Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Birthday Poblacion

My barangay (suburb) celebrated its 338th birthday today. Citizens got together and seriously disrupted the traffic on JP Rizal Ave, the main drag through the beautiful down town that passes the sports center. Getting home today required a detour out of the barangay round the back of Power Plant to circumnavigate the revelers. And as I write this I can hear the crack of fireworks.

OK, Now all together

"Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Poblacion
Happy birthday to you."

And my God bless all who sail in her.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What the

My friend John Doyle from Australia sent me this from American Civil Liberties Union "Ordering Pizza" (turn up your sound). Be afraid, be very afraid.

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.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not Safe For Work

Now that I have your attention here is a link to some of the best nude photography I have seen in a very long time. Czech photographer Karel Vojkovsky has a series of mostly black and white (one colour shot) shots of both genders in his "Studio Nudes 2007". Amazingly balletic poses, great composition and, a rarity in nude photography, some humour. Check it out, it is very good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Work

Wall of Dreams
Another piece inspired by the "Sleeping White Elephants" exhibition at Galleria Duemila

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Inquirer Vandalizes Review

On Thursday the 12 June the Philippine Daily Enquirer in their Global Nation section linked to my review of BenCab’s latest exhibition “Related Images” which I posted here on the 3rd of June. As is the nature of these things they posted an introduction to the link which they credited with my name. (Very nice to have a credited piece of writing in a mass circulation publication, PERHAPS)

What they did was exercise their “editorial license” and turned a mildly critical, but balanced review into one that spun in an overtly positive manner. They took two and a half of my paragraphs, turned them into three, rearranged their order, changed the odd word and phrase and re-titled the piece. Their labours can be seen here.

One of the Inquirer’s journalists (I use that term advisedly, hack maybe a better pejorative) split my first paragraph into two, OK not a bad move. But taking the last paragraph, which was rhetorical in nature, questioning the exhibition’s success within its own terms and placing it as the third paragraph where it became a positive substantive for the exhibition was journalistic vandalism.

And then to add insult to injury at the start of the following paragraph the “editorially licensed” journalist took a very good noun and turned it into a verb without an object. I mean where does the Inquirer get their journalists from, the grammar remedial class?

In the Inquirer’s version of my review this third paragraph ends on a positive note about BenCab’s photographic abilities whilst the original ends questioning his effectiveness in integrating his drawing with his photography. Ah! In the grand tabloid tradition, don’t let the facts get in the way of the story you want to tell.

In the end the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so dear reader get on down to the Silverlens Gallery and see for yourself. Is it as the Inquirer would have you believe that anything BenCab is good by definition or does the Aussie eye have a point in that “Related Images” is like the curate’s egg, good in parts.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

New Work

Walk Away Renee
This piece was inspired by the work of fellow photographer Kidlat de Guia whose current exhibition "Sleeping White Elephants" is on display at Galleria Duemila until the 2nd of July.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Movie Poster Art

Over at is a list and display of the 100 best movie posters.
"A great movie poster is a hard thing to find. Most posters are cut and paste jobs that don't sell the movie very well at all. A great poster should intrigue, shock, inspire & excite. It should be aesthetically beautiful or original."

You can suggest your personal favorites, they just may make the list.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A fortuitous synergy casts some light

Published in The Expat Newspaper 8 June 2008-

As governments scramble to contain the effects of the global food crisis with the Philippine Government’s primary concern being focused on affordable rice, an exhibition that looks at the production and distribution of essential commodities opened on the 30th of May. “Staples for Perpetuity” presents the work of sculptor Ferdinand Cacnio and painter Nunelucio Alvarado.

Cacnio’s ten coffee table sized works are a nostalgic look at his parental influences of fishing from the paternal and rice farming on the maternal. Crafted from welded sheet brass they are intricate cameos from his past growing up in a more rural Malabon. In the main, as befits memories, these vignettes are optimistic with bountiful harvests and confident figures.

That being said a couple of Cacnio’s pieces extend past the work day to encompass more universal themes. Like the toiling back to back, bent figures planting and harvesting their rice crop in “Seasons in the Sun”. And then there is “Awake while others sleep” in which a lone figure stands atop a rickety tower scanning the horizon, a look out for a passing school of fish or a signature piece for the artist himself?

Alvarado’s thirteen paintings pay homage to the merchant. Depicting scenes from the wet markets of Negros, these semi abstract works display the artist’s affection and respect for his retail neighbours. A confident colourist, with a nod towards cubism, Alvarado’s pictorial structure has the formality of a stained glass window. With their wares on display his merchants await their customer’s pleasure, whilst behind the scenes and in the margins children and animals test their resolve. These are mature works from subject selection to execution that abound with references to ensure a longevity of viewing pleasure.

Both Cacnio and Alvarado had worked on their exhibited pieces for many months prior to the current food crisis. Consequently any synergy between exhibition and crisis must be minimal even if the headlines are fortuitous although an examination of the path from resource to table does help to illuminate the ensuing debate and the role of the players.

“Staples for Perpetuity” is on display at Galerie Hans Brumann, Level three, Greenbelt 5, Makati City until the 30th June.

PS. Should you decide to visit this exhibition whilst you are there check out the ceiling of the atrium outside the gallery, it’s a work of art in its own right.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Nudity is not obscenity

A couple of weeks ago the NSW police arrested 32 photographs by Australian Photographer Bill Henson on the grounds that they were child pornography. It caused a flurry of press and blogger activity around the globe in the time honoured tradition of Art v Porn.

Yesterday, surprise, surprise, the cops decided to drop the case and release the arrested on advice from their legal department that the charge would be impossible to sustain.

Ah well, a nice couple of weeks of free publicity for Mr Henson. Now if I could dream up something for my next exhibition in August, being invited to participate in the 7th Florence Biennale is nice but I don't think it will stir up much of a controversy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Skinny Kid with the Funny Name

The skinny kid with the funny name just made history today, like up there with the landing of the first man on the moon. An African-American has a realistic shot at becoming the 44th President of the USA and basically the leader of the Western World.

Who would have thunk it? America, I dips me lid, you are growing up. Grandpa v the new kid on the block, interesting times ahead.

The pundits will chew over the reasons why the kid beat the First Lady (unless she has a very strong ace up her sleeve) but I reckon it all comes down to pronouns. The I, me, we, us and our of the language of their campaigns.

In their respective speeches on Tuesday night Obama used I and /or me 22 times, Hilary used I and/or me 73 times. Obama used we/us/our 80 times, Hilary used we/us/our 40 times.

Recalls that great line from JFK, “Don’t ask what my country can do for me, but rather, what can I do for my country” or words to that effect.

QED Hilary.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

And in the Blue Corner

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