Talk about an artist with universal appeal. Everybody loves Pam Yan Santos. Her work radiates positivity, warmth, and sincerity without resorting to triteness. Those of us who follow her career feel that we know her well. Her journey as a young wife and mother frequently serve as take off points to her art. Yet we never seem to tire of her continued references to home and family ties. Perhaps because we realize that as she draws from within, she always discovers something fresh and unique to share with us. It also helps that when we see one of her paintings on serigraphs, we know that we get a piece that has been put together with careful attention to detail and fastidious craftsmanship.
Makes Sense takes inspiration from her son, Juno. He is at the stage when he begins to piece together experiences and influences in a logical manner. Juno has started to realize how different situations may connect to one another.
Pam’s pieces display multiple layers of technique and meaning. Using a collection of old photographs culled mostly from her husband’s family as references, she completes eight painted images and two installations for this show.
In Spell Sunday, she creates a verbal and visual pun, playing with the words sunday and sundae. You see a family sitting down together to enjoy an ice cream sundae. You understand that this happens on a Sunday, the day when we usually get together with our immediate and extended families. The focal point of this work, standing dead center, is a perfect, photorealistic depiction of the ice cream sundae. As your eyes move outward, you notice the other details. Outside the ice cream parlor, you see an older couple carrying some luggage. You wonder, have they come to join the group, or have they just left, off to spend their Sunday in their own way? Spell Sunday allows us to define our Sundays.
I love the piece 2280 Hours. On one part of the diptych, Pam paints the lower part of someone’s denim-clad legs, crossed impatiently, marking time. The second part, so beautifully rendered, she depicts a crocheted coverlet that had been made by the grandmother of her husband, John. In this piece, Pam marvels at the pace of life in days gone by that allowed ladies the luxury to create such lovely objects for one’s home and family. The title of the piece comes from the number of hours she spent putting together all her work for this show. She reflects on time to remark on its passing and as a reminder to people who always feel pressed for time.
Are You Afraid Of The Onion recounts an amusing incident. One day, as they sat slicing onions in their kitchen, Juno noticed the tears that the onions induced. This left him fascinated. Apparently, the incident made such an impression on him that on another occasion, when he noticed his mom in tears after she had watched a particularly touching show on television, he asked “Mommy, are you afraid of the onion?”
A lady in a red patterned dress examines her shoes in Encircle The Correct Answer. Beneath this line, two responses have been chosen: feet in and fit in. Like most things in life, no one answer wins over another.
The show’s biggest piece All Together Now…Ready Sing shows six men in various stages of enjoying a meal. All wear identical outfits of white shirts and light blue ties. They look so in sync, as if obeying instructions from the faceless conductor on the right side of the canvas. In this work, Pam pays an oblique tribute to John’s uncle, Ramon Santos, who unintentionally participated in the National Artist controversy earlier this year. Santos had been recommended for the award by the panel that selects National Artists, only to be stricken off the list to make way for Malacañang’s nominees. Look closely and you will see the musical score from one of Ramon Santos’ original creations. He makes another appearance in When Do We Say The Following. Pam uses his image beside her depiction of a door panel secured by several locks.
At Art Informal’s foyer, Pam mounts two installations that respond to each other. As you come in the gallery’s doors, you see seven different chairs arranged in a circle but facing outward. In each of the chairs, she hangs papier mache balloons displaying various patterns. In this game of musical chairs, all seven participants have a seat, nobody gets eliminated. The chairs become a celebration of individuality and personal identity, a lesson she takes pains to impart to her son. A student’s chair faces the foyer’s wall. On the wall, Pam has reproduced Juno’s doodles of smiley faces. At the center of the piece, she hangs a small blackboard. Here, viewers write down the number of smiley faces they think Pam has printed on the wall. The incentive for the one who comes closest? The chance to bring home one of the balloons!
Because of her choice of images, Pam’s pieces give off a nostalgic air. You feel transported to the 1960s and 1970s, and this adds to the feeling of wholesomeness that pervades in her work. Her technique, however, with its combination of printed and painted layers, definitely comes from today. As the award bodies of both the Ateneo Art Awards and the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards have attested this year, Pam Yan Santos is one of the most exciting contemporary artists practicing at present.
Makes Sense runs from 27 November to 16 December 2009 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City. Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit http://www.artinformal.com