. Then there is "Sisyphus' Hometown" in which the fictional character rolls an egg towards an unperceived precipice on a rickety man made structure over a rocky, debris strewn foreground.

In this exhibition the glass is half full, as Llaguno-Ciani rejects the German philosopher’s maxim and allows her Filipino heritage of “a smile in the face of adversity” to shine through. “After the Rain” continues at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St, Pasay City until the end of the month. More information is available at www.galleriaduemila.com along with a preview of the works, although it is a much more rewarding experience to see them in the flesh than on the small screen

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who is taking the Piss

Security forces have been battling various armed groups across the Philippines [AFP]
The above image and caption appeared on Al Jarrzera
Feb 14 for more see here

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Good Day to be an Aussie

It's been a long time coming but finally today the country of my birth did the right thing. The majority looked into their hearts and apologized for the harsh treatment that has been metered out to the original inhabitants during the European invasion of Australia.

On behalf of all Australians, the new elected Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, said sorry to the stolen generation in particular and to all aborigines in general for the excesses of Australia's white history.

It's a good day to be an Aussie.

More about this can be seen here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Outsiders A to Z of the American Primaries

A is for America, the place where it is all happening. Well specifically, that bit of America sandwiched between Canada and Mexico which waylays the immigrants from the latter on their way to the formers free health care.

B is for Barrack, a noisy rabble rousing cheer when your man gets a nose in front. When your name is Barack its gotta mean something, not too sure what though.

C is for Clinton, the experienced Democrat in the race. But will they respect her in the morning?

D is for Democrat, which has very little, if anything, to do with democracy. Unless of course you’re a Superdelegate.

E is for Election, which has very little, if anything, to do with democracy. Unless you’re a Supreme Court Judge or a one armed bandit pretending to be a ballot paper.

F is for Fovourite, as in American Idol which we are told has a higher recognition factor for its winner than those in these other races.

G is for a Grand Old Party, where they smash everything they touch. Give them enough time and I suspect they could trash the whole barn.

H is for Huckabee, a plate smasher for God.

I is for internet, a noisy place where anyone can, and dose, have their say, mmmmmmm is that democracy?

J is for the old joke, How do you know when a politician is lying?…….. Their mouth is moving.

K is for kleptomania, a handy personal trait for recent incumbents.

L is for Lies, (see J)

M is for Money, the single most important ingredient needed to stand a chance of even being considered.

N is for November, the month that every year hosts a Horse race in Australia and every 4 years in America.

O is for Obama, will the US of A really elect a black President? (See P)

P is for President, traditionally a male WASP, will it really change?

Q is for Quest, the best beggar, sorry fund raiser, gets the nod. (See M)

R is for Republican, (see G)

S is for superdelegate. How the back room boys of the Democratic Party ensure their anointed is chosen over the wishes of the rank and file.

T is for Term, 4 years if you are good, 8 if you’re not.

U is for USA or US of A, the other name for America.

V is for vote, where you get to choose the lesser of two evils.

W is for woman, will the US of A really elect a female President? (See P)

X is for xenophobia, if you have to look it up consider yourself an honoree American

Y is for Yes Man, you gotta repay the man who got you elected. (See M)

Z is for the zzzzzzzz factor included in most political speeches.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stuff to Fill the Shelves of our Lives

Published in The What's On & Expat, February 10 2008

There is no denying that we live in an age of information overload. Like a flea market stall there are a thousand and one messages competing for our attention mostly underpinned by a commercial imperative. And usually associated with the hazy notion that the ownership of product X will improve our lives beyond our wildest dreams, Nirvana is just a few pesos away.

Artist Francesca Enriquez calls this idea into question in her latest exhibition at the Finale Art File Gallery at the La’O Centre in Makati. On display are eight, smallish oil on canvas, works that in the main abound with visual stimuli. The use of the thick paint and prominent brush work of the impasto style of painting add to the conglomeration of depicted objects that often seem unrelated in their juxtaposition.

In “Gimme Shelter” and “Maria and Kevin” interiors and exteriors inter mingle, the everyday and the exotic sit cheek by jowl jockeying for attention. They are all commodities you can take home, if not literally then at least on a postcard; stuff to fill the shelves of our lives. In “Maria” and the Red Series she extends the metaphor as she includes people into the works. Like the other clutter of things these figures battle for recognition amongst the bric-a-brac.

Enriquez embraces the truism that nature abhors a vacuum with gusto with the questions that drip from her paintings being about what fulfills our lives in this 21st Century of marketing overload? There are no “chocolate boxes” in this exhibition, nor as I recall any chocolate, but that rationale sure does get a work over.

Enriquez’s exhibition at the Finale Art File gallery, 4th floor, La’O Centre, corner of Pasay Rd and Makati Ave in Makati City continues until the 20th February. More information can be found on the internet at http://www.finaleartfile.com/show08_keka.html

Monday, February 04, 2008

Kitchen Capers by the Experimental Chef

A new cooking blog has hit the blogsphere and I can attest to the quality of end result of the recipes offered there. The Experimental Chef is my step son Paolo and although there is only a couple of recipes on offer I have eaten them both and they were bloody tasty.

Got some time on your hands and want to try something a little different in the kitchen check it out at http://kitcap.blogspot.com.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Aussie Art in 08

Published in What's On and Expat, 3 Feburary 2008

The 26th of January is Australia’s national day and in the Land Down Under it is celebrated with flag raisings, citizenship ceremonies and a wide range of sporting events. To mark the occasion here in the Philippines, the Australian Embassy organized “Celebrate Australia 2008”, a series of music and film events and an art exhibition that showcase the diversity that is the Land of Oz.

To start the ball rolling, the Australian Ambassador, H.E. Tony Hely, Australian art curator Zara Stanhope and Secretary Alfonso T Yuchengco opened the art exhibition “The World in Painting” at the Yuchengco museum on the Wednesday evening before the big day. This exhibition is a diverse grouping of contemporary Australian art.

Featuring the work of eight Australian artists from a variety of visual disciplines it is a taste of the current Aussie art scene. There are the contemporary renderings of traditional dot paintings by Boxer Milner Tjampitjin and Nancy Napanangka that speak in an indigenous tongue about country and its mythologies. Which contrast with the na├»ve style western mythologies of James Morrison’s paintings and the modernist interiors of Gordon Bennett, aka John Citizen. Then there are the abstract works of Egyptian born Raafat Ishak’s in which he investigates the realms of home and citizen and the small scale geometric works of Diena Georgetti. Amanda Davies’ paintings that explore the everyday context of health care and Elizabeth Newman’s conceptual wall hangings that question what is a painting complete “The World in Painting’.

The exhibition continues at the Yuchengco Museum at the RCBC Plaza in Ayala Avenue until the 13th February. Other events that Celebrated Australia 2008 included a selection of movies by expat directors Peter Weir, Fred Schepisi and Bruce Beresford amongst others at the University of the Philippines Film Institute and the energetic music of Tetrafide Percussion at the Greenbelt and The Mall of Asia.

More information about these events can be obtained from the Public Affairs section at the Australian Embassy, www.philippines.embassy.gov.au.