The Origin of Symmetry by Wesley T. Valenzuela

July 25, 2011

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of The Origin of Symmetry, Wesley T. Valenzuela’s solo exhibit at Art Informal.  A chat with the artist revealed that his intent had been to simply create balance and harmony among discordant pairs.  Hence, we are confronted with figures that combine Darth Vader and Buddha, man and machine, skulls and guns set in patterns that echo mandalas.  Indeed, as one enters the gallery, the show’s installation gives off an air of serenity and peacefulness:  the gallery’s pristine walls, freshly coated in white, set off the precisely placed pieces in red and black.

Wesley draws from his background in graphic design, a subject he teaches at Asia Pacific College concurrent to his involvement with the artist groups TutoK and Pilipinas Street Plan.  Influences from pop culture and a penchant for collecting toys and action figures come out in the processes he adopts for his work.  He has used silkscreens to create his patterns and images on canvas, while his sculptures have been fabricated from resin.

Wesley T. Valenzuela, The Origin of Symmetry runs from 20 July to 8 August 2011 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City.  Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit



Bogie’s Spectacular Surprise

November 6, 2010

Just as we wondered how many more Kotillion ladies Jose Tence Ruiz can whip up from his imagination, he springs a major

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Dama de Noche"

surprise.  A majestic, larger-than-life, three-dimensional version stands at the center of Art Informal, dominating Spectaculation:  Only The Old Die Young, Bogie’s solo exhibit now on view at the gallery’s space in Greenhills.

Back detail, "Dama de Noche"

Perhaps it was inevitable, given how closely identified these corsetted ladies have been to him.  Sooner or later, Bogie, like Pygmalion, was bound to bring one to life— or as close to it as possible.  Working with Danilo Ilag-ilag, who has collaborated with him on his sculptures before, Bogie fabricated Dama de Noche from resin. The voluminous skirts of his Kotillion ladies have always been painted as accumulations of objects that signify their personalites:  slabs of meat, or cursive letters that form into words, or thickets of overgrown branches.  This lady here goes back to the first Kotillion, from the 2008 TutoK show at the Ateneo Art Gallery,  the original symbol of reveling in the midst of want, of excessive waste.  Dama de Noche’s skirts look like a heap of garbage, a mishmash of industrial waste that Bogie has cast from original objects (a steering wheel, a motorcycle’s side mirrors, drainpipes).  She has been constructed in 14 parts that come together like slices of an orange. Like a typical aristocrat, she is accompanied by a pet. She holds a leash that is attached to a fallen tree trunk  (“A log instead of a dog”), the same trunk that fell on the Ruiz driveway during a recent typhoon.

Another view, "Dama de Noche"

A new batch of Kotillion paintings hang on the gallery’s walls.  I thought the painted ladies paled in comparison; they faded into the background, seeming more like handmaidens to the lady we can view in the round.  Dama de Noche belongs in a museum, to a public space where she can always hold court.

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Dona Cielito Buena", oil on primed linen, 72x48 in.

Spectaculation:  Only The Old Die Young runs from 28 October to 22 November 2010 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., East Greenhills, Mandaluyong City.  Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit

Jose Tence Ruiz, "Senora Diana Sebastian" and "Madame Hilda del Fierro", both oil on primed linen, 84x60in and 72x48in.

Jose Tence Ruiz, "The Dude Abides", oil on wood, 36x36 in.

Noell El Farol’s Bibliography

September 5, 2010

It comes as no surprise that Bibliography, Noell El Farol’s ongoing show at Art Informal, evinces a scholarly air.  You only have

Noell El Farol, "Diptera"

to meet the slight, soft-spoken, and bespectacled artist, who also happens to be a university professor, and you can imagine that he approaches the creation of his art in the same way he practices archeology:  careful, deliberate, exact.  His list of academic degrees, which include a Bachelor or Arts in Architecture from the UST College of Fine Arts, and a Diploma in Art Education from the Graduate School of Shizuoka University in

Noell El Farol, "Ophiogompus Susbecha (Series No. 2)

Japan,  reads just as long as  his list of art awards.  Last year, Noell received the Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) Award for Achievement in Sculpture, a recognition of both his small-scale and public art pieces.

