Just like the gradual onset of the rains that signalled the end to a long, hot summer, the word first went out in whispers that soon turned into a downpour of furious text messages. Winner Jumalon had finally finished work on his show, but nobody knew what to expect. And apparently, neither did the folks at Boston Gallery. More than six months ago, 100 or so art collectors sat down to a series of photo sessions with Winner. He was mounting a show of portraits, and art lovers eager to grab a piece from the elusive artist, signed up to be part of it. Even then, Winner would not reveal his entire concept. He asked only that each one bring an object of personal importance that he could also photograph.
Imagine the consternation that ensued when the invitations for the show first came out describing the outdoor venue as a graveyard marked by portraits! Not exactly palatable news to the superstitious. Before any more hysteria could erupt, the original exhibit notes had been withdrawn, replaced by a more benign write-up: Winner had simply brought his portraits out from within the gallery to another setting. That he had depicted all his subjects with their eyes closed meant only that they were reflecting on the things that meant the most to them, the objects of importance that he had painted on the reverse side of their portraits. Whatever! In any case, with trepidation and curiosity, collectors made their way up to the hills of Antipolo, to Pinto Gallery, to finally see for themselves whether much ado had been made over nothing.
Describing the exhibit installation as a graveyard was not without merit. Winner took inspiration from the grave markers of non-Christians, like the ones found in Mindanao for instance, that define burial sites with carved likenesses of the dead beneath them. Some eastern religions also pay tribute to the deceased by keeping cherished objects close to them. Winner fabricated each piece as both a portrait and a still life, one on reverse sides of each other. He painted using automotive paint on a resin base. This allows the pieces to stand outdoors. With the help of artist Ruel Caasi, he set up the exhibit to fill the grassy knoll by the gallery’s pool, all portraits facing one side, all the still lifes the opposite.
Despite the morbid thoughts that do cross your mind upon seeing 94 painted faces with their eyes shut, I thought that playing with the notion of a burial ground was the more interesting idea. It would have given the show a memorable twist, much more at par with how the show had been laid out. The gallery did not need to do a sanitation job. Did anyone really expect glamour shots? Experiencing the show would have silenced the squeamish. Winner delivered a refreshing, thoroughly engaging, out-of-the-box exhibit. The gallery should crow about this coup! Besides, don’t we all possess a sense of humor? (Well, we should!)
What a comeback for Winner Jumalon! He has not mounted a solo show these past four years. A Part proves that the wait was worth it. As was the trek to see it on a Sunday afternoon.
A Part, Winner Jumalon Solo Exhibit runs from 6 to 30 June at Pinto Art Gallery, #1 Sierra Madre Heights, Grandheights, Antipolo City. Phone (632) 697-1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.