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



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"

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