Noell’s work in glass and steel have always reflected his interest in

Noell El Farol, "Raw Or Shock"

archeological excavations.  He mounts his pieces like museum specimens, frequently encasing them in glass boxes, treating them like found relics.  In this show, we see him cross over to his interest in books, the scholar’s frequent companion.  He uses wrought iron to fabricate book replicas, engraving these with text, and accenting them with glass details.  The exhibit presents mostly free-standing books.  But I thought the most impressive work were done

Noell El Farol, "Arachnids and Insects"

with the wall-bound pieces, the recreations of reference materials.

Raw and Shock, Diptera, and Ophiogompus Susbecha (Series No. 2) look like notes from field experiments, with samples and sketches scribbled onto its pages.  They are small-scale framed works, around the size of an A4 Bond Paper. All of them have etchings on glass superimposed on engraved metal.  In Diptera, for instance, Noell’s glass etching of a fly’s brain floats suspended above engravings of various-sized flies on

Detail, "Arachnids and Insects"

an oxidized metal strip.  In Ophiogompus Susbech (Series No. 2), a dragonfly engraved on glass hovers faintly above a row of brass dragonflies.  When hit by light at the right angle, the engraving casts a shadow of a large butterfly across the smaller, metal butterflies.

With Arachnids and Insects, Noell produced another facsimile of a research sketchbook, but one that stands in the round.  It resembles a thick tome, perhaps the

Another detail, "Arachnids and Insects"

size of a family bible, opened up to reveal a page folded out.  A magnifying glass is embedded onto this page, from which you can inspect a beetle engraved within a glass sphere, or brass butterflies positioned beside it.

Cooked Book, one of the other free-standing pieces,  has letters forming the word “recipe” wrapped around it.  Inside, you find metal strips engraved with handwritten recipes.  Religious Inventory, on the other hand, is installed like an altarpiece; it rests on red velvet, atop a pedestal from which you view it by taking a few steps up.  I thought these two seemed a bit out of place, given the scientific bent of the show.  That is not to say, however, that they are not well-made.

Noell El Farol, "Box Reconstructed"

I personally prefer Noell’s pieces that use his cast glass forms, those that are more obviously derived from his excavations.  The wrought iron books seem a little too literal for my tastes.  What comes through though, in this show, as well as any that feature Noell El Farol’s work, is his quiet, erudite, fastidious attitude to doing sculpture.

Noell El Farol, "Cooked Book"

Bibliography runs from 2  to 20 September 2010 at Art Informal,  277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong.  Phone (632)725-8518 or visit

Noell El Farol, "Isarithmic Landscape"

Noell El Farol, "Religious Inventory"

Noell El Farol, "Ruins"

Noell El Farol, "Vessel Series 2"

Pablo Capati Is In His Element

August 24, 2010

Pablo Capati III, "Sunken Treasure"

Ten years ago, Pablo Capati III spent his nights running Rokuro, his restaurant in Malate, on hip Nakpil Street.  Rokuro is the Japanese word for pottery wheel. Even then, the allure of what had been a craft learned in high school was undeniable.  As a teenager, Pablo lived in Japan.  And it was there where he learned the basics of stoneware, of expressing

Pablo Capati III, "Tsubo"

himself through his creations in clay.

In 2003, Pablo moved to Batangas, to his family’s farm, and committed himself to pottery full time.  Seven years later, as we come to view Element, his first solo exhibit, we see the beautiful results of that fateful choice.

Pablo Capati III, "Baal"

As art collector Rene Guatlo explains in his notes for this show, anagama is an ancient process that uses wood to fire pottery.  Pablo built his own wood-fired kiln by drawing on his experiences in Japan, and using books as references. Getting the desired finish and texture for the surfaces of his stone pieces requires patience and multiple attempts of trial and error.

