Lyra Garcellano’s Epistolary

September 6, 2011
Lyra Garcellano, "Aria"

Lyra Garcellano, "Aria"

After disappearing for a year, spending six months of 2010 in an Asian Cultural Council grant in New York, Lyra Garcellano has come back with wonderful new work.  In Epistolary, her solo exhibit at Finale Art File, Lyra has treated us to five paintings she describes as imprints.  Faint figures whisper from her canvases, barely discernible through her loose pastel strokes.  All of women, their floral frocks blur into the background, creating sheer, almost abstract, patterns.  Her paintings have always stood out for their delicacy and softness, and evoke a sense of romantic melancholia.  This set keeps to that sensibility,  progressing naturally from her previous pieces.  To me, they seem to project a more confident Lyra.

Lyra Garcellano, "Etcetera"

The show runs as one of three, all by women artists.  At Finale’s Tall Gallery, Keiye Miranda Tuazon has turned portraits into giant lockets for her show Strangely Familiar.  Marija Vicente, meanwhile, has taken over the gallery’s Video Room.

Lyra Garcellano, "Pentimento"

Epistolary by Lyra Garcellano, Strangely Familiar by Keiye Miranda Tuazon, and something something by Marija Vicente run from 2 to 27 September 2011 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati City.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit

Lyra Garcellano, "Aria" and "Mise-en-Scene"

Lyra Garcellano, "Enamore"

Keiye Miranda Tuazon's locket portraits

Marija Vicente, "something something", exhibit installation view



Roberto Chabet: 50 Years Comes To Manila- Ziggurat at West Gallery, onethingafteranother at Finale

April 9, 2011

Roberto Chabet, "Ziggurat Drawings 5"

After exhibits in Singapore and Hong Kong in January and February, the Manila leg of Roberto Chabet: 50 Years opened with two shows running almost simultaneously.  Ziggurat at West Gallery and onethingafteranother at Finale are the most recent events in this yearlong project. The series of exhibits celebrates Roberto Chabet’s half a century of influence in the Philippine art scene.

Roberto Chabet, "Ziggurat Painting 6"


Wall-bound works make up this show at West Gallery.  Collages, drawings, and assembled works on canvas that allude to the pyramidal, terraced structure of the ziggurat have been arranged thematically in the gallery’s four spaces.  The biggest room houses the newest set of works, while the three other rooms display pieces from 1979 to 1980.  Five drawings, made with felt-tipped marking pens, hang by the elevators, at the foyer.

Roberto Chabet, "Ziggurat Drawings"

In Gallery 1, small rectangular canvases painted red, yellow, bright blue, black, or white have been stacked up and framed in the form of the ziggurat. Mr. Chabet’s paintings make use of these colors almost exclusively, and have become something of a trademark.  In each piece, produced this year, the blocks of color seem to have been randomly put together, mixed up in various combinations.  They reminded me of unfinished Rubik’s cubes.

Installation of " Ziggurat Paintings"

I found myself drawn to the works on the other side of the gallery, the collages from thirty years ago.  While the paintings used blocks of canvas, a handful of collected paper objects—postcards, colored envelopes, even a magic slate—make up the ziggurats for these pieces.  I liked how torn bits of masking tape, now yellowed, had been set to form patterns of diagonal slashes onto most of the works.   Three pieces from the set Kong Ziggurrat incorporate black and white photos of stills from the movie King Kong, quite humorous details. One of them has King Kong at the apex, as if he had just scaled the Empire State Building, the most recognizable ziggurat in the world.

Detail, "Kong Ziggurat"

Of all the collages on view, I particularly liked P.Q. from 1979.  Multi-colored shreds from ripped party masks have been pasted onto three sheets of paper.  Like confetti, they lie scattered on a flat plane, remnants of what must have been a fun party.

Roberto Chabet, "P.Q."

Roberto Chabet, "For Kiko Santamaria"

Roberto Chabet, "Kong Ziggurat"

Roberto Chabet, "Untitled With Chuck Berry (Ziggurat Series)"

Roberto Chabet, "Ziggurat With Ochre"


onethingafteranother Exhibit Installation View

Finale’s exhibit consists of three works. All have been produced this year, specifically to fit the gallery’s three spaces.

On the massive ground floor space, sheet after sheet of galvanized iron had been laid out to form a sea of steel.  Neon lamps stand around the installation, casting light that bounces off the metal beneath.  The best place to view the piece is on the gallery’s second floor mezzanine, on the benches that overlook the main gallery area.


The second floor mezzanine itself holds one of the show’s other pieces.  The last one is found inside what is called Finale’s Video Room.  Both use neon texts, words strung together without spaces.  One reads onethingafteranother, the other imageafterimage.

