While other countries regularly mount their biennials or triennials, our Sungdu-an is the closest thing we have to a nationally
organized visual arts event. The term sungdu-an comes from Waray and means confluence. This coming together of artistic expressions from four regions, Luzon,
Visayas, Mindanao, and the National Capital Region, began in 1996 as a project of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). This fifth edition, mounted at the National Museum in Manila, carries as its theme Current: Daloy ng Dunong.
I highly recommend a visit to the National Museum to catch this, a must for all contemporary art lovers. The pieces are super, the artists well chosen, the materials imaginatively utilized! I wish, though, that the NCCA had provided for a catalogue or brochure that could give us a better understanding of the artists’ intentions and processes. Perhaps next time they can find a sponsor from the private sector? What a pity for all the effort to go undocumented.
Of the twenty works on view, my favorites are two installations, Thou Son’s Cranes by Christine Sicangco and Vengeance of Our Childhood and Old Age from Michelline Syjuco. Christine’s use of fiber optics to change the colors of her hanging paper cranes totally charms. The colors mesmerize. Perhaps the piece may be considered a bit derivative, but who cares? Michelline’s work deals with globalization as both boon and bane to developing countries such as ours. She embellishes a large wooden horse, globalization as a Trojan gift, with the embossed steel decor of a kalesa. The horse tramples on an enlarged
Amorsolo image of an idyllic Pinoy scene. All around her space, she scatters discarded bits from an antique carossa. Through the strategic positioning of light she creates shadows, an allusion to illusion. A revolving disco ball throws its reflections around the piece, giving it movement.
In a room off the main gallery, Hanna Pettyjohn installs DFW:SOS, a prequel
to experiences she relived for her SLab show, American Sweet. In that show, she looked back at a period spent in Dallas, a time of alienation and loneliness in an American suburb. For this piece’s focal
point, she uses a large painting of a house under construction. She lived in this house during that stay in Dallas. She takes off from the painting, integrating her images of gravel with actual gravel that almost covers the room’s entire floor. Amidst this, she reprises from that previous
show scattered cast plaster replicas of this house to illustrate the monotony of the architectural landscape in that neighborhood. She also uses the terra cotta owls that made up her previous body of work. In the room’s small foyer, she installs the man-sized birdcage which has become a signature to all her shows.
As you enter the gallery, you see Requiem for 2Moro by Gutierrez Mangansakan II, a video and mixed media installation. Adjacent to it hang Keiye Miranda Tuazon’s photorealistic paintings of desolate spaces, Terrestrial Platform, Disruptured Happenings I and II.
In keeping with the exhibit’s theme on the flow of knowledge, Rodel Tapaya uses his space to reflect on oral traditions as the means to imparting knowledge. His diorama, Changing Landscapes, and his
accompanying painting, The Great Flood, seem oddly prescient. The painting recounts the revenge of the god, Lumawig, on people who do not care for their land, sending a great flood in which no one but two children survive. To expound on this, his diorama speaks of mythical gods who control water and life forms affecting water elements. He dwells on water as both giver of life and dispenser of punishment. Little did Rodel realize the aptness of his concept.
Karl Aguila’s The Bridge Project and Kiri Dalena’s Found Figures in Stones Translated by Pakil Carvers (Ka Noe and Ka Sally) occupy the gallery’s central space. Karl constructs his bridge from recycled wood and installs
this above a river of brown sugar. He has poured sugar on the bridge’s joints just as a mason would use cement to seal gaps. He works from Dumaguete and this piece reflects on sugar as both the lifeblood of Negros as well as its curse. In reaction to the show’s theme, Karl muses on the bridge’s dual role. As it subverts one from the current of water beneath, it also propels one forward, connecting towards one’s goal.
Kiri uses wood and discarded wood chips for her installation of two cowering, recumbent figures, as beautifully done as her award-winning piece from the Lopez Museum exhibit earlier this year.
A few months ago, I went to a small gallery in Don Galo, Parañaque. They featured artists who work in Cagayan de Oro. Two of them, Oscar Floirendo and Errol Balcos, have been chosen to represent Mindanao for this Sungdu-an. Oscar uses his holograms from his Philippine Art Awards piece.
Errol shows oil paintings in black, white, and red. Errol also made the short list of the 2007 Philippine Art Awards. With these paintings, you can see why.
On one wall, Rommel Pidazo installs his pieces
from found objects, mostly refuse set for the recycle bin. Errol “Budoy” Marabiles comments on the brouhaha over the selection of National Artists with
Tester. Hidden speakers blare out details of the Hello Garci scandal. Across it, Goldie Poblador mounts terrariums and
aquariums. She fills one of her tanks with janitor fish
lifted from the street, brought in by flood waters from an overflowing Marikina River. On the branches of bonsai atop one terrarium, she hangs small glass vials like tiny Christmas ornaments. She calls these vials fruits. Remove the cork stoppers from the vials and they reek of fuel. Indeed fruits borne by a polluted environment.
Sagada artist Brian Uhing hangs Angels/ Anitos . Produksyon Tramontina Inc. displays the video installation Nature Vs. Nurture. Rey Bollozos does a mixed media installation Lantang. On the gallery’s far end, Mark Salvatus creates a green, plastic garden behind a slit in the wall, a reference to a secret garden cultivated by inmates from a Quezon City jail using makeshift tools.
CJ Tañedo also chooses to bring out paintings, one of which is a relatively large one called Ode to Lazarus. Margaret Kathryn P. Tecson does a lovely hanging fish-shaped soft sculpture, Kina-Iya, constructed from fabric culled from ukay-ukay. Talaandig Artists created paintings on canvas using soil (yes soil!) as medium.
Kudos to Sungdu-an’s project team headed by Patrick Flores and to the curators who worked with the artists: Chit Ramirez, Dennis Ascalon, Irma Lacorte, and Cris Rollo! Congratulations!
Sungdu-an 5 Current: Daloy ng Dunong runs from 30 September to 15 November at the North Wing, 4F, Museum of the Filipino People, Finance Road cor Agrifina, Manila. For inquiries on the museum’s hours, call the Museum Foundation at (632)404-2685.
Artists for Sungdu-an 5 are Karl Aguila, Errol Balcos, Rey Bollozos, Kiri Dalena, Oscar Floirendo, Gutierrez Mangansakan II, Errol “Budoy” Marabiles, Keiye Miranda Tuazon, Hanna Pettyjohn, Rommel Pidazo, Goldie Poblador, Produksyon Tramontina, Inc., Mark Salvatus, Christine Sicangco, Michelline Syjuco, Talaandig Artists, CJ Tañedo, Rodel Tapaya, Margaret Kathryn Tecson, Brian Uhing, Noe Vanzuela