Mike Muñoz may not care that his works seem anachronistic. The overt piousness of the pieces in his solo exhibit, Christiadum, now on view at Blanc Peninsula, is precisely its point. What you want to discover when you view the show is
the wellspring from which his zeal and earnestness originates. What would drive an artist, who is not even in his forties, and one counted as a member of Surrounded By Water (a collective that pushed the boundaries of Philippine Contemporary Art) to make pieces that seem such a throwback? Created not just with such obvious fervor, but with genuine philosophical reflection as well.
Even Mike’s media hark back to artisans in the service of the Catholic Church. His works combine his talents in painting and carpentry. Most of the pieces are of multiple panels that have been painted and carved, illuminated with their own light source. Geraldine Javier described them as labors of love. Mike appropriated from Renaissance and Baroque religious art, from masters like Tiepolo, Botticelli, Holbein, Caravaggio. He painted those whose faith have been tested yet remained steadfast: St. Catherine of Sienna, Sir Thomas More, Augustine of Hippo, St. Peter, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the apostle Thomas. He gives all his pieces titles in Latin, phrases taken from Catholic dogma.
An installation made from wooden cubes hangs from ledges at one side of the gallery. The cubes resemble alphabet blocks, and they spell out, one side in Latin, the other in English, the Nicene Creed: God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, Begotten Not Made. This piece, Consubstantialem Patri, is the most visible in the exhibit, the one you glimpse even from outside the gallery’s wide windows. It signals the tone for the show; as a viewer, you know that the experience will turn out thought provoking.
The pieces seem like devotions, offerings borne by meditations on faith. I admit a certain discomfort at the very open display of devoutness. You can tell that this is not put on, however. These are not mere copies of religious art that we see in Catholic schools and parish offices. The workmanship alone puts it way above those replicas. What we get is a genuine expression of Mike’s spirituality—whatever his motivations turn out to be.
Christiadum runs from 1 to 22 June 2011 at Blanc Peninsula Manila, Manila Peninsula Hotel Arcade, Makati Avenue, Makati. Phone (63920) 9276436 or visit http://www.blanc.ph