Art reflects society as a mirror projects a face. Art is a prism that breaks the image and makes visible the other elements and layers beneath it. Art articulates what the mind and the senses perceive upon recognition of the surface, understands the complexities beyond it, and even formulates and derives pictures from the imagination. This is the main theme of the current hanging from the Carlos O. Cojuangco Collection, surFACES.
surFACES is a set of works which bring about a dialogue between man and representations of himself. It includes small to large scale paintings which basically exhibit the human face rendered in different and interesting ways.
Aesthetically, Roland Barthes defined the face as the thematic harmony of the curve of nostrils and arch of eyebrows and other regions of the face. Glitches and lapses in such may make an undesirable appearance, but perhaps, these imperfections greatly suggest the same imperfect existence of man. Variations of portrayals results to more discussion-laden interpretations. The paintings serve as the mirror, not only of man’s physical appearance, but also of his society and his personally exclusive thoughts as well.
Included in the show is Negative Light II. In this work, Olan Ventura breaks away from the conventional portrayal of the human face. He paints a woman in a negative mode as in an X-ray image rather than in a flesh tone. This suggests deviance in rendering a subject and discusses the vices and deviance in society. His subject is a cigarette-smoking woman working in a nightclub. Such deviants are usually judged by society’s stereotypes, Ventura however, attempts to debunk these notions and makes them seen in different ways. He reverses the color of the image such that the subject too, is viewed from a different perspective.
Joseph Lofranco’s Balloon may seem to be a random splash of color playing along with the viewer’s vision, but it is actually a work in which colors are intentionally layered together to form an abstract image. It would be quite a task to search for the seven faces on the canvas, but knowing that these seven faces are those of significant people who have affected lives of people around the world through their music, philosophy, and politics might give a clue on who’s who to look for. This also exhibits the fragility of man’s belief as he succumbs to these wisdom and pseudo-wisdom.
Raymond Legaspi’s Like a Virgin may foster such a cheerful and buoyant façade but it does embed meaningful messages. His work is imbued with critical and sensible iconographies. He used the santo (most probably that of the Virgin Mary’s), a Filipino icon of worship, to be the body of the pop icon, Madonna. Viewers may find this either funny (as seen in the light of pop culture and humor) or offensive (so far as religious icons are concerned) but this appropriation articulates serious directives regarding people’s fanaticism, idolatry, and veneration of artists to the extent of worshipping them.
Redd Nacpil exemplifies his graphic tendencies as he portrays a cool, hip, and young imagery of the life of the youth living in the city through geometric lines and burst of color. However, the busy lines denoting the face blurs the subject’s identity and confuses him as to what direction to take. This articulates the problems faced by the youth in our existing society. It denotes how they are having a hard time adapting to the changes brought about by culture.
surFACES is man’s interaction with something denotative of himself – including the obvious and obscure. This is a positioning where man comes face to face with another man in a different structure yet evokes the same character and quintessence as him. This is a confrontation between man, his truths, his denials, and the continuous battle that exists in between the repelling poles within him.
surFACES is an avenue for people to stare at themselves, not in front of a mirror, but affront artworks which bespeak of themselves. For there is no other that can articulate better truths but something that has been clearly laid in front of us.
PS. This is supposed to be my curatorial note for our gallery hanging. Originally without the individual analysis, but decided to put them up anyway just to foster a bloggish character to the article anyway. Hope the visuals are apt for the writing. Also, a less serious title. Photo credits to my officemate, Ali.