I have conscioulsy refrained from writing about photograph exhibits. I can appreciate good composition, and to a certain extent, great lighting. I even follow some of the contemporary art practitioners who work with this medium. Cindy Sherman and her manifold manifestations fascinates me. Its just that I am a total ignoramus when it comes to the processes used to bring forth photographic images. A real handicap because in the art of photography, just as it is in printmaking, a knowledge of the techniques employed by the artist deepens one’s appreciation of the final output.
What an interesting surprise then to stumble onto Sundance, a month-long show featuring works by Kawayan De Guia, Neal Oshima, Allan
Razo, and Julius Clar one hour before it opened at Silverlens Gallery. We came from across the bridge to check out the shows at SLab, and decided to take a quick peep before heading home. How lucky for us that we did. Luckier still that Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo, no slouches in the photography department, were around to take us through the works on the walls, discuss the show’s concept, and the techniques employed by the artists.
As Isa explained, the show came together as a reaction against the fast track, instantaneous results brought about by the advent of digital photography. In this show, the four artists went back to the the beginnings of photography, to a time when early photographers relied primarily on the sun as the main ingredient to bring their images to life. The artists call their pieces photograms, the result of fastidious, labor-intensive crafting from their own hands, combined with a reliance on chance, timing, and the weather’s cooperation. An added bonus, aside from the beautiful images on view, is that these photograms have a longer lifespan than a photograph printed the 21st century way. Also, because of the nature of the
processes undertaken, each piece becomes unique.
I have always loved Kawayan de Guia’s work. In this show, he brings 12 pieces of his images produced using a printing process called Cyanotype, first used to record botanicals in the 19th century. The resulting photograms have a bluish tinge which he frames like museum artifacts. He separates a small
compartment where he inserts his found objects, a bark of wood, or an interestingly-shaped leaf, or a plaster-cast shape of a hand. How amazing that a century-old technique yields pieces that feel so now, so Kawayan.
Julius Clar, now based in Dubai, uses Vandyke printing to engender his brown-tinged, quietly beautiful, small-sized pieces. I particularly liked his photos of a playing card and various boxed knickknacks.
Isa calls Allan Razo the perfectionist of the group. He works with the historical process of Gum over
Platinum/Palladium printing, so far the only one on record that does so in the Philippines. Some of his luminous images have taken a year to produce and perfect.
Like Julius, Neil Oshima also makes use of the Vandyke method. As always, he is brilliant. In this show, he has his trademark barong and saya images, as transluscent as the pina fiber of which they are made. His solo show at Silverlens two months ago,
when he used these alternative print processes to record children at play, came out just as exceptional.
What a good feeling to have when you leave a show thoroughly satisfied with the art on view. Though I will never aspire to going beyond the idiot-proof point-and-shoot camera, what
a great way to discover a new medium to appreciate.
Sundance is on view from 24 June to 25 July 2009 at the Silverlens Gallery, 2/F YMC Building 2, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. Ph(632)816-0044 or visit http://www.silverlensphoto.com