Once I got over the intimidation of being confronted by work that seemed indecipherable, read the exhibit notes, then had my Eureka moment, I went back to Finale two days later to revisit Mr. Chabet’s work.  He makes reference to Donald Judd, best known for his three-dimensional pieces from stacks of fabricated industrial materials, literally one thing after another, made into one complete whole.  Mr. Chabet does the same with his continuous sheets of metal and neon texts:  when piled on so close together, what once were distinct from each other transform into another completely different object.  The sheets have become a glaring field of silver, the texts, as the exhibit notes describe them, “…morph into alien objects, corporeal.”


Another installation view

Ziggurat runs from 29 March to 23 April 2011 at West Gallery, 48 West Avenue, Quezon City.  Phone (632) 411-0336 or visit

onethingafteranother runs from 6 to 28 April 2011 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati City.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit

Geraldine Javier’s Wild Things

March 8, 2011

Geraldine Javier, "The Vein", detail

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.

Geraldine Javier, "The Tree In Me", detail

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.

Geraldine Javier, "Where are the fireflies?"

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.

Geraldine Javier, "Where are the fireflies?", detail

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.

Geraldine Javier, "The Tree In Me", detail

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.

Geraldine Javier, "The Tree In Me", with tatting detail

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.

Geraldine Javier, "Full House"

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

Geraldine Javier, "Full House", nest detail

follow Ghe’s art know that these are most likely to reappear in succeeding pieces, threshed out and developed into something else altogether.

Installation view, "The Tree In Me", and "Full House"

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.

Geraldine Javier, "The Provider"

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.

Geraldine Javier, "The Provider", detail

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

Another view, "Tree In Me"

Geraldine Javier, "The Vein"

Geraldine Javier, "Amy"

Geraldine Javier, "George"

Geraldine Javier, "Joe"

Geraldine Javier, "John 1"

Geraldine Javier, "Robert and Meryl"

Geraldine Javier, "Rutanya"

Geraldine Javier, "Shirley", detail

"The Vein", nest detail

Exhibit installation view

Robert Langenegger Means No Offense

January 8, 2011

Robert Langenegger, "President of Heaven", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in

We welcome 2011 with the crass, the crude, the inimitable Robert Langenegger.   Love him or hate him, whether his pieces make you laugh out loud or cringe in disgust, you have to admit that Robert’s work is certainly distinct.  He has claimed the cartoon-like renditions of the most coarse and vulgar–injected with a twisted sense of humor–as his very own. This purveyor of the perverse has brought his narratives to Paris, for an exhibit at Talmart Galerie in 2009, and will be headed to Austria, for a residency with the Galerie Zimmermann Krachtochwill this September.

Robert Langenegger, "Titser Kong Bumbayin", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Basiltong Taas Balikat", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4in

At Finale’s Video Room, Robert currently shows a dozen bond paper-sized light boxes.  This marks a departure from the oil on canvas paintings and installations that has marked his previous Manila exhibits.   Each of his light boxes comes in editions of three.  As his compositions hearken to posters or book covers, I wondered if these had served as his sources.  Apparently not. “Lahat galing sa utak ko!  May naiisip akong catchy phrases, tapos may dumadating na kailangan ko ma-sketch.”  I shouldn’t even have asked.  How can anybody else have come up with these images?

Robert Langenegger, "Dialysis Diaries", lightbox, 17.5x 11 3/4 in

Robert admitted that the limited spectrum of his computer dictated the bright pastel palette he used for these acetates.  I felt that the colors went very well with his sense of mischief.

As is his wont, Robert turned the show’s title into a play of words.  For those of us used to Robert’s brand of art, Know Offense gives no offense.

Robert Langenegger, "Hyena Sunset", lightbox, 17.5x 11 3/4 in.

Know Offense runs from 6 to 26 January 2010 at Finale Art File Video Room, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces (Pasong Tamo), Makati City.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit

Robert Langenegger, "Why We Lost In Vietnam", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Abner, Bagets Na Tinuring Na Abaka", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in.

Robert Langenegger, "Balae Kong T-Bird", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Ex Kong Egoy", lightbox, 17.5 x 11 3/4 in

Robert Langenegger, "Tolits, ang batang pinaglihi sa menthol", lightbox, 17.5x11 3/4 in.

Nilo Ilarde Thinks About Paintings

July 22, 2010

Appropriating Kippenberger: Dear Painter, Paint For Me

So what exactly is a painting?  That seems to be the question that Nilo Ilarde asks us to consider as we make our way around the colossal pieces of Painting As Something And The Opposite of Something, his solo exhibit currently on view at Finale Art File.

On a visual level, the show is spectacular.  We get that wow factor without feeling overwhelmed by the number and the size of his work. While we see treatment that recall past pieces (words scraped on the wall, empty tubes of paint), we come upon surprising additions.             

