It comes as no surprise that Bibliography, Noell El Farol’s ongoing show at Art Informal, evinces a scholarly air. You only have
to meet the slight, soft-spoken, and bespectacled artist, who also happens to be a university professor, and you can imagine that he approaches the creation of his art in the same way he practices archeology: careful, deliberate, exact. His list of academic degrees, which include a Bachelor or Arts in Architecture from the UST College of Fine Arts, and a Diploma in Art Education from the Graduate School of Shizuoka University in
Japan, reads just as long as his list of art awards. Last year, Noell received the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Award for Achievement in Sculpture, a recognition of both his small-scale and public art pieces.
Noell’s work in glass and steel have always reflected his interest in
archeological excavations. He mounts his pieces like museum specimens, frequently encasing them in glass boxes, treating them like found relics. In this show, we see him cross over to his interest in books, the scholar’s frequent companion. He uses wrought iron to fabricate book replicas, engraving these with text, and accenting them with glass details. The exhibit presents mostly free-standing books. But I thought the most impressive work were done
with the wall-bound pieces, the recreations of reference materials.
Raw and Shock, Diptera, and Ophiogompus Susbecha (Series No. 2) look like notes from field experiments, with samples and sketches scribbled onto its pages. They are small-scale framed works, around the size of an A4 Bond Paper. All of them have etchings on glass superimposed on engraved metal. In Diptera, for instance, Noell’s glass etching of a fly’s brain floats suspended above engravings of various-sized flies on
an oxidized metal strip. In Ophiogompus Susbech (Series No. 2), a dragonfly engraved on glass hovers faintly above a row of brass dragonflies. When hit by light at the right angle, the engraving casts a shadow of a large butterfly across the smaller, metal butterflies.
With Arachnids and Insects, Noell produced another facsimile of a research sketchbook, but one that stands in the round. It resembles a thick tome, perhaps the
size of a family bible, opened up to reveal a page folded out. A magnifying glass is embedded onto this page, from which you can inspect a beetle engraved within a glass sphere, or brass butterflies positioned beside it.
Cooked Book, one of the other free-standing pieces, has letters forming the word “recipe” wrapped around it. Inside, you find metal strips engraved with handwritten recipes. Religious Inventory, on the other hand, is installed like an altarpiece; it rests on red velvet, atop a pedestal from which you view it by taking a few steps up. I thought these two seemed a bit out of place, given the scientific bent of the show. That is not to say, however, that they are not well-made.
I personally prefer Noell’s pieces that use his cast glass forms, those that are more obviously derived from his excavations. The wrought iron books seem a little too literal for my tastes. What comes through though, in this show, as well as any that feature Noell El Farol’s work, is his quiet, erudite, fastidious attitude to doing sculpture.
Bibliography runs from 2 to 20 September 2010 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong. Phone (632)725-8518 or visit http://www.artinformal.com