Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Hong Kong Intervention, Alfredo + Isabel Aquilizan’s Address, and Sandra Palomar and Nolet Soliven’s Flesh at UP Vargas

September 2, 2011

Artists Sandra Palomar and Sun Yuan

I’m a big fan of Chinese artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu.  Ever since I saw Angel, a hyper realistic sculpture of a dead angel splayed on the ground, I have sought to keep abreast of their work.  Made from silica gel and fiberglass, the most striking feature possessed by the wrinkled seraphim is a pair of molted wings.  His feathers have withered away, and instead, he is left with wings of flesh and bone; they resemble chicken wings after they’ve been dressed. I saw it when it came up for auction last year.

Hong Kong Intervention, installation view

Another celebrated piece, Old Persons Home, also works with silica gel and fiberglass fabricated by the pair into elderly personages.  In this one, the artists assembled a group of world leaders (Churchill and Arafat, to name a few), sculpted as doddering and drooling ancients on electric wheelchairs.  Famously exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery in London, the figures would occasionally bump into one another as their wheelchairs moved about the space.

Hong Kong Intervention, installation view

When I heard that the duo would bring one of their more recent pieces to Manila, I made sure to make the time to meet them. They have worked together to produce a whole range of work, frequently causing controversy for their audacious use of materials (baby cadavers and human fat). Unfortunately, only Mr. Sun travelled to Manila.  Ms. Peng could not get a visa in time, and stayed in China.

Hong Kong Intervention, from 2009, and reprised at the 2010 Sydney Biennale, currently runs

Hong Kong Intervention, installation view

at the Jorge B. Vargas Museum in UP.  A project that involved 200 Filipino domestics in Hong Kong, the piece debuted at Osage, a gallery for contemporary art in the SAR.  It is through the cooperation of the Osage Foundation that this work made it to Manila. Perhaps, this counts as one of the duo’s tamer pieces, but it does ring close to home.

Hong Kong Intervention, detail

For this piece, the artists gave each of the Filipino OFWs a toy grenade.  The Pinoys stuck their grenades around the houses they work in and then photographed them.  They paired each of their resulting photos with one of themselves with their backs turned, concealing their identities from viewers.  One gets a thrill out of looking over the photographs mounted on the Vargas Museum walls.  You feel like an intruder allowed a forbidden peek, or an eavesdropper who unwittingly stumbles on an intimate conversation.  It is also fascinating to examine the images, guessing at the lifestyles suggested by the spaces.  In a sense, this mischievous piece captures the Pinoy penchant for chismis, for making uzi, for the unwarranted way we stick our noses into other people’s business.  If only the amos knew what their household helpers were up to when they weren’t around!

Hong Kong Intervention, detail

Address, a piece by another artistic tandem, has been mounted at the museum’s lobby.  This one, by Alfredo + Isabel Aquilizan, touches on the process of migration, an issue frequently tackled by these two artists.  It is one familiar to the subjects of Hong Kong Intervention.  The two exhibits relate to each other through this common thread.

Hong Kong Intervention, detail

In Address, we see rows of balikbayan boxes set beside what we presume to be rows of their contents, all precisely arranged.  They signify life stories reduced and compressed into cubes, transported and transposed into alien territories.

Sandra Palomar and Nolet Soliven have installed Flesh at the museum’s third floor space.  The exhibit illustrates their reactions to work in the Vargas Museum collection.  They deliberately chose two nudes made by uncelebrated artists (Nude Study, Marcelino Sanchez, 1935 and Sultana, Antonio Dumlao, undated), and dictionaries that translate Filipino tribal dialects.

Alfredo + Isabel Aquilizan, "Address"

Nolet’s Fleshcape dominates the space, bisecting the room.  He draws and paints magnified impressions of female body parts on both sides of a long sheet of paper.  Sandra’s Reflection Piece 001 stands between this and the Sanchez painting.  One is meant to peep inside to see refracted impressions of both the nude and Nolet’s work.