Pablo Capati III, "Stone 4" and "Stone 5"

In the last few years before this show, Pablo kept his work to traditional vessels— vases, jars, tea services, utilitarian pieces that we normally associate with pottery.  For this show, he wanted to translate pottery into his own language, explore its infinite possibilities through sculptural forms.  As the photos attest, he has wonderfully carried a revered tradition into the realm of contemporary art.

Pablo Capati III, "Pablo's Gold"

Element runs until 28 August 2010 at Art Informal, 277  Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong.  Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit

For more information on Pablo Capati III and the anagama process see

Exhibit Installation View

Pablo Capati III, "Aura" and "Jar"

Seashell detail, "Stone 5"

Another installation view

Pablo Capati III, "Vessel"

Cos Zicarelli Paints The Town Black

March 21, 2010

Costantino Zicarelli, "1:11:00 (after the birds)"

Cos Zicarelli veers to the dark side.  Literally.  In this show, we are the kids that your parents warned you about, which opened a few days ago at Art Informal, he makes liberal use of the color black for his paintings on canvas, works in ink on paper, and for the installation that serves as his show’s most commanding piece.

Costantino Zicarelli, "everything is not going to be all right"

Costantino Zicarelli, "1:10:17 (after the birds)"

Two large canvases greet you at the gallery’s foyer.  Cos takes both images from Hitchcock, from the movie Birds. Alongside the two paintings, he mounts an installation of a picket fence constructed from mirrors.  The fence leans on the wall, broken into two parts, with shattered pieces scattered on the floor.

As you move to the gallery’s main exhibit space, you encounter the massive it was always the devil’s turn, we are here together forever until the world will be on the verge of sorrow, and this stands as imposing as its title.  A church and its steeple, completely painted black, tilts as if buried on a patch of black grass.  A neon cross atop the steeple serves as its sole light source.  The only other piece in this part of the gallery is a small painting on canvas depicting a ghoulish, decomposing face.

Costantino Zicarelli, "it was always the devil's turn, we are here together forever until the world will be on the verge of sorrow"

Cos uses the gallery’s second floor for the rest of the exhibit.  Here, he experiments with Rorschach blots, creating ink forms on paper and leaving it up to the viewer to discern patterns from his titles.  Look for a dozen red roses for the beautiful bride,  little sister crying to romantic ending of the film, or daddy and mommy in the garden having a cup of tea. Figuring out his images makes for a fun game of I Spy.

Costantino Zicarelli, "the mind is a terrible thing to taste"

For me, the key to appreciating this Cos Zicarelli exhibit lies in not reading too much into his pieces, and to his somewhat incongruous titles. Don’t even try to find the thread that ties this show together.  Simply take things as he presents them and enjoy his work.  I know I did.

Costantino Zicarelli, "couple kissing"

we are the kids your parents warned you about runs from 18 March to 5 April 2010 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St, Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City.  Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit

Costantino Zicarelli, "we are the kids that your parents warned you about"

Costantino Zicarelli, "mommy and daddy in the garden having tea"

Jose John Santos III’s {UN}Common Sense

December 20, 2009

John Santos goes UnCommon

Yes, it’s true.  Jose John Santos III takes a leap, makes a volte-face, and gets rough.  In this show, we’re in for a surprise.

Jose John Santos III, "Inside Out"

With his small, spare frame and self-effacing manner, you at first don’t notice the intensity in John’s eyes.  But get him started on his art, on this new direction he has shifted it to, and it’s his eyes that engage you, even without him directly looking at you.  They turn incandescent brown as he speaks about his plans.  His measured words wrap you up in discussion. You forget that somewhere in this metropolis, a political wedding dominates the airwaves, along with the threat of another typhoon barreling towards Manila.

Jose John Santos III, "Relief"

That he can hold audiences in thrall counts as a given to the hundred art freaks, give or take a few, in the waiting list for his paintings.  We all know that perfectly finished, hyperrealistic, painstakingly detailed figures spring from his canvases. The pull of his pieces comes from the unexpectedness—even absurdity—of his images. John’s genius lies in his ability to inject the off tangent into what first appears to be innocuous tableaux.  Even he has admitted the comparison to Rene Magritte.  But then that simplifies his art too much.

