I loved the quiet impact of Fractures, Nona Garcia’s show that opened this week at West Gallery. I honestly did not know what to expect from this, her third show of the year, coming as it did on the heels of her SLab and Finale exhibits. For those two shows, Nona gave us major pieces, firmly announcing she had come back after a brief hiatus. As majestic as her two oversized paintings
had been, White, blank(at Slab in March) and Fall Leaves After Leaves Fall (at Finale in May) simply reacquainted us with Nona. She revisited signature devices, her portraits from behind and depictions of damaged and abandoned spaces.
In this new show, I felt that she contemplated a bit more, allowing herself the luxury of finding other avenues to express herself. She had already reminded us that she paints beautifully, that nobody captures that turn of the head or the poignancy of a mutilated vehicle as finely as she does. Here at West Gallery, Nona deliberately toned things down and indulged herself, mounting a minimalist show that let her play with her lighting and her medium.
In Gallery 1, she showed a series of twelve photo assemblages she calls Above Water. Employing the techniques of paper tole, she created three-dimensional images by building up layers of photographs reproduced from images she found online. Nona chose random black and white pictures that depicted domestic interiors ruined or affected by flood. By skillfully cutting out portions of each image, and piling up
exact duplicates of selected elements, she succeeded in creating an effect similar to that of a diorama. Each photo assemblage is framed elaborately in black, and equipped with its own lamp. Despite the small size of each piece (8”x 11” each), her crafty approach magnified the calamity and the chaos depicted within the spaces she chose. Unfortunately, my photos and video could not capture the details.
In the second gallery, Nona used the image of a crumpled ball of paper as the subject for a series of paintings entitled One-Off. This is, of course, not the first time that a ball of paper has been glorified as art. British artist Martin Creed has famously done this as an ode to its ordinariness. Nona chose to focus on its uniqueness. Just as each crumpled piece of paper can never be exactly
replicated, neither can several paintings of the same object, done by the same person, look absolutely alike. Try and spot the subtle variations in each of her paintings. Makes you wonder if the light merely plays tricks on the shadows.
I loved how Nona put together A Series of Fractures, a wall installation of several light boxes produced from x-ray plates, mounted in West’s third gallery. I know we’ve seen her do this before. But for this particular piece, her choices of found and destroyed objects jelled together to give off the most interesting patterns in various sizes. Nona intended for their figures to remain unrecognizable, to alter into abstract forms. In a show of all good pieces, this is the one I relished viewing most. It may just join the two that make my list of all-time favorite Nona works: Sitting Still from 2007 and See Saw, the 2000 Asean Art Awards Grand Prize winner (which incidentally, also made use of an x-ray light box).
As I said from the onset, I enjoyed this show very much. The exhibit felt complete and well-thought out. I also liked that Nona chose to dim the lights in each of the galleries to add drama to her small-scale pieces. I just wonder if the series of works will do just as well when broken up. One-off, the series of painted crumpled balls of paper, will totally lose its context if each painting is encountered on its own. I also feel the same about the photo assemblages. The images won’t be as strong when you only see one of
I have to say that it feels great to have Nona Garcia back in the art circuit. With one more quarter of the year left, I wonder what she has in store for us next?
Fractures runs from 27 July to 14 August 2010 at West Gallery, 48 West Avenue, Quezon City. Phone (632) 411-0336 or visit http://www.westgallery.org