We all know that Nilo puts his curatorial stamp on a good number of shows in Manila.  So he knew exactly how to work with Finale’s expansive Tall Gallery.  But we also know that Nilo challenges on another, more cerebral, level.  And his exhibits engage all the more because of that.

For starters, we have been asked to suspend our conventional notion of paintings, and accept the five pieces he has on view as his paintings, unorthodox as that may sound.

The first of those five immediately catches our eye. Scratched out in gigantic letters that fill most of the gallery’s long wall, Nilo appropriates Martin Kippenberger’s cheeky request:  Dear Painter, Paint For Me. The line comes from the title of Kippenberger’s seminal suite of works from 1981 that also turned painting on its ear. Kippenberger had a sign painter execute his portraits in various stage-managed tableaux.  In Nilo’s piece, the statement on the wall is itself the finished product. You have a painting, albeit one that had undergone the reverse process from the norm.  Paint has carefully been stripped off wood, rather than brushed on it.

At the foreground, "The Void Speaks In Each Painting, Between The Brushstrokes"

Across from this, we see a glass receptacle that houses hundreds of used paint tubes.  We saw about half this amount in 2009, as I Have Nothing to Paint, and I’m Painting It.  Now with double the number collected from various artists, Nilo has transformed the piece into The Void Speaks In Each Painting, Between The Brushstrokes. Here we see the response to Kippenberger’s plea:  Nilo’s colleagues, dear painters all, have indeed painted for him.  Composer John Cage once said that the gap between the notes can also be considered as music.  Discarded paint tubes make up a painting’s gap. Thus, these repositories of paint, from which several paintings had been created, collectively make up a painting too.

Beside the amassed tubes hangs a boxing ring’s old floor,

A closer look at the collection of empty paint tubes

resurrected, with much cajoling, from the Elorde Sports Center storage.  This massive square of printed canvas acts as Nilo’s third painting.  He installs this as a diamond, a nod to Mondrian’s Victory Boogie Woogie. Filled with drips of sweat accumulated from the numerous boxers who have sparred on it, their DNA served as the paint that completed the piece.

The Boxing Ring

How can we miss The Road To Flatness? A crushed blue car suspended high above the gallery’s far wall and installed just as a large-scale painting will definitely receive its share of attention. A hired pay loader went to work on an old Volkswagen Beetle until the car had been completely squashed.  The pay loader mimicked an Abstract Expressionist, levelling the car’s figure, obliterating all but it’s basic form.

In Making Nothing Out Of Something, Nilo goes further than merely scraping off paint from the gallery’s walls.  With the intent to start afresh–he uses the term Tabula Rasa– he completely removed all traces of what had been in that portion of the wall, layer by layer, until only empty space remains.  But the irony is, because the emptiness gives us a peek into what we did not see before (Finale’s backroom), he hasn’t really created nothing.  We get a framed look at more paintings—Nilo’s final painting of stacked paintings.            

“The paintings are about paintings thinking about paintings”, is how Nilo explains his work.  We could probably say the same thing about his impact on us.  Once we’ve gone beyond the visual feast, the show gets us thinking about paintings too.  Well, it did me.

Painting As Something And As The Opposite Of Something runs from 9 July to 2 August at the Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati City.  Phone (632)813-2310 or visit

Nilo Ilarde, "The Road To Flatness"

Nilo Ilarde, "Making Nothing Out Of Something"

Jonathan Ching Finds Botero’s Leg

July 16, 2010

Jonathan Ching, "Living With Botero's Leg"

I wanted to see this show because its title intrigued me.  Why does  Jonathan Ching need to search for Botero’s leg?  It turns out that he intends for the exhibit to play on memories, random thoughts and experiences that cross his mind, including recollections

Found: Botero's Leg

of his own past work. A favorite computer game, Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego, inspired the exhibit’s title, along with the show’s biggest piece.

Jonathan Ching, "Topiary Of My Mind"

In the first three panels of Living With Botero’s Leg, a multi-media quadriptych, Jon depicts distinctive footwear:  two styles of cowboy boots and a pair of silk Chinese slippers for bound feet.  None of them would suit the hefty proportions of a Fernando Botero subject, an approximation of which he places on the piece’s fourth panel.  Here we find the elusive leg, portly as expected,  cast in metal,  and crowned with tin embellishments used for altarpieces. With this piece, Jon continues his series of incorporating objects within his paintings,  a device he used extensively for his show at Blanc Compound in April.

Smaller canvases make up the rest of the show, most of them oval-shaped.  Jon felt

Detail, "Topiary Of My Mind"

that his personal reminiscences called for these intimate sizes.  On two of these, Topiary Of My Mind and Chimes, he integrates sculpted blackbirds fabricated from polymer clay.