Another view, Alfredo + Isabel Aquilizan, "Address"

On the other end of Nolet’s drawing, Sultana is posed atop a set of drawers.  Arranged inside the drawers are the dictionaries, vintage photographs of tribal Filipinos, an image of Nora Aunor, and some sculpture.  Like the kayumanggi in the painting, the assortment celebrates our Filipino ethnicity.

Interview and translation exercise 001 is a video by Sandra.  It includes the written recollection of a young Manobo’s initial experiences in Manila.  A transplant into the capital city, he too is a migrant— like the domestics photographed for Hong Kong Intervention.  He knows only too well  the displacement explored by the Aquilizans in  Address.

Nolet Soliven, "Fleshscape", detail

Hong Kong Intervention, Address, and Flesh run from 31 August to 29 October 2011 at The Jorge B. Vargas Museum and Filipiniana Research Center, Roxas Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City.  Phone (632) 928-1927 or visit http://www.vargasmuseum.org

At right, Marcelino Sanchez, "Nude Study"

Antonio Dumlao, "Sultana" over an open set of drawers

A peek inside "Reflection Piece 001"

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, "Angel", image from Christies.com

Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, "Old Persons Home", image from rebelart.net


Something Different Part I: Coloratura

July 9, 2009
Trek Valdizno, "Mutatis Mutandis"

Trek Valdizno, "Mutatis Mutandis"

Even to an art fiend like myself, things can sometimes get a bit ho-hum.  Shows just blend into each other, pieces feel and look the same.  So when I receive an evite that promises to deliver something different, I sit up and take notice.  Which is how I found myself checking out two shows that opened two days apart.  In the end, I admit, I am an art uzi.  I just can’t resist a peek.  Here,  the first of the two:

View of Ringo Bunoan's "After Chabet 1"

View of Ringo Bunoan's "After Chabet 1"

COLORATURA, RINGO BUNOAN, SANDRA PALOMAR, YASON BANAL, TREK VALDIZNO, and a special piece from PAUL-ARMAND GETTE

When I heard that Ringo Bunoan would recreate one of her pieces from Archiving Roberto Chabet, that pretty much sealed the deal for me.  That got Ringo into the short list for this year’s Ateneo Art Awards and  I did not catch its run at the Vargas Museum.  For that show, she recreated Chabet’s undocumented installations, or realized his work that never came into fruition.  Here, she mounts Work After Chabet #1.  Using

Robert Chabet, "Suddent School" above Ringo Bunoan "Sudden School"

Robert Chabet, "Sudden School" above Ringo Bunoan, "Sudden School"

wooden planks plopped atop empty cans of paint, the piece dominates the gallery’s entire floor space.  Typically used to traverse puddles of water or flooded streets, the gallery setting brings a difference to the experience of walking the planks.   Try to do so and keep your balance.  It’s supposed to hold you up!

On one of the wall’s Ringo mounts her version of Sudden School underneath Chabet’s original.  In her interpretation, she attempted to copy her daughter’s drawings on pad paper, and shows both her version and her daughter’s original side by side.  Chabet’s  has his drawings interspersed with his nephew’s. Hard to tell who made what, which is the point.

Sandra Palomar, "Hunyano" both 1992 and 2009 versions

Sandra Palomar, "Hunyano" both 1992 and 2009 versions

The show’s two paintings are pretty stunning.  Sandra Palomar, as always, surprises.  She mounts an old piece on plywood, her bold, brash strokes painted using ketchup and gold powder.  She painted this,  Hunyano, in 1992.  The gold powder has since oxidized the ketchup and turned it green.  She places this piece at the center of the gallery’s long wall, and paints around it.  Keeping to the same style, she extends her work to cover the entire space.  The newly-painted portion still retains the ketchup’s reddish orange color, thus contrasting with the original’s green, the only way to discern where the old piece ends, and the new one begins.

