Nothing ever appears haphazard in a Geraldine Javier exhibit. Every element is carefully considered for cohesiveness, nary a detail out of place. Always Wild, Still Wild, now on view at Finale Art File, demonstrates this yet again.
Ghe’s latest works combine her excellent painting skills with the old fashioned craft of tatting, a 19th century technique for creating lace. She admits an obsession to weaving these floral strands, and has used them throughout all her pieces in the exhibit. They not only add a layer of texture and a dash of detail to her paintings and installations, they also tie the show together.
Her recent works have displayed a penchant for incorporating her hobbies into her paintings. Ghe’s last solo exhibit, 2009’s Butterfly’s Tongue at West Gallery, first brought this out in a major way. That show gave us important pieces where her embroidery and collection of preserved insects played an integral role to the paintings in which they had been embedded.
This exhibit attempts to recreate Ghe’s childhood environment in Candelaria, Quezon. Abundant fruit trees within her family compound sheltered swings, a bahay kubo, and a host of pets. To this day, whenever she visits, she spends her time outdoors, a luxury she craves in Manila. Ghe deliberately veered away from the dark and emotionally charged narratives that usually spring from her canvases. She describes putting this show together as a healing process, a break. Even the sizes of her paintings reflect this shift. She chose to work with mostly small ones for this show.
A large hammock supported by garlands of tatted lace hangs at the center of Finale’s massive floor space. On the hammock’s wispy fabric, Ghe has embroidered a representation of herself sleeping amidst a slew of brightly colored lace florets and embroidered butterflies. She calls this piece The Tree In Me, and I thought it served as a wonderful centerpiece. The sylvan swags and butterflies made me think of Botticelli’s Primavera, of the adornments on Flora’s hair. We witness another dimension to Ghe’s art practice, her versatility in creating exciting pieces beyond paintings.
Trees have figured frequently in Ghe’s recent oils. In this particular suite, they are the subjects of the only large-scale paintings on the gallery’s walls. A collection of antlered animals–deer, elk, and moose– populates her smaller canvases. She renders each one festooned with strands of tatting. The ornamentations celebrate the cycle of life, of antlers shed to make way for new ones.
Full House is an installation anchored on a mural of a bare tree painted directly on Finale’s far wall. Two swings, from the same diaphanous fabric as the hammock, hang from the ceiling on either side of the tree. Its branches have been embellished with framed clumps of shredded leftover yarn. These multicolored “nests” make their debut in this exhibit. Those of us who
follow Ghe’s art know that these are most likely to reappear in succeeding pieces, threshed out and developed into something else altogether.
While the exhibit evokes a frolic in the woods, it did not strike me as lighthearted as perhaps had been intended. Ghe’s choice of images inclines to the mysterious and dramatic. The tree paintings– The Vein, The Provider, and Where are the fireflies? — are of trees in winter, with craggy branches devoid of leaves and fruits. The animal portraits conjure images of the hunt, their antlered heads could be trophies snared from a successful chase. These paintings sport titles taken from names of actors from the movie The Deerhunter— not exactly conducive to lending them a carefree air.
As usual, the level of Ghe’s workmanship does not disappoint. I thought this exhibit was supposed to serve as a breather, a pause before a major solo debut in Seoul’s Arario Gallery in May. But the thoroughness with which she tackles her concepts, and her constant forays into the unexpected, ensure that no Geraldine Javier work–or exhibit– can ever be labeled as minor.
Always Wild, Still Wild runs from 4 to 26 March 2011 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City. Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit http://www.finaleartfile.com