In the magnificent piece, Behind The Scenes, from the collection of art aficionado Paulino Que, he turns an airport waiting area into a lounge populated by such disparate characters as a sheep atop a high chair, a man with a head of a horse, another with a box as its head. As Riel Hilario, former curator of Boston Gallery puts it, ”… what [has been] fascinating about John’s work throughout these years is its sheer inscrutability, owing surely to a calculated effort to throw viewers off, even as the works are handsomely crafted — which pulls viewer’s attention back to the work again and again resulting in a tug-of-war between our aesthetic judgment and reason.”  We have always delighted in unraveling John’s codes, in finding the meaning in the alternate reality of his narratives.

John, however, chooses to keep us off-balanced and intrigued.  For (Un)Common, his current show at Art Informal, he abandons what has been tantamount to a signature style and goes back to an earlier sensibility.

John installed an assemblage of objects used as subjects for his paintings at the gallery's entrance wall

Jose John Santos III, "Weather Vane"

“I guess I had always tried to make paint become what it isn’t, to not retain any of the paint’s qualities.  In this show, I wanted to feel the tangibility of paint, its sensuality, to leave traces of paint’s magic”, John explains.

He rediscovers his fascination for still lifes and mixed media assemblages. Each of his nine canvases depicts banal objects—trucks, paintbrushes, plastic bags, masking tape— integrated with actual objects.   No human figures, no narratives, no symbolisms, no double entendres.  He alters even his brush strokes, eschewing the fine finish for the coarse and abrupt.   What stays consistent is his deliberate, academic, even scientific, approach to constructing his pieces.  You can bet that John leaves nothing to chance in his craftsmanship, ensuring his works will stand the test of time.

(Un)Common plays on his immortalization of the common, everyday scraps that he chooses as the subjects of this show’s paintings. He experiments even with the sizes of his canvases:  five of them stand at six feet by nine inches, like long rifle boxes crammed full of an artist’s knick knacks. (Un)Common also refers to this move of confidence he makes as an artist, his veer towards his untested ground, his challenge to his creativity.

Jose John Santos III, "Clamped" and "Rolled Up"

How will his collectors react to this latest development in the art of John Santos?  Perhaps that’s the only part of this process that stays predictable.  They will love it.

{Un}Common runs from 19 December 2009 to 9 January 2010. at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City. Phone:  63(2) 725 8518 or visit

Exhibit installation view

Note:  I reworked this post from an article that appears in the December 2009 issue of Rogue Magazine and the December 18, 2009 issue of Business Mirror

Tina Fernandez and Nathan Atienza

Pam Yan Santos Makes Sense

November 30, 2009

Pam Yan Santos, "Spell Sunday"

Pam Yan Santos, "2280 Hours"

Talk about an artist with universal appeal.  Everybody loves Pam Yan Santos.  Her work radiates positivity, warmth, and sincerity without resorting to triteness.  Those of us who follow her career feel that we know her well. Her journey as a young wife and mother frequently serve as take off points to her art.  Yet we never seem to tire of her continued references to home and family ties.  Perhaps because we realize that as she draws from within, she always discovers something fresh and unique to share with us.  It also helps that when we see one of her paintings on serigraphs, we know that we get a piece that has been put together with careful attention to detail and fastidious craftsmanship.

Detail, "2280 Hours"

Why is Dr. Bing Fernandez smiling brightly beside "Encircle The Correct Answer"?

Why is Dr. Bing Fernandez smiling so brightly beside "Encircle The Correct Answer"?

Makes Sense takes inspiration from her son, Juno.  He is at the stage when he begins to piece together experiences and influences in a logical manner.  Juno has started to realize how different situations may connect to one another.

Pam Yan Santos, "Are You Afraid Of The Onion?"

Pam’s pieces display multiple layers of technique and meaning.  Using a collection of old photographs culled mostly from her husband’s family as references, she completes eight painted images and two installations for this show.

