This Shall Be Out and Read Tomorrow

This is not a teaser, if you would have judged. This is actually my attempt to write about art in a conversational manner. No theories, shallow criticism. Just enough facts and interpretations for everyone to read and understand. I even had to leave it untitled. Comments are warmly welcomed.

If the Holy Spirit has descended upon the apostles to bestow the gift of tongues, Kabunyan and all other nature gods must have endowed artists Leonardo Aguinaldo, Edwin Macadaeg, Jordan Mang-osan and John Frank Sabado hands and minds of creativity and ingenuity.

These four artists come from the Tam-awan Village Artist Group nestled in Baguio City. They have lived and noticed the changes, struggles and resilience of the Cordillera art and society. As witnesses of this incessant process, Aguinaldo, Macadaeg, Mang-osan and Sabado can no less mirror and reflect the current situation of the Cordillera through their works of different media.

Four Folds is a collection of works which revolve around the Cordillera culture from its pure untainted state, to the infiltration of modernity and technology resulting to the abuse of natural resources and gaps in cultural growth, to the colonial influences, preferences even, and socio-political issues. Working in various media, these artists provide the viewers a multitude of perspectives in viewing and staging the Cordillera culture.

Common among the four artists is the incorporation of natural and geometrical patterns which appear in Cordilleran handicrafts and clothing. This manifests the significance of nature in the Cordilleran society such that they include patterns derived from river paths, old tree rings, and crawling vines into vessels, tattoo and jewelry design. These patterns denote the fluidity of the culture – its ability to stand, survive and flourish amidst and along the changes that has existed. Their employment of Cordilleran signs and symbols is also a notable correspondence among the four artists. Their use of different media and their manipulation of these emblems into a variety of ways in order to fully pronounce the message embedded in the images are the features which distinguish the artists from one another.

Edwin Macadaeg’s craft is exemplified in his works made of sand. He portrays significant figures such as the bulul (rice gods) bayawak (rice field guardians) and huts in full color, thus exhibiting the lively and interesting way of life in the Cordilleras. Also evident in his works is his careful demarcation of the ground and the sky. This defines the fine line that separates the gods from man. This expresses man’s lowliness as it also pays tribute to Kabunyan, the divine, powerful, and highest of all gods whom they pray and look up to the sky when in grief and bereavement.

John Frank Sabado utilizes paint, glue, strings and body fillers for his works. His use of strings as noticeable parallel lines in his works is representative of the Cordillera weaving. His works is a dialogue between the nature, culture and technology. He disperses tattoo patterns on the surfaces signifying beauty strength and courage. He showcases bululs wearing gas masks gathered together surveying the vast area below them to denote the Cordillerans’ wariness of technology and their resistance against its impending negative effects.

Leonardo Aguinaldo utilizes vibrant colors in addressing sociopolitical issues. He discusses the infiltration of technology and colonial culture as a norm in the modern Filipino society by combining familiar Filipino emblems with Western icons. He portrays it in such a way that that it has normally become a part of the people’s everyday lives, neither questioned nor rarely paid attention to.

Solar artist Jordan Mang-osan provides large-scale portraits of the important elderly (Maked-Se and Mensip-Ok) complete with bodily ornaments, including the Bu-aya which is a necklace believed to possess supernatural powers. His three-paneled work of portraits derived from the faces of people around him resonates the identity of the Cordillerans. Its overlapping feature suggests the communal aspect of their society. His method, Solar drawing, employs the sun’s rays and a magnifying glass which is denotative of the union of culture and technology.

As much as their concepts tackle on their discussion and opinion regarding the Cordillera culture, each of the artists’ unconventional media also bespeaks of the same matter. Works of sand, rubbercut, mixed media and the sun are not of the traditional Cordillera art per se. But, utilizing nouvelle artistic methods in exemplifying and portraying images of tradition and culture makes a sensible, profound and significant discourse of the existing Cordillera society.

My Real Name Here

 Manila, June 2011

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