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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.





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Saturday, December 21, 2013

entry arrow2:40 AM | A Map For an Art Tour

What is fascinating about ARTWalk—an ongoing multi-venue exhibition of Dumaguete-based visual artists to benefit the construction of a multi-purpose building for flood survivors in Bajumpandan—is how it affords us a glimpse into the creativity that is germinating, often in serious quiet, among local artists. Given the lack of good and accessible exhibition spaces in this city, it is admittedly quite rare to see the variety of these artists’ works, and harder still to gauge their progress between even rarer exhibitions—unless you have access to their studios or their online portfolios.

And yet in one go—through the brave curatorial efforts of Hersley-Ven Casero and Anna Koosmann—we see an avalanche of local art arranged as a unique tour: an art walk, where you follow a map of connected exhibition spaces, discovering an antidote to the misdiagnosis of a visual art dry spell, hopping from one place to the next with the excitement of a childhood’s treasure hunt. The idea is not new, of course. Many cities with an extensive art culture do this, often enlisting into their program a number of galleries and museums cooperating to create an urban atmosphere of the artistic. There is joy in such exercise: it seems to embrace a city, or at least a neighborhood, creating a sense of community, and one bound by a love for art.

There is art exhibited at Café Mamia as well as the older branch of The Bean Connection along Perdices Street, and at Café Memento, where you get a sprinkling of new works by Mr. Casero, Rianne Salvarita, Stephen Abanto, Muffet Villegas, Sarah Abanto, Aida Santos, Ariane Alviola, David Immanuel Teves, among others.



Hersley-Ven Casero's An A† Dream



Ariane Alviola's Rustic



David Immanuel Teves' Saul the Dinosaur


But we started off at KRI along the midsection of Silliman Avenue where most of the Art Walk venues are concentrated, and what greets you from first entry are the works of Iris Armogenia, whose Hinalay series of paintings is a prime example of a young artist at the cusp of fully realizing artistic vision. There is a lot of such promise, one must say, in the whole enterprise.

In The Bean Connection, for example, just a stone’s throw away from KRI, one is easily drawn to the works of Aziza Daksla, Beshiel Mayordomo, Marielle Tan, and Juhaira Daksla. There is a kind of elegant bubblegum energy to their works, as if Andy Warhol is alive and well and is swallowing the manic colors of Japanese anime. We see this reflectively rendered in Ms. Tan’s “Coffee Break,” a triptych of the pop art variety bordering on the narrative of a comic strip: the style owes much to the influence of anime sensibilities, and the story is cosmopolitan, Starbuckish, with a hint of Girls. And how else to describe Ms. Mayordomo’s “House Project”? A bespectacled girl rendered in flimsy charcoal has her memory of a Home Sweet Home childhood rained on by watercolor rain and butterflies—at once sad and colorful, like memories are. Ms. Dakla’s “Pet Series” is of the same import—a triptych in watercolor of pet selfies, groomed in hipster eyeware, which would have been safely adorable were it not for the suggestion of absurdity that the work carries. All three scream “young artists”—perhaps inchoate but stylishly so, and one is left wondering what the coming years could bring as they delve deeper into life and allow that to inform their art.



Marielle Tan's Coffee Break



Beshiel Mayordomo's House Project



Juhaira Daksla's Pet Series



Aziza Duksla's Mungaw


Over at Captain Ribbers, a bit of that whimsy is carried over in the works of Paul Benzi Florendo I admired. In both “Gravity” and “To Infinity and Beyond,” we—and by that, Mr. Florendo means the robotic adults that we have become—are promised an extension of childhood if only we can reimagine our old fantasies of space travel and paper planes and the quirky wonders of grade school science. It is a cuddly promise, and the works have that cuddly feel, if underlined with a subtle satirical bite. But one mostly gets works of a different kind gravity that is harder to ignore: paintings that pull you in with savage grace, luring you with the beautiful and then slams you with dark ambiguities, when you look too closely. HA Experiment’s “Stay Series”—an abstract portrait of unbearably bright primary and secondary colors—is our doorway to that kind of gravity in the other paintings. Jeanne Grace Alarcio’s “Childhood,” for example, seems simple enough at first: here is a young white-shirted girl with a flower in her hair, traipsing around with a flowing white ribbon—and yet, given those imagistic shorthand of innocence, we soon come to ask inevitable dark questions. Is that the barrel of an oversized gun she is walking on? What is with the glaring redness of the painting’s background? What does this ultimately say about childhood’s end and adulthood’s betrayals? One can only admire that kind of agile dance of meanings: warning and nostalgia all wrapped up in the same picture. Jaycris Sisneros’ “Valentine Eye” and Aida Espiritu’s “Lady in the Water” also contain that kind of agile dance—and in visually startling ways, both paintings seem similar in their artistic reach, although quite different in execution: both focus on figures with incidentally hidden faces, both garbed in the redness of spilled blood, and both drowning in a malaise of blue. Espiritu’s work, of course, is an impressionistic take of feminist leanings—a drowning woman impassive in her immersion in dangerous waters, while Sisneros skirts the geography of the surreal that seems to locate and define a man of the city in the middle of a hellish landscape of metropolitan living. Both are unforgiving portraits of entrapment, which cannot be said of Anna Koosmann’s “Pagka-Pinay,” which delights in the fruity details of happier existence: here, we get an American woman’s metaphorical take of what could be the supposed earthiness of the Filipina—seeds, roots, veins, and leaves of a variety of tropical fruits—which strike me as a kind of celebration, or appreciation. Whatever it is, the work is delicious.



Paul Benzi Florendo's Gravity



Paul Benzi Florendo's To Infinity and Beyond



HA Experiment's Stay Series



Jeanne Grace Alarcio's Childhood



Aida Espiritu's Lady in the Water



Jaycris Sisneros's Valentines Eye



Anna Koosmann's Pagka-Pinay


But one work of such striking power, however, can be found in KRI. It is a collaborative project by Foundation University artists simply titled “House Project.” What you have is a series of small paintings produced under the direction of Mr. Casero that, when arranged as a group, attempts to define what “house” might mean for the individual artists. The result is an interesting collage of interpretation that promises both a showcase of expression and style. From the strictly representational to the surreal to the abstract expressionist, each small painting is a quirk of fascinating explorations, and taken together, they hold as a kind of kaleidoscope. This is home, they all say, but individually they also say, this is my sense of home. Individual and collective at the same time. In a sense, “House Project” becomes a metaphor for the whole ARTWalk itself: it is a great feat of artistic collaboration, really a festival of the local artists we should be nurturing—and collectively, they have made us take notice.



House Project

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[1] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich





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