Oct 13 - Nov 3, 2014
Christina Quisumbing Ramilo
An Introduction to Christina Quisumbing Ramilo: Float
Sculpture is a powerful medium. It exists in three dimension as something ‘real’ we can see, touch, smell and walk around. It is also an object that has been made from raw materials, by the artist, through laborious processes over a long duration of time. All these combined energies of human interaction and physical presence, produce an intimate exchange of art and ideas. When sculpture mimics and changes recognizable objects, the transformation of the everyday into iconic symbols, creates an even more powerful experience of reality and transcendence. It is an intimate idolatry that has claimed and reconfigured things often taken for granted, into points of meditation for the artist and viewer.
Christina Quisumbing Ramilo's latest exhibition Float employs such a strategy through a drifting moment in time of dysfunctional but recognizable sculptural forms. Mainly wood, they have been stripped, sanded and painted to mimic the austerity of bone as memories of absence and unfinished conversations. Their seductive surfaces then lure viewers to consider the impotence of their subject. A skeletal bangka whose katig or stabilizers have been dislocated and hover nearby, a salvavida made of cement, a suspended bridge that does not connect, a naked chair that is impossible to use, a ring without its stone and large-scale wishbones made from a santol tree felled from a recent storm. By focusing on a sense of lack, these seemingly ordinary objects, that traditionally help or give pleasure, become metaphors of promises unfulfilled. A boat that can’t travel or save, a lifesaver that sinks and an empty ring unable to complete a vow of love. And even when there is a chance of hope -- through the pulling of a wishbone -- there is also the possibility of disappointment.
These are the ongoing oscillations found in Quisumbing Ramilo's work, whose personal histories are often combined with a sensitive use of rough, weathered materials such as sand paper, pencils, reclaimed wood, fallen trees, old windows, glass, metal sheets, carpentry tools, signs and found objects. Sometimes these are reconfigured into sculptural hybrids or become new forms, carved with lines from poems and journal entries that comment on love and loss. However, Float shifts from this raw aesthetic into something more unembellished and smooth. The surfaces of the works have been heavily sanded down and their silhouettes are more grave and severe. There is no self deprecating humor, ingenious transformations or sentimental longing as in previous exhibitions, but rather a resignation that sometimes, despite all best efforts, things don't work out the way you want them to. That they instead, remain undone without any sense of closure, like spirits lost in limbo, adrift.
The action to float, which is the conceptual crux of the exhibition, infers some type of comfort, of a peaceful bobbing or hovering, as well as a slow aimless type of movement or existence. Quisumbing Ramilo’s bangka, locates this in bodies of water, and the bangka itself creates a very meaningful type of symbolism, especially since in indigenous cultures the bangka is filled with rituals and beliefs as a vessel for the living and the dead. This unmade boat, and the repeated paddle motifs in the artist’s wishbones and chair – which is also called a bangka chair in Pampanga-- all suggest a sense of purposeful being and travel. However the juxtapositions of these elements with her redundant objects create a type of uncertainty: paddles don’t help to save when they are fixed to wishbone or suggested through the design of chair. Perhaps this represents a meditation point on personal salvation instead?
Despite these clues, the artist remains purposefully ambiguous on the stories of the exhibition preferring to create a mysterious environment where the audience must piece together the missing parts of who, what and why. These symbolic and physical gaps then create powerful silences that when complimented by light and shadow produce a sense of formal and emotional gravitas. Initially, this weight is centered around readings of loss and dysfunction. However, rather than a painful lament to broken memories, Float is also a poetic reverence of uncertainty which encourages viewers to see beauty in the unresolved. This portrait of the human condition, much like the creative process, is a never-ending stream of events and ideas where hope can be found in the incomplete. And sometimes, by releasing ourselves from the burden of the destination we are allowed to simply let go and be free.