In Spell Sunday, she creates a verbal and visual pun, playing with the words sunday and sundae.  You see a family sitting down together to enjoy an ice cream sundae.  You understand that this happens on a Sunday, the day when we usually get together with our immediate and extended families. The focal point of this work, standing dead center, is a perfect, photorealistic depiction of the ice cream sundae. As your eyes move outward, you notice the other details. Outside the ice cream parlor, you see an older couple carrying some luggage.  You wonder, have they come to join the group, or have they just left, off to spend their Sunday in their own way? Spell Sunday allows us to define our Sundays.

Pam Yan Santos, "Heavy Duty"

I love the piece 2280 Hours. On one part of the diptych, Pam paints the lower part of someone’s denim-clad legs, crossed impatiently, marking time.  The second part, so beautifully rendered, she depicts a crocheted coverlet that had been made by the grandmother of her husband, John.  In this piece, Pam marvels at the pace of life in days gone by that allowed ladies the luxury to create such lovely objects for one’s home and family.  The title of the piece comes from the number of hours she spent putting together all her work for this show.  She reflects on time to remark on its passing and as a reminder to people who always feel pressed for time.

Gigo Alampay of CANVAS stands beside "When Do We Say The Following"

Are You Afraid Of The Onion recounts an amusing incident.  One day, as they sat slicing onions in their kitchen, Juno noticed the tears that the onions induced.  This left him fascinated.  Apparently, the incident made such an impression on him that on another occasion, when he noticed his mom in tears after she had watched a particularly touching show on television, he asked  “Mommy, are you afraid of the onion?”

Pam Yan Santos, "I Want To Squash It"

A lady in a red patterned dress examines her shoes in Encircle The Correct Answer. Beneath this line, two responses have been chosen:  feet in and fit in.  Like most things in life, no one answer wins over another.

Playing musical chairs with Pam's installation

The show’s biggest piece All Together Now…Ready Sing shows six men in various stages of enjoying a meal. All wear identical outfits of white shirts and light blue ties.  They look so in sync, as if obeying instructions from the faceless conductor on the right side of the canvas.  In this work, Pam pays an oblique tribute to John’s uncle, Ramon Santos, who unintentionally participated in the National Artist controversy earlier this year.  Santos had been recommended for the award by the panel that selects National Artists, only to be stricken off the list to make way for Malacañang’s nominees.  Look closely and you will see the musical score from one of Ramon Santos’ original creations.  He makes another appearance in When Do We Say The Following. Pam uses his image beside her depiction of a door panel secured by several locks. 

At  Art Informal’s foyer, Pam mounts two installations that respond to each other.  As you come in the gallery’s doors, you see seven different chairs arranged in a circle but facing outward.  In each of the chairs, she hangs papier mache balloons displaying various patterns.  In this game of musical chairs, all seven participants have a seat, nobody gets eliminated.  The chairs become a celebration of individuality and personal identity, a lesson she takes pains to impart to her son.  A student’s chair faces the foyer’s wall.  On the wall, Pam has reproduced Juno’s doodles of smiley faces. At the center of the piece, she hangs a small blackboard.  Here, viewers write down the number of  smiley faces they think Pam has printed on the wall.  The incentive for the one who comes closest?  The chance to bring home one of the balloons!

The artist of the moment, Pam Yan Santos

Because of her choice of images, Pam’s pieces give off a nostalgic air.  You feel transported to the 1960s and 1970s, and this adds to the feeling of wholesomeness that pervades in her work.  Her technique, however, with its combination of printed and painted layers, definitely comes from today.   As the award bodies of  both the Ateneo Art Awards and the CCP Thirteen Artists Awards have attested this year, Pam Yan Santos is one of the most exciting contemporary artists practicing at present.

Balloon detail

Makes Sense runs from 27 November to 16 December 2009 at Art Informal, 277 Connecticut St., Greenhills East, Mandaluyong City.  Phone (632) 725-8518 or visit