Exhibit Installation

The pieces I find most interesting are the three free-standing sculpture of black swans that hearken to origami, the Japanese art of creating figures from folded paper.  Constructed from GI sheets and finished with automotive paint, the swans reference his past work, an installation of numerous folded birds from his 2003 two-man show with Christina Dy at the now-defunct Surrounded By Water.  I don’t exactly know how these three pieces fit in with his paintings, and perhaps they don’t.  However, I think it would be great to see him take his origami sculpture further, explore different patterns, even experiment with textures.  Maybe next time, at some future show, Jon can allow his sculpture to take center stage.  But of course, I am usually more partial to sculpture.  So perhaps my biases are showing.

Jonathan Ching, "Two Rivers"

Where In The World Is Botero’s Leg runs from 9 July to 2 August 2010 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Pasong Tamo, Makati. Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit or visit

Jonathan Ching, "Chimes"

Nona Garcia Works With Synonyms While MM Yu Gets Wasted

May 10, 2010

Nona Garcia, "Fall Leaves After Leaves Fall"


Welcome back Nona Garcia!  After a spell of being scarce, it seems Nona will make her presence felt this year.  Last month, she surprised us at SLab. With Synonyms, her current solo show at Finale Art File, we see her revisiting familiar themes, reworking Nona trademarks into both supersized and mini me versions.

Nona Garcia, detail

A monolithic piece of 9ft x 18 ft dominates Finale’s Tall Gallery. In Fall Leaves After Leaves Fall,  two sedans seem to have hit each other head on, causing catastrophic damage to both.  Yet, once you notice that the left side of the painting mirrors the right, you actually wonder whether Nona presents doppelgangers, and that you are looking at the same event from two angles.  Nona uses an elaborate carved wooden frame from Pampanga, and aside from adding twelve more inches to the painting’s already gigantic proportions, this makes the piece even more compelling.  The contrast of the decidedly masculine bent of the black and white painting, the florid patterns on the frame, and Nona’s fine, delicate strokes, delivers quite an impact; just as big a jolt as the collision on canvas.

Nona Garcia, "A Series of Dialogues"

She uses these beautiful, custom-made frames, varnished in a dark brown matte finish,  for all her works in this show. The ornate embellishments that traditionally encase stately portraits or old master landscapes complete her paintings, acting as foils to her black and white, photographic renditions.

Guess who? Detail from "A Series of Dialogues"

In A Series of Dialogues, we see what has become a Nona signature done in eight-inch-high multiples.  When she portrays her subjects from behind, you can’t help but feel like an intruder waiting to get noticed.  For this work, she does individual portraits of a dozen friends who joined in on her birthday celebration.

From "A Series of Aftermaths"

The last work of the show is another series.   Again, she mines a theme and comes out with various depictions.  A Series of Aftermaths shows the detritus of disaster, both natural and man-made.  Four canvases depict the havoc left over from perhaps, a hurricane, sweeping flood waters, or could it be a simple burglary?

Also from "A Series of Aftermaths"

By MM Yu


The more I see the work of MM Yu, the more I appreciate her wit.  To make a commentary on how wanton consumerism leads to huge amounts of waste, she uses photographs of wares sold in baskets and bins by vendors that dot the streets of Manila.  She assembles her photos to cover one long wall of Finale’s Video Room.  You get MM’s sense of the ridiculous through her choice of


images:  the pile of Chinese combs used to rake out lice, glass marbles, ladies canvas sneakers on detached mannequin feet, brightly-colored plastic bugs, cigarette boxes atop an image of the Sacred Heart, a pile of bronze amulets. You can’t help but share in her amusement that yes, people do actually buy these things.

Another detail

MM installs several lightboxes around the space, the most striking of which she calls My Favorite Things. This diptych shows a sea of garbage, gross but fascinating to look at.  It serves as an effective way to visualize her take on all those knick knacks we think we can’t live without.  They eventually end up here,  part of an unidentifiable mass of the dregs of life.

MM Yu, "My Favorite Things"

I also could not stop looking at rgb, one of the lightboxes.  I thought it a lovely piece from which patterns came off like a prism, but wondered how it related to the rest of the exhibit.  I later discovered she photographed a drop of oil spilled on the road by a randomly passing vehicle.  What we see are the patterns of light reflected on it. What a beautiful way for MM to capture waste!

MM Yu, "rgb"

Synonyms by Nona Garcia and Waste Not Want Not by MM Yu run from 7 to 30 May 2010 at the Tall Gallery and the Video Room of Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza Compound, 2241 Chino Roces Ave. (Pasong Tamo), Makati City.  Phone (632) 813-2310 or visit