I made it a point to come in early for the opening reception of Attached, Mark Salvatus’ show at The Drawing Room. You appreciate Mark’s work by going through his process, the thinking that went behind the creation of his pieces. I wanted a chance to speak to him before the crowds made their appearance.
This show brings together various projects, components of a series he calls Wrapped. The work he exhibits here continue from work that he carried out in the various communities around the world where he spent time in art residency programs. To quote Lisa Chikiamco’s notes, “…these projects examine the ideas of presence through the imprints left behind.”
Attached is also the title of the exhibit’s main piece, the latest work in this series. Mark stationed himself in his downtown Manila neighborhood and asked random passers-by to trace possessions found on their person onto sheets of paper. He then filled these outlines with pencil patterns that make these objects appear to be swathed in bandages. Hence, “wrapped”. Mark cut out each person’s collection of “wrapped” objects and framed them in glass. In the show, we see the frames installed as vitrines lined up on the walls, one frame for each individual’s group of objects. You get diverted going through the vitrines and identifying the objects through their wrapped outlines (was that a set of keys or a lizard with a squiggly tail?).
On the gallery’s main exhibit wall hangs Wrapped: Persona, a piece that includes some video element. Mark started work on this in 2007. He photographed individuals with their faces covered by a generic “wrapped” mask. Mark then made an approximation of the shapes of these individuals’ heads, “wrapped” these with his pencil patterns, and cut them out. He has dozens of these wrapped paper masks installed on the wall beside his video
Mark Salvatus makes my list of the most talented and intelligent artists working in Manila today. His strength comes out when he mounts pieces that have gone through a complete conceptual process. In other words, they don’t work as well in group shows where he is perhaps limited to doing wall-bound, more commercial pieces. He has brought his art to Europe, the Middle East, and to other parts of Asia. In May, he represented the collective TutoK at Melbourne’s Next Wave Festival. However, I do admit a bias towards his pieces produced from his immersion with inmates in the Manila City Jail, work shown in his exhibit Courtyard at Pablo last year. I also loved Secret Garden, his piece for the 2009 Sungduan at the National Musem, for which he has been shortlisted for this year’s Ateneo Art Awards. While I don’t find Attached as compelling as his previous exhibits, the works do prove the commitment he invests on his concepts. If you find the time to speak to him, as I did, you can’t but admire the steadfastness with which he regards his practice of art.
Attached runs from 26 June to 17 July 2010 at The Drawing Room Contemporary Art, 1007 Metropolitan Ave, Metrostar Bldg., Makati City. Phone (632) 897-7877 or visit http://www.drawingroomgallery.com or visit http://marksalvatus.blogspot.com