Sunday, May 11, 2008

Crossing Borders

Making art that either transcends cultural borders or makes the private public is no easy undertaking. The references specific to a particular place or event can be easily overlooked if not completely missed by those who have not had the first hand experience. Consequently, the artist must rely upon generalities rather than specifics which perforce must translate into the language of art with its roots grounded in the basic elements of line, colour and form.

Two exhibitions currently showing in Makati illustrate dialogues available when presenting work that crosses these borders. Exhibit ‘A’ is “Standing Sticks” at Galleria Duemila where Australian Artist, Tony Twigg, presents a collection of sculptural works, made in Australia, to a Filipino audience. Exhibit ‘B’ is Steve Tirona’s “Will work 4 Food” at the Silverlens gallery where the Los Angeles trained photographer presents the private to the public.

Although founded on iconic Australian references which include the Tiwi Island burial poles, the intricacies of Aboriginal fish traps and the fencing of an often hostile environment these timber constructions speak in the broader terms of form and function and spatial relationships. Each of the “Standing Sticks” works define its space with a delicate balance of the positive and the negative. And in “Expanded Disc-Fish” a third spatial element is included to create a broken eclipse within the defining rectangle.

All of the works are arrangements of vertical multi-facetted timber slats decorated with enamel paint which individually provide a strong attraction. Like tribal skyscrapers the how intrigues as much as the why blurring the architectural discussion of form and function inherent in these individual elements. But stepping back and allowing the artist’s spatial concerns to come into play the individual becomes a part of its community providing a clearer voice. Like “Expanded Disc-Duality”, a 5 segment work that invokes in a rustic formulation, the long forgotten beginnings of an atypical alphabet.

The “Will Work 4 Food” exhibition currently showing at the Silverlens Gallery is a collection of fashionista style snap shots of selected contemporary Filipino artists on the thresholds of their careers circa 2005. A series of portraits and publicity stills that have the do you remember when narrative of a private album. The unframed works ranging in size from 8”x 10” to 36”x 48” are digital prints presented in an eye catching fashion magazine layout. But unlike a magazine there is no accompanying text to provide a context for an uninitiated public.

To cross from private to public or from one cultural ethos to another the language of art is a prerequisite. When line, colour and form interact in a meaningful way then the ideas they inform become intelligible to all. But when a narrowly focused narrative predominates then the works’ potential audience is likewise limited to the tribal associations from whence it came.

“Will Work 4 Food” continues until the 24th of May at The Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City and “Standing Sticks” is at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St, Pasay until 31st of May.

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