-- Eva McGovern
Oct 13 - Nov 3, 2014
Fireworks produce light, noise, smoke and floating materials like confetti or ash. They may burn with flames, shoot up and free fall, twinkle or burst, blaze and burn out, or flash in delay or in quick succession. Some are blinding white, others emit sparks of colors and assume shapes like stars, hearts, clovers or smiley faces, made to make sounds that crackle, hiss, clap, bang, boom, whistle or rumble.
Fireworks are on display at the Art Informal Gallery on October 16, 2014, in the form of 200 tiny watercolor paintings framed as black squares. Lena Cobangbang shot a video of a fireworks display, painted 200 stills of it, and made a video animation, to be projected on the gallery's ceiling and wall. Her solo show, “Aurora Borealis,” represents the search for luminosity, brilliance, magnificence--the birth of creation, the big bang! But also broods on blindness, groping in darkness, facing the void, and the “fumbling stumbling incoherence blurring uselessness of words.”
Lena describes the spark that ignited her idea:
“I close my eyes I see bursts of feeble greenish light, as after-images of a yet to be seen aurora borealis whether in the throes of ecstasy, pain or utter weariness, brief spurts of such a light, and then it's black again.”
Aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a natural electrical phenomenon seen above the magnetic poles of the northern hemispheres, manifesting as bands of greenish light, sometimes with a pink tinge or deep violet hue, or more rarely, shades of red, yellow or blue. The lights appear in various forms, sometimes in rippling curtains or rolling smoke, as arcs or streamers, scattered or in patches, or like shooting rays that give the night sky an eerie glow. Occasionally, the northern lights explode for a minute in a corona and the next minute, it is over.
In a tropical and equatorial region such as the Philippines, this phenomenon is an impossible sighting. Lena’s desire to see the Northern Lights is withheld by the geographical distance and the harsh tropical sun. Nevertheless, she puts together tiny sparks of energy with hundreds of paintings to create her own explosion and watch it burn.
She cites the great inventor and mad genius Nikola Tesla, who lived and worked in a constant and unceasing state of inspiration, as a guiding force in this show. Tesla suffered from a “peculiar affliction” of very strong visions accompanied by flashes of light that appeared before his eyes.
In an autobiographical account, Tesla wrote of this luminous phenomenon that manifested from time to time, particularly when a new idea that opened up possibilities struck him:
“When I close my eyes I invariably observe first, a background of very dark and uniform blue, not unlike the sky on a clear but starless night. In a few seconds this field becomes animated with innumerable scintillating flakes of green, arranged in several layers and advancing towards me. Then there appears, to the right, a beautiful pattern of two systems of parallel and closely spaced lines, at right angles to one another, in all sorts of colours with yellow, green, and gold predominating. Immediately thereafter, the lines grow brighter and the whole is thickly sprinkled with dots of twinkling light. This picture moves slowly across the field of vision and in about ten seconds vanishes on the left, leaving behind a ground of rather unpleasant and inert grey until the second phase is reached.”
Tesla saw mental pictures and vivid scenes not merely in his mind’s eye but right in front of him as if they were concrete and real. He had a theory that in the time to come, one could possibly project on a screen an image conceived in the mind and make it visible for anyone to see, revolutionizing all human relations. Tesla once suggested that he could make dull students bright by wiring the walls of the classroom and saturating them with infinitesimal electric waves vibrating at high frequency.
For all the radiance of the natural world, the spectacle of the artificial and the astonishing brilliance of minds like Tesla’s, Lena takes it all in with bemused despair like the winged being who sits dejected, head on hand, afflicted by sad thoughts amidst implements of knowledge, art and illumination in Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I. After all, Tesla died alone in poverty and neglect; fireworks cause air and water pollution, not to mention injuries, disfigurements and deaths; and who knows if she will ever see the northern lights before the black curtain closes. “Romancing the black square, the deep wells of its absoluteness as though the universe can be quartered into divisible corners but black all the same,” she looks into the impenetrable veil and paints flickers of light all the same.
-- Masi Solano
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
Oct 13 - Nov 3, 2014