On view at Art Anton is Rico Lascano’s solo show titled “Heofon,” an Old English word meaning “the heavens or the skies.” Proffering a heretofore unfamiliar word, the artist intends to evoke a celestial space – boundless, endless, with no beginning or end, eternal. In brief, a space where the Divine resides. This subject, or this orientation, is not new to the artist. Indeed, since the start of his career, Lascano has always veered towards the abstract, the minimalist, the inward-looking, the transcendent, the luminescent, all executed in various applications with the flooding of light. His initial shows were markedly Zen, reflections on bodies of water and wind, glowing with radiant light, as one might expect to stream from stained-glass cathedral windows.
Lascano’s ”Heofon” works harken to the age-old issue of religion or spirituality – the difference between the two has always been contested – and its role in contemporary art. Indeed, an artist may claim himself to be spiritual without being religious, which immediately brings to mind participation in an organized, ritualized system of prayers and rituals. The monumental works of the late great American artist Mark Rothko, comprised of nothing but blocks of deeply brooding shades of colors, brought tears to the eye. In their physical presence, where scale is meant to enfold the viewer in an intimate encounter, and space – wide, wide, undisturbed, imperturbable space equates to silence, the viewer can see himself, beyond himself, in the embrace of his own Creator. (Another descriptive word often used is numinous, from the Latin numen, meaning “arousing spiritual or religious emotion; mysterious or awe-inspiring.) In like manner, Lascano means to plunge us into a sea of spiritual energies that can be felt only upon the moment of awareness when we see ourselves in true light: our human insignificance in the face of the Divine.
To be sure, the epiphanic moment for modern art as a vessel for communication with the metaphysical came in the wake of the publication of a small book by another pioneering Russian artist named Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Titled “On The Spiritual in Art,” it proposed an art beyond the mere physical transcription of observable reality, an art that transcends the dimensions of matter and time, capable of conducting us into an infinite realm. Kandinsky challenged artists to create an art that will become the visual equivalent of music, achieved solely through the stirrings of color and form and space. (Indeed, Kandinsky’s thesis was of the greatest influence on the late Paris-based Filipino artist Nena Saguil, who afterwards concentrated all her visual energies on the exploration of the cosmos.) Since then, with the birth of abstraction, art has never been the same again.
Heeding the call of abstraction, Lascano navigated his way through the many strains of non-figurative art, with its fluctuations ranging from abstract expressionism, propelled by chance and accident, to concrete abstraction driven by Euclidean geometric, down to minimalism, with its spare, pared-to-the-bone reduction of shape and form, stripped of emotional perturbations. How is an artist to evade this impasse? In no small measure, perhaps even subconsciously, what early encouraged or persuaded Lascano, then still in the nascent state of finding his own sensibility, to travel the particular path he has taken, was the unintended influence – admittedly a rather strong word to use in this case – of his wife Chachu, an artist in her own right, and a poet whose forte was the writing of haiku, the Japanese lyric verse made of three unrhymed lines, divided into five-seven-five syllables. Perceiving the haiku’s predestined allusions to nature and the seasons, Lascano likewise ventured into his own visions of nature as the most direct and clearest manifestation of the Divine. For the artist it was a liberating breakthrough, nothing short of his own epiphany