Detail of Trek Valdizno's "Mutatis Mutandis"

Detail of Trek Valdizno's "Mutatis Mutandis"

Trek Valdizno’s piece, Mutatis Mutandis, has to be seen and examined up close for his workmanship to be appreciated.  From afar, the colors of the snail-like shapes morphing into other colored shapes catch the eye.  Up close, you can’t help but be amazed at his fastidious technique.  He uses paint like mosaic, dabbing it into little balls to form his images.  I can just imagine how much paint he uses!  And the amount of time he spent doing this.

Curator Yeyey Cruz told me not to miss viewing Yason Banal’s video.  A tip for those who want to catch it:  unless you speak French, take time to read the text mounted by the viewing room’s entrance to already get a feel of the video’s context.  The subtitles can be distracting, so better to come in prepared.

Ringo and Sandra recreated Paul-Armand Gette’s The Menstruation of the Goddess in a performance done amidst exquisite, plaintive singing by three girls from

Sandra Palomar and Ringo Bunoan executing Paul-Armand Gette's "The Goddess Menstruating"

Sandra Palomar and Ringo Bunoan executing Paul-Armand Gette's "The Goddess Menstruating"

UP’s School of Music.  They squeezed strawberries, red sauce, and rose petals onto volcanic rock.  I am curious to see how this piece holds up days after this ceremony.  I did ask for something different, and this you don’t see everyday.

Coloratura runs form 4 July to 9 August 2009 at Mo’s Art Space, 3F, Mo’s Design, Bonifacio High St., Taguig.  For more info call (632) 856-2745 or visit http://www.mo-space.net
or visit http://www.bigskymind.multiply.com


Map Ruminations: Apartment Art Series by Art Cabinet Philippines

December 3, 2008
Plainview Goal, Mixed Media Installation by Don Salubayba

Plainview Goal, Mixed Media Installation by Don Salubayba

Maps have fascinated for ages.  Picture crude etchings discovered in caves, a diagram of the heavens crafted by ancient man to guide his destiny. Or the rudimentary representations of land and sea that steered Balboa, Columbus, and Magellan to historic conquests.  In those days, cartographers depicted a flat planet that ended in a precipice, beyond which lay the great

Patricia and Patring by Tina Fernandez

Patricia and Patring by Tina Fernandez

unknown.  What would the legendary explorers make of the GPRS features in cars and phones of today, when one touch of a button steers us precisely two kilometers to the east or west, or pinpoints locations with precision?  Proof that maps serve both as guide and historic document,  getting more sophisticated as man marches on to progress.

Makina Anatomika by Brendale Tadeo

Makina Anatomika by Brendale Tadeo

 

leeroy-inst-detail

Detail, Leeroy New Hanging Installation

In this show, Art Cabinet Philippines challenges 12 artists to come up with their take on maps, each one alloted a space of their own choosing in a recently-vacated penthouse.  The non-traditional venue, with its commanding views of the city skyline,  help unleash the powers of their imagination, fueling creativity in what promises to be a truly unique show.  Hopefully, this heralds the beginning of a series of great concepts,  a different way of viewing and appreciating the visual arts.

Allegorical Partition by Anton del Castillo

Allegorical Partition by Anton del Castillo

Alice by Lea Lim

Alice by Lea Lim

2805B Map Ruminations by Anton del Castillo, Marc Cosico, Tina Fernandez, Mark Gaba, Mark Andy Garcia, Lea Lim, Leeroy New, Sandra Palomar, Alwin Reamillo, Don Salubayba, Brendale Tadeo, and Ian Victoriano is on view from 4 to 14 December  2008 at Apt. 2805B, Three Salcedo Place, Tordesillas St., Salcedo Village.  Viewing times are from 5 to 8 pm.  Contact (+63928) 5504816 or www.artcabinetphilippines.com

By Sandra Palomar

By Sandra Palomar

Detail, Who are the People in Your Neighborhood by Don Salubayba

Detail, Who are the People in Your Neighborhood by Don Salubayba

Crab Ilokandia by Alwin Reamillo

Crab Ilokandia by Alwin Reamillo

The Kumot Adventure by Marc Cosico

The Kumot Adventure by Marc Cosico