Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Under the Talisay, 2004

Sa Ilalim ng Talisay (Under the Talisay). 
Watercolor pencils on paper, 2004

(detail of above piece)

The talisay tree (Terminalia catappa) has become quite a silent national symbol for academic achievement in the Philippines. It is said that declared national hero Jose Rizal taught his students---while in exile in Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island--- . . . under a talisay tree. University of the Philippines campuses have many of these standing alongside the more renowned acacias. I drew this inside a UP at Tacloban lecture room while waiting for/on my students during a summer art workshop.

Self-Portrait (The Sunbather), 2004

Self-Portrait (Ang Sunbather) [Self-Portrait (The Sunbather)]. 
Photograph print, graphite & watercolor pencils on watercolor paper, 2004

Hemingway's La Mar (or; Port/Portal), 2004

Hemingway's La Mar (or; Port/Portal). 
Pastel on paper, 2004 [LOST WORK]

June 2004
Tacloban City.

Dear Cel. I wish I had the money now to be able to frame this other pastel work (very small one) that I also finished late May (or was it early June?). Initially I called it "Night Swimming", because it's a portrait of a mother (with another woman) with a baby and a bag posing in front of a large portal or arch behind which is a moonlit bay. The portal or arch is actually that of Malolos' Barasoain Church, but I turned it into a mysterious or surrealist arch right beside a beach. The mother is you (or you're the model, I painted this from a fragment of a photo, that fragment showing you, Gabo in your arms, my sister Adette behind you).
    I was attracted to the fragment for two reasons. Because of the blackness in the photo backgrounding the mother, I'd once again be able to say what I need to say about our mothers' black hair, here a blackness that melds into the blackness beyond the archway. Same with the baby's hair, Gabo's black hair.
    The other reason was this: because this was a photo fragment, zooming in resulted in an Impressionist effect that I liked. Therefore this became not a portrait of you and Gabo and Adette in front of a portal to a sea in the background. This is now just a portrait of any like-looking tourist trio.
    Oh, one other thing. I kind of liked the Virgin Mary effect the arch had on the mother in the center, creating a grotto-like composition, shattered only by another figure's presence (Adette's) coming out of that grotto "cave". A Marian mother-and-child piece, then? Or, can you see a Moses-like allusion with a recall of a Nile-to-the-palace progression? But the color of the baby bag hanging from the mother's shoulder, and the color that I used for the arch to complement the mother's blue, emulates the official assignation of the light cobalt or cerulean blue color on the Virgin Mary. Thus perhaps this is more useful as a piece referencing the Catholic context than any Jewish thing.
    So now may I call this painting "Birhen"? Nah, that would be too ambitious, the picture being vague towards that direction. "Port / Portal" is more like it, or "Hemingway's La Mar," referencing Hemingway's simile involving woman and sea and moon in The Old Man and the Sea. With this final title, our piece now points to a kind of arrival, wherein the darkness of death and the limitless sea and night behind is acknowledged, whilst women and babies foreground a future of life.

Wind Above, Sea Below (I Ching Stripes) [2004]

Hangin Sa Taas, Dagat Sa Baba (I Ching Stripes) [Wind Above, Sea Below (I Ching Stripes)]. 
Line photograph and pastel on pastel paper, 2004 [LOST WORK]

July 21, 2004
Tacloban City.

Hello again, Miguel, I only just now have gotten to sit down on this other desk to write about this piece that I finished last week. I am writing a screenplay-novel, you see, the reason why I can't spend more time on my art pieces for you.
    Anyway, this is a continuation of my experiments with the line photograph. This one, of your Mama in the early '90s in front of a window and beside two umbrellas hanging from the window's ledge and facing aslant a wall, has been printed on pastel paper, thus the striped pattern effect. I got enamored with the mechanical imprint but thought of a way by which I could provide a sort of counter it. Then I saw this photograph of your Mama with a shirt bearing an I Ching hexagram and I thought this was the context-ridden stripes I was looking for.
    Then, given the angelic look on your Mama's face in that photo, I thought I'd soften the whole thing not just tone-wise (graphite could have done it) but also texture- and color-wise. So there was no better choice than pastels, as anyway this was pastel paper I printed the line photo on.
    The result? A Picasso-esque (pre-Cubist Picasso) cum Chagallian piece with Oriental allusions. All a miraculous outcome of a simple objective of letting the "impersonal" printer roller's marks fight with the soft pastel chalks' "personal" caresses.

