March of art

By: Radel Paredes March 10,2018 - 09:38 PM


After the customary parade of exhibits and festivals held in the Arts Month of February, March continues the momentum with its own flurry of art related events. In Cebu, local artists continue to be very productive exhibiting their work beyond the confines of the galleries.

Last Thursday night was the opening of what is probably the biggest art exhibit held here in Cebu in recent years. Entitled “Cebuano Art: A Glimpse”, the show which was held at the Maayo Hotel featured about 200 works by 35 artists, including the late Cebuano pioneers of modern art: Manuel Rodriguez, Sr., Tito Cuevas, and Edgar Mojares.

If only for the opportunity to display our work side by side with these masters, I and my own artist-daughter are glad to be part of this huge exhibit that filled the walls of seventh and eighth floors of Maayo, the new hotel and wellness complex along Plaridel St. in Mandaue City.

The artist Celso Pepito, who single-handedly organized the show, said that, as the title suggests, the idea was to give the public a quick look at the development of art in Cebu, from the persistent academic and impressionist style left behind by Martino Abellana to the lingering modernism first espoused by Abstractionist Tito Cuevas and Cubist Edgar Mojares, and up to the more diverse explorations of today’s younger artists who are more exposed to global contemporary art scene.

Still, much of the selection reflect mid-century dichotomy of Philippine art between the so-called “conservatives”, who pursue a more “realist” or academic bent both in style and subject matter, and the “moderns”, who were believed to be more “experimental”. This curatorial concept determines the separation of the two stylistic directions by mere floor assignments.

The newly opened hotel offered lots of walls for the artists to fill. And the artists eagerly obliged at this invitation. So in this group show, one could see not just one or two paintings of an artist; some have practically displayed a small series or a body of work. Going through those two floors of artworks is certainly not an easy glimpse or a quick look if one is inclined for a serious perusal.

It is heartening to know that more and more businesses like Maayo Hotel are offering their own spaces as venues for art exhibitions. Local artists are constantly looking for alternative venues to exhibit their work. Nothing is more apt than a place named after the Cebuano word for “good” or what is aesthetically pleasing.

After the opening of our show in Maayo Hotel, we were still able to catch up with Nomar Miano’s solo exhibition entitled “Encarne” in Qube Gallery.

The exhibit, which in contrast to our show is curatorially more austere, continues the artist’s exploration of the theme of incarnation, deconstructing Christian iconography to reveal how certain perspectives in what ought to be shared beliefs and values have been suppressed or relegated into oblivion if not the realm of taboo. The artist continues to employ pastiche of contradictory signs or images, both private and collective, sacred and profane, in order to create new meanings.

For example, an ornately framed screen juxtaposed on a wall adorned with a large painting of a thorn, a reference to the mockery of Christ’s crown during crucifixion, shows three downloaded videos of the High Mass of Francis’s installment as Pope, President Rodrigo Duterte’s cursing at a candidacy rally, and members of the New People’s Army singing the Tagalog version of the International, the anthem of communists around the world. These three film sequences could mean either suffering or salvation or both at the same time, depending on where you stand.

Such is the ambiguity of meaning that art provides. We can only guess what the artist really feels or intends to convey in his work, but he also leaves it all up to us to react in whatever way regarding his work. Such is the freedom and, ultimately, the joy that art brings.

It is still the first few days of March and more shows are being lined up for the month, among them the solo exhibitions of the graduating students of our painting program in the University of San Carlos Department of Fine Arts. The USC School of Architecture, Art and Design also recently held its Design Awards exhibit in Ayala Center.

My own daughter Celina, herself a graduating painting major in USC, is also scheduled to open her thesis exhibition entitled “In Se” (Latin for “in itself”) at the mezzanine of the Church of St. Arnold and St. Joseph in the USC Talamban Campus in the afternoon of March 17. Her work, which consists of still life paintings in large canvases, reflects an influence of the French Christian philosopher Etienne Gilson, particularly his own inquiry on painting’s true essence in relation to the nature of things that it seeks to represent.

The artist draws attention to the trivial objects normally ignored by artists by oversizing them in big canvases in order to force us to contemplate their very own essences as created beings. The spiritual implication makes the choice of a modern church as venue of the exhibit deliberate.

March continues to be fruitful for Cebu’s art community and we hope that this momentum will continue for the rest of the year.

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