I got lost getting to LOST. I made a wrong turn the first time I dropped in on LOST Projects, Manila’s newest alternative art space. I came two days before the venue formally opened, and the sign outside had still been covered up. The ground floor gallery slash artist’s studio smelled faintly of paint, and its walls dazzled with a fresh white coat.
Australian artist, David Griggs, runs LOST. David first came to Manila six years ago on a residency grant. He moved here permanently last year, shipping his work to his Sydney and Melbourne dealers as he completes them. David’s paintings and photographs have been exhibited widely in Australia, at the gallery of the Sydney Opera House and as part of the Museum of Contemporary Art’s permanent collection. It has been through his efforts that Filipino artists, like Poklong Anading, have had the chance to show their work in a few Australian galleries.
LOST Projects stands squashed between a butcher and a tailor, in a low-rise commercial building across the Church of the Nativity in quiet Major Dizon St., Industrial Valley, Marikina. David has his studio on the topmost floor, a spacious aerie that allows for generous natural light. He decided to open up the ground floor space to residency grants, giving artists leave to use this as a studio and as an exhibit venue.
Pow Martinez, LOST Project’s first grantee, started his residency on July 1. He caps three months of work with March of the Pigs, a solo show that also serves as the gallery’s inaugural event.
One of the three winners of this year’s Ateneo Art Awards, Pow brings us more of his anti-painting paintings, works he has called “ridiculous”. By now, Manila audiences have become familiar with his dabs, squirts, and crude, somewhat juvenile, renditions of figures. The humor which he manages to inject in his pieces continues to surprise, as does the gradual appreciation for his paintings— the more you look at them, the more they draw you in. What at first seem like random sketches in “girlie colors” (Pow’s words) start to grow on you without trying too hard to do so, or imparting anything more
than the images before you.
Such is the case with Flushed, one of the eight paintings on exhibit, and one of the two larger ones at 6ft x 7 ft. A mass of bodies crowd inside a drain; they seem about to be sucked out of the frame, ready to float away into a black hole beyond our point of view. The absurdity of this image, coupled with Pow’s bright colors, somehow makes this piece work. I don’t always like Pow’s paintings, but this I do. As I do Ghost #1, a smaller piece at 5 ft x 4ft. The congregation of monster faces remind me of graphics from the computer games of the 1980s, with their garish, neon colors that flash on your screen. Pow used his hands to paint Skull #1, and that gives the piece (also at 5ft x 4 ft), done in white with hints of pink, its texture.
Two of his paintings, as well as his installation at the center of the gallery space, make references to Pow’s affinity to heavy metal. As a sound artist, he takes his music seriously. Napalm Death and Slayer depict metalheads proudly brandishing their band shirts. While Leviathan, fabricated from plywood poles anchored on hollow blocks, embellished with wigs and white gloves, and held together by packing tape, attempts a rough simulation of the sea monster’s coils. Leviathan is also the name of another punk rock band. It mirrors Pow’s painting style, with its crude fabrication, as if a bunch of kids played pretend and decided to build a creature .
After Pow’s show completes its run, David’s plans for Lost Projects include establishing links with and exhibits by Australian artists. Future grant recipients include photographer Sam Kiyoumarsi and multi-disciplinary artist Mark Salvatus (another 2010 Ateneo Art Awards winner).
Both David and Pow will fly to Berlin for Bastards of Misrepresentation: Doing Time On Filipino Time, an exhibit of contemporary Philippine art organized by Manuel Ocampo at the city’s Freies Museum. The show opens in two weeks.
Because LOST Projects lies off the beaten track from most commercial galleries, one experiences art without any frills, at its most raw. Somehow, it felt a little more pure. Or perhaps that’s because the space forces the viewer to concentrate on the pieces on exhibit. After all, I have seen Pow’s work in more glitzy settings. I do look forward, though, to what David and LOST have in store for us next.
March of the Pigs runs from 6 October to 14 November 2010 at LOST Projects, 18A Major Dizon St., Industrial Valley, Marikina. Viewing is by appointment only. For more information visit http://www.projectslost.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or cell (+63920)840-7277