“Mesmerized” GERRICO BLANCO @ Galerie Francesca

Gerrico Blanco has gained recognition among collectors for his paintings of children engaged in play and the act of dreaming.  Often, his earlier works juxtaposed children playing innocently, with elements of what they want to be: a boy in a box becomes a racecar driver, or a child drawing a building becomes, in her mind, a teacher. His unique narrative skill has carved him a niche among collectors, and made him one of the most sought after young painters of his genre, not just in Manila, but also in Hongkong where a strong collector base has provided support for this talented artist.

Mesmerized, his third solo exhibition presented through Galerie Francesca, appears on the surface as a delightfully sweet, well-executed exhibition of dreamlike and fantastic images loaded with the rush and excitement of a circus seen by a child for the first time.  The vivid colors, the large animals, the impossible feats heightened by loud, cheerful music, costumed clowns, confetti, and everything else out of the ordinary, is enough to draw attention and keep it at a heightened sense of wonder and delight. Blanco’s steady and skillful hands make the illusion even more believable because of the realistic quality of his rendition which pays special attention to form and tonal values, showing his mastery of the medium.  But a closer and more focused look reveals a different story – that of escape and acceptance – a tension between striving to strike a balance between conflicting motivations that draws the viewer not just to delight in the visions he creates, but to reflect on one’s own choices in life.  There is a palpable tension between an escapist notion of wandering off into some fantasy on the one hand, and facing life square on, on the other.

“The Unicycle” was among the first works to have been created for this show.  This work illustrates that tension as there is only one unicycle being pedaled into opposite directions.  Different motivations create a conflict of direction.  It is a veritable yin-yang situation, as one needs balance to succeed.

“The Juggler”, also epitomizes this contradiction. It shows a teenaged girl wearing a clown’s overalls, whose face is shrouded by a diaphanous material, but whose hands are incongruently either too old for the child or too probably aged because it has been used to work too often.  Up in the air are red balls with line drawings of a clock, a heart, and a brain.  The clock most likely symbolizes time or life which is finite and always in a danger of running out.  The heart could either be what one holds dear, or what one loves and values.  It could also be related to the body invigorated by the beating heart, which is, like time, finite.  And the brain may symbolize what one knows – like a trade or a skill.  Or it could be related to the limits of what one knows.  Balancing all three aspects to live, and to make a living, is a delicate and difficult matter.  Only the skillful manage to do so successfully.  And for many, it is a precarious matter.  Fortunately, the juggler seems to have mastered it as she focuses on keeping the balls moving in all earnestness.

On the other hand, we are given respite by Blanco through a promise of ready escapes available to us, should we but choose.  Childlike wonder, unconstrained by responsibilities, rigid rules of rationality, and the lists of “must’s” we all are committed to by growing up, is the fountainhead of imagination and creativity symbolized by the artwork “Moving Forward” and “Daydream”.  A similar work, “Memories,” unlocks the potential for unending enjoyment or savoring memories from what could only be a past that is better than one’s present; and in a way, that the past, is a present (gift), as the artwork may as well symbolize with the child opening a box unleashing wonders. These are the foil for the works which provide the counterpoint, the necessary tension, the honesty and sincerity which makes this an interesting and memorable exhibition.

Amidst all these, is “Chaplin”.  It pays homage to two icons:  the great comic Charlie Chaplin whose wordless gestures and expressions can make audiences laugh or cry, and the painter Rene Magritte whose wordless images of ordinary objects are far from mute, and speak of possibilities untapped.  Blanco composes Chaplin, the comedian, in an homage to Magritte’s “The Son of Man.”  But where Magritte’s painting hides the face of the person, Blanco’s Chaplin hides behind a clear bubble, and in the effort of making a funny face.  The persona is the mask.  Curious that Magritte’s “Son of Man” is a self-portrait.  Could Blanco’s “Chaplin” be one too?

All in all, Mesmerized is far from the usual dreamy escapes he has provided in his earlier works.  It resonates to the conflicts of life, and provides a counterpoint of reflection, where resolution is not in escape, but in acceptance; where fantasy and memory provide respite, but not an escape.  Mesmerized asserts Blanco’s mastery not only of the medium but of the narrative as well.  It is a breakout exhibition that brings Gerrico Blanco to his personal next level.

“Mesmerized” will be exhibit at Galerie Francesca Festival Mall from September 1 – 15, 2019 with an artists reception on September 01, Sunday 4pm. For inquiries, please call +639-6592667 and +639-5709495 or email galeriefrancesca001@yahoo.com.ph and galeriefrancesca.mega@gmail.com