New Society Mood of the Day, 1985

Bagong Lipunan Mood ng Araw (New Society Mood of the Day). Clay, bread buns and Nat King Cole vinyl record, 1985

Iron, 1995

Photograph, 1995

Dazed, 1995

Nahihilo [Dazed]. 
Photograph, 1995

Dirt Scorpion, 1995

Scorpion sa Alikabok [Dirt Scorpion]. 
Photograph, 1995

Untitled; or, On Top of the Paper (1995)

Di-Pinamagatan; o, Sa Ibabaw ng Papel [Untitled; or, On Top of the Paper]. 
Photograph, 1995

Collector's Item; or, Zero (1990)

Pang-Kolektor; o, Zero [Collector's Item; or, Zero].
1990. oil on canvas

Featuring nothing but my 1990s signature in impastoed, measured brushstrokes over thin pink layers on canvas, is this a tongue-in-cheek take on painting's being more a fare for collectors as against art lovers? Or does this become a pro-painting act itself, a measured salute clarifying the thin line between art-loving and art-collecting/-investing? But, again, with measured brushstrokes eluding the real signature, and in an impastoed mode, does this finally achieve nothing more than a contemplation on the arrogance of that more mental kind of self-portrait, the signing of one's name?

Window, 1990

Bintana [Window]. 
1990. oil on marine plywood

Here, I was expressing an interest in continuing to pursue my early windows series. But here I used a visual vagueness to also "vaguely narrate."

Altar at the Resort, 1990

Altar Sa May Resort [Altar at the Resort]. 
1990. oil on canvas

Here leaning on a table on my terrace, this painting is my homage to both Christianity and Symbolist painting. The rocks in the picture, emulating the flow of Middle Eastern robes, are witness to a crucifixion. The central X alludes both to the spear wound on the Christ's crucified figure and to the X on new glass windows rebelling against three dimensionality. What else could it connote? Snub-nosing realism, perhaps, in Gauguinist symbolism's favor? The island on the asphalt parking lot may signify a coffin, while the gatehouse reminds one of the INRI sign. The lifeguard tower? Ah, the centurion. The sea's horizon? Maybe a tribute to Hemingway's view of the sea as a picture of death and passage.

Cat That Met Us At The Airstrip, 1990

Pusang Sumalubong Sa Amin Sa Airstrip [Cat That Met Us At The Airstrip]. 1990. oil on marine plywood

While seemingly a progress from my attempted windows series of 1989, a later recurrent tendency first became manifest here in 1990 -- this was towards compositions that mimicked the mask. Here, a view from a cockpit of a landing plane also comes out as a cat's-face sort of mask. C'mon, doesn't it?

Monument to Our Chosen Blindness: A Self-Portrait, 1990

Monumento sa ating Pagbubulag-bulagan: Isang Self-Portreyt [Monument to Our Chosen Blindness: A Self-Portrait]. 1990. oil on wood [LOST WORK]

Again inspired by my drawings of the previous year involving portraits with surrounding floating images, I here contrived an erotic pastoral, actually a self-portrait commenting on the logging social issue.

Dividing Light; or, Made A Miracle (1989)

Mapanghating Ilaw; o, Ginawang Milagro [Dividing Light; or, Made A Miracle].1989. oil on marine plywood

An old erotic composition dividing a horizontal space into two equal narrative panels or windows. This painting was an offshoot of my narrative drawings' experiments with space (visual pun using falling asteroid and atmospheric lightning intended).

Monday, July 22, 2013

Pilate's Trip, 1990

Pilate's Trip. 1990. oil on marine plywood

In 1990 I went back to my attempt in Muro-Ami the previous year, re-studying semi-abstract composition (abstraction that leaves a tinge of visual realism). Such studies, like the above, seems to me now to have been a result of a desire to please both those looking mainly for the decorative in the abstract and those expecting immediate visual signifiers within the decorative.

Muro-ami. 1989

Muro-ami. 1989. acrylic, poster paint, black ballpoint pen on cardboard

I attempted a series involving social truths, expressed in abstract terms. In what may seem a realistic depiction of a ship's window, we can say the above is somewhat of a precursor to my next thought-out series.

Fucking a Filipina, 1989

Fucking a Filipina. 1989. watercolor, red ballpoint pen, and oil pastel on rice paper

Here, I was attempting a juxtaposition of floating figurative and abstracted  images while pursuing the possibility of arriving at a problem play. One result of my early experiments with juxtaposition or image acquisitions was this, an emulation of the movie billboard's attempts at paraphrasing a supposed existing narrative.

