The glossy, hyper realistic, gigantic celebrity portraits of American artist Richard Phillips stimulated the concept behind Even Bad Days Are Good, Mariano Ching’s solo exhibit now on view at SLab. Phillips’ glammed up subjects, sourced from photographs of the famous, icons of popular culture, and even soft-porn movie stars, look out vacantly from within their frames. They stare stiffly back at viewers, frozen in their perfection, devoid of emotion.
Nano sought to create antitheses of these flawless faces. A book of Diane Arbus’ photographs led him to circus freaks, to the idea of portraying their aberrations in magnified proportions. In this show, he has introduced us to work he collectively calls his Portrait Series.
The three faces Nano painted as part of this series, Dog Faced Boy, Man With Three Eyes, and The Elephant Man, depart from work he has done in the past. We have come to associate him with fantastic landscapes full of microscopic details. However, he has always shown a partiality towards elements of science fiction and the exaggerated imagery of Japanese anime. So it does not come as too
much of a surprise that mutants have drawn him in. Dog Faced Boy, the show’s invitation piece, is especially notable for the polish with which Nano has completed it. He obviously spent time working on this painting.
Wild Man and The Four-Legged Woman, the show’s biggest canvases at 7ft x 6ft
each, hew closer to Nano’s typical work. More narratives than portraits, he has set his subjects amidst an expanse of empty space, a device he has frequently used before. I like the movement in Wild Man, although it would have worked just as well on a smaller canvas.
The exhibit also includes four of his pyrographs and acrylics on wood. Their titles indicate that they belong to his Portrait Series, even if strictly speaking, they should not. They also don’t seem to have anything to do with the paintings on canvas. None of their subjects relate to circus freaks, at least, not as far as I can tell. But with them, one can’t but appreciate Nano’s skill in working small-scale. They do showcase him at his best.
Even Bad Days Are Good runs from 16 February to 19 March 2011 at SLab, 2f YMC Bldg., 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati City. Phone (632) 816-0044 or visit http://www.slab.silverlensphoto.com