This October and November, Norberto “Peewee” Roldan brings his works to KL and Singapore, to the spaces of TAKSU in
both cities. Six weeks ago, the weekend before Typhoon Ondoy forever changed our definition of calamity, Peewee mounted a preview for both these shows at MO’s Space. The preview only ran for five days, and I had the good fortune to catch it.
These days, we recognize Peewee as the soul behind Green Papaya Art Projects, the bastion of cutting-edge, experimental art in Manila. It takes these shows in Taksu to remind us that Peewee is himself a practicing contemporary artist. I first saw one of Peewee’s assemblages at the Ayala Museum in 2005 when it featured Filipino art from the permanent collection of the Singapore Art Museum. I had the chance to see the same pieces on exhibit at the museum itself. How lucky for art collectors in Malaysia and Singapore to have this opportunity to see his new pieces.
A former seminarian, Peewee channels his fascination with Christian, animist, and pagan practices into his art pieces. He integrates abubots he has collected for years with curios he finds during forays into places such as Quiapo. He installs his baubles in small compartments, like shallow pigeonholes on a pharmacy shelf. His bigger works have metal and brass purses and cigarette cases or plastic compacts interspersed with old sepia photos framed in wood. He has a collection of religious stampita combined with small medallions, plastic rosaries with amulets from Siquijor inside glass bottles, or black and white wax effigies the size of one’s hand. He lines his frames with vintage wallpaper, old publications, or fabric to add another layer of texture and detail to his work.
For his smaller assemblages, he combines his toy collection, robots and action figures, with religious icons and memorabilia. In his biggest piece, he even cut up a family heirloom, priestly vestments he had inherited from an uncle.
An interesting series has him using cigar boxes to house more of his miscellany. Another brings back work originally done for a 2003 show in Australia, Pleasure and Pain. For this, he displays trinkets that give pleasure or induce pain in boxes with glass lids that we see in emergency exits for first aid kits.
I enjoyed seeing a body of Peewee’s works hanging together. You get a better sense of what he is about, this immersion in folk religious beliefs. I see so many pieces nowadays that I can’t help the ennui that occasionally sets in. But when I get that feeling of wonder and amazement, like how I felt after catching this preview, then I know why I snatch time off in the middle of a working day to view art.
Everything Is Sacred runs from 22 October to 21 November at Taksu Kuala Lumpur. Profane Is The New Sacred runs from 26 November to 20 December at Taksu Singapore. For more information, visit http://www.taksu.com