Self-Portrait with Jade Cutlery, 1990

Self-Portrait with Jade Cutlery. 1990. oil, charcoal, graphite and ink on box-carton board

This is my favorite little piece among my early works. Jade cutlery? Gilded plate? Platinum metal goblet on the right? Here, objects of wealth, music (or art) as luxury or . . . let's rephrase: products owned by wealth or a status of being wealthy, sitting with an image of poverty/modesty (the simple fish and rice on the wealthy's plate). Here too is an image of possible violence in the knife or switchblade or sword at the bottom of the picture. Or is this the flute (aforementioned music object) of the seated? Or both? Also notice the overly central ordering of the picture, an arrangement or composition that could be an artiste-ism in itself. The message or question: what is the artist? For whom does the artist exist or fulfill his role? Does the artist truly know what he's doing, the politics of his role and of his works within his social surround. Does he think himself a part of this surround? Or is he alone, a self-exiled outcast who occasionally visits the marketplace to sell his wares, surviving thusly?
Addendum: The thesis of this work would be repeated when I exhibited a painting with the Lakan Sining group of Bulacan at the Heritage Gallery in SM Megamall one August evening in 2006. The title of the painting was Matalas na Pang-amoy sa Mga Bagay na Wow (2006). I'll show that piece here later under its new title, The Well-Off Social Realist.

De Kooning Woman Composes Herself At The Manila International Airport Under Martial Law, 1989

De Kooning Woman Composes Herself At The Manila International Airport Under Martial Law.1989. graphite and oil spots on paper

I would aver that Willem de Kooning was probably the painter who gave us the female portraits most open to the imagination (behind the limited colors he used in every such female-inhabited canvas). Therefore I thought I might draw studies placing such a figure in a place setting as confused and marketplace-esque as the Manila International Airport (now carrying the nickname "Ninoy") under a narrative time just as confused. In one such study above, I used simply black and silver graphite and military-olive green oil spots.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pizza From Washington DC, 1989

Pizza Mula Washington DC [Pizza From Washington DC]. 1989. charcoal, graphite, wax crayon, colored pencils, black ballpoint pen, and oil pastel on paper

The contrived framing format parodies certain flairs at portrait framing. This was one of my early attempts at quasi-expressionist portraiture -- portraying no model's face but an abstract Westerner (a Lincolnian sort of face, but black, or perhaps only supposedly in bronze). So the face becomes a symbol of America, surrounded by other soft emblems from pop culture (even the devil image is funny, isn't it?). The whole pop-ness of this is only shattered by a diagonal red blade (sword? leaf?).
    The fragment of a colorful circular object above the central head softens again however the whole composition. Is it something you can eat? Is it the globe? Is it a feminine parasol? Or is that the literal pizza piece from Washington D.C. hanging over one's head?

Stage Blues (or, Do You Want To Be Famous?), 1989

Entablado Blues (o, Gusto Mo Bang Sumikat?) [Stage Blues (or, Do You Want To Be Famous?)]. 1989. oil pastel, wax crayon, color felt-tip markers, graphite, ink, and colored pencils on paper

Juxtaposition and vagueness, along with material/tool self-consciousness, were some of my earliest obsessions. Here, for instance, the horizontal drawing space becomes an emotional theater stage that doesn't simply mimic a theatrical setup in the realist mode. Here's juxtaposition as drama-cum-contextual-jigsaw. A blue woman's face at the right is a symbol of TV glamour surrounded by several emblems: a theater stage with a tear in the background (fictional and real -- the paper bruise was contrived). Below the stage is an ink blur (pen hatching's rain?) over seeming rocks, foregrounded by an ice cream cone ghost with a drip (dripping ink, get it?). Below all this: the golden brown grass of Sa Palikurang Nipa (see previous piece, previous post) with the framed picture, two fruits, and a star with feet with boots. The framed picture is now suddenly that of a Greek portico instead of a nipa hut.
    Heartache (corny and not), sweetness, pop-ness, down-to-earth-ness (as with grass and fruits and vegetables), pretentiousness (as with emulations of ancient European empires), ambition, sex (or sexiness), and TV-blueness. Drawing. As contrived as drama posters, not necessarily mood-less.

