When Gary-Ross Pastrana conceptualized On The Radar: 6 New Symptoms, he went back to the original brief for SLab, the gallery where the show now runs. SLab or Silverlens Lab had been intended as a space that welcomes visual arts
experiments, a complement to silverlens, Manila’s first gallery devoted to photography projects. What better way to revisit this thrust than to put together an exhibit of six artists who have just started making names for themselves? As the exhibit’s curator, Gary gave them a bit of a nudge and a push, required nothing drastic, but squeezed out more from what they are currently doing.
The show does not break new ground, we don’t see any earth shaking statements from Catalina Africa, Dina Gadia, Gail Vicente, Marija Vicente, Ryan Villamael, and Maria Jeona. I enjoyed it nevertheless. The pieces work well together, you don’t feel overwhelmed or left scratching your head. The works were fun and engaging, with just the right touch of edginess to make for exciting viewing. The exhibit has provided an opportunity for added insight into these six.
I thought that Ryan Villamael, incidentally the only male in the group, delivered an exemplary piece. Bling continues his series of creating intricate patterns from paper that he has cut by hand. I have to admit that when I first saw his solo, Cut Felt, earlier this year, his work
reminded me too much of Kara Walker’s cut out shadows. However, I have seen more from him since, his follow up at West Gallery, and now this. He seems to be on to something here, challenging himself to move what may initially come off as a crafty technique into the realm of sculpture.
Trust Maria Jeona not to shrink from celebrating her crassness. Nobody else can pull this off like she can. Three inflatable kiddie pools serve as frames for her self-portraits. In If I Were A Fish, the pool has been filled with water, and sanitary napkins stained with red paint (I’m assuming—hoping— she used paint), float within. She told me she often sees herself as a fish, and thus, we are presented with this. Laptop shows her laptop inside one of the pools. Just like for most of us, her life’s details have been saved within its memory. The funniest of the three involves a bust that looks like it has been salvaged from beauty school experiments. Identity crazy, your own worst enemy, hair and makeup by Maria Jeona shows how she would fare if she had allowed herself free reign on her grooming.
The work of Catalina Africa shares the same aesthetic as Maria Jeona: colorful and kitschy, and (at the risk of betraying my age) a little bit of Jolina Magdangal. There’s seems to be a bit of a fashionista slant going on here—a multi-colored fan-shaped
canvas, a panel of bleached denim, makeshift platform sandals, and a backlit photograph of whimsical rings adorning a pair of hands.
The last three artists all presented installations. Marija Vicente had two pieces, a mass of bound cloth, Talk Is Cheap, and a video, Too many words will lead to error, both threshed out from a recurring dream. Dina Gadia, who I am more familiar with for her
paintings and collages, presented Point of No Return, which has an intriguing banner above a collection of resin forefingers that spell out “Nooo”. Gail Vicente’s stacked The attempt to record the lifespan of dripping water has proven to be an extremely poor idea topped off by Nest apparently has sound incorporated into the piece. The chatter of the opening night crowd drowned this out, as I honestly cannot remember hearing any of it.
I am frequently asked for names of young artists to watch out for. Well, here we have six.
On The Radar: 6 New Symptoms runs from 29 June to 23 July 2011 at SLab, 2F YMC Building 2, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati. Phone (632) 816-0044 or visit http://www.slab.silverlensphoto.com