Patrick Flores uses the word contemplation to describe Maria Taniguchi’s process of completing her drawings. She has mounted three of them on wooden plinths to stand at the main floor area of UP’s Jorge B. Vargas
Museum. The graphite drawings of negative shapes set against panels of wood have been completed with the use of a brush. Just as Patrick did, one marvels at how she has achieved the varied tones demanded in simulating wooden grains. “I asked her if she speaks to her brush”, Patrick remarked, perhaps only half-joking. In these drawings, the grains resemble more than just patterns on wood. Maria has made them fluid, almost like seascapes. To use her words, “ The grain has moved out of its shell, out of its material dimension, it’s moved on to being a more abstract encounter.”
The drawings make up part of Maria’s exhibit, Echo Studies, the show that has opened the museum’s 2011 offerings. Contemplation is the word I’d also use for the experience of viewing her show. Her pieces command quiet absorption. Maria works on simple premises that she translates to pieces whose strengths lie precisely in that simplicity—coupled with meticulous and painstaking detail.
Two acrylic paintings share the same space as her drawings. Both of them continue her preoccupation with the brick-like patterns in black that she blankets her canvases with, and on which she then superimposes the same pattern in the opposite direction. I have never seen her paintings as large as these before, though. At 15 feet high, their scale, and the amount of work Maria put into them, can very well be called epic.
The museum’s other gallery, where glass windows overlook an expanse of green that UP still has pockets of, holds the exhibit’s two other pieces. Maria travelled to Romblon and sought out the province’s famed marble carvers to recreate the arms (only the arms!) of George Kolbe’s Alba, which stands at Mies Van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Untitled (Dawn’s Arms) is a video documenting the production of these arms. Two screens show workers chiseling away at marble slabs. Further in, we encounter Untitled (Dawn’s Arms), Maria’s photograph of these same arms. White marble has been set against a black backdrop, stark and powerful. In this photo, the arms resemble antique relics found in museums. I thought it remarkable that the pivotal pieces for the works in the room, those marble arms from Romblon, do not at all put in an appearance. Instead, we are left with their palpable presence, their echo.
Maria Taniguchi: Echo Studies runs from 30 March to 28 May 2011 at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Roxas Ave., UP Diliman, Quezon City. Phone (632) 928-1927 or visit http://www.vargasmuseum.org