At the Nipa Outhouse, 1983-89

Sa Palikurang Nipa [At the Nipa Outhouse]. 1983-89. pastel pencils, graphite, wax crayon, and blue and black ballpoint pen ink on paper

Here, again, I appropriated images from past art while ignoring (or liberating them from) their historical or mythological significances. This piece puts this male figure in soft pastel grey in a rather mutilated mode (castrated, albeit only "sculpturally"). He quickly finds himself face to face with other material imagery: metal, crockery (from a Julian Schnabel work), plaster (from a Louise Bourgeois one?), hair, grass, wood. Again, I thought I could bring in the possibility of maintaining a religious intervention in the progressing juxtaposition (two crosses, the Eye of Providence [but it's a nose!]). The nipa in the title is in a graphite drawing of a framed graphite drawing.
    Here are ideas of masculinity, fragility, strength, nutrition, life, and again, God and godness. Maybe.

Haircut and Church Shapes (or, A Weekend Date with a Gum-Chewing Bitch), 1989

Haircut and Church Shapes (or, A Weekend Date with a Gum-Chewing Bitch). 1989. pastel pencil, charcoal, and graphite on paper

Another early interest of mine was the conceptual narrative, or at least storytelling with a certain intended vagueness. Content-wise in relation to the title of the piece here, we are led to a narrative. There is a context-ridden visual juxtaposition: barbershop pole taken from an Edward Hopper painting, a church window, a floor tile, and in the middle a supposed huntress/goddess (Artemis) whose arrow bag has been erased, thus making her look as if she's taking a chewing gum out of her mouth. Context therefore is more a challenge for being elusive. For example, only men and boys go to barbershops, so is she waiting for a boy? Or is she a mere statue outside, a central scene-stealer seen from inside the barbershop? Is it a Sunday? If Christian Sunday, why Artemis?
    Finally, here is a challenge to the framer, particularly the matting-maker who's supposed to follow the curves at the left of the picture. A conceptual (not necessarily Conceptualist) puzzle offering symbols of gender, power, tenderness, relaxation, the mundane, and a possible sexual innuendo. Or so I hope.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Military Wedding, 1989

Kasalang Militar [Military Wedding]. 1989. pastel pencils, charcoal, and graphite on paper [LOST WORK]

This, meanwhile, is a composition about (pastel-like) beauty, purity, (charcoal-like) machismo, war culture, and our age's (graphite-like) metallic industry. Why is the peace-symbolizing dove in charcoal?

The Sea, 1989

Ang Dagat [The Sea]. 1989. charcoal, graphite, and oil pastel on paper

This is another lost piece. And it was another experiment in juxtaposing graphite images (with their inherent shimmer) and charcoal images (with their charred appeal) over oil pastel neutrality. Inspired by the sinking of the M/V Doña Paz, the piece primarily wanted to evoke the darker side of the sea's shimmer. Here's what I would be writing if I were an art blurb writer:
     "A large tuna's happy pinkness is quickly echoed by blood red. A superimposed outrigger boat contour drawing evokes a ghost. The graphite barnacle-like shimmer on the panel-dividing wood image is overwhelmed by the dominant charcoal char. A pair of drowning "charred hands" appear as if for the last time at the frame's upper left edges (also as though clinging to the picture)."


Maroon'd, Return'd, 1989

Maroon'd, Return'd. 1989. charcoal, color pencils, oil pastel, graphite, wax crayon, and ballpoint pen on paper [LOST WORK]

Here is another one from my playing around with semantic text within art-making. It started as an attempt at a humorous play upon the "maroon"-tagged red color, then colors and darkness found themselves blooming all about the "marooned" image. Then contexts of exile and . . . a longing for return? Within images of war and spies and maternity, vis-a-vis image/pattern representations culled from ethnic art, cinema, and contented pop culture. Is that brown image behind the feet actually a large slice of chocolate cake? What is that piece of nutrition doing here then? And the abstract door symbols? Escape? Entry? McArthurian legend, this?

Imitation Scroll, 1989

Gaya-gaya Scroll (o, Mas Katoliko) [Imitation Scroll (or, More Catholic)]. 1989. wax crayon, charcoal, graphite, color pencils, ballpoint pen, and oil pastel on paper.

I was interested in parodies back in '89. Imitation Scroll is almost a parody of the mixed media result, but done from a Christian perspective. A seeming answer also to the Taoist scroll that purports to be about the problematic relationship between man and nature, Gaya-gaya celebrates instead materials as blessings, as products that derive from a persona-source that purportedly "made them all". The image of an enveloping fearsome weather condition amidst all the "blessings" could be this Christian scroll's version of the Taoist yin and yang balance that finally dissolves into the drawing art form's disciplining quietude.

All right, then

All right, as suggested by my poet-friend Vim Nadera, a blogged virtual art studio, then, for my old (later also my new) art doodles on paper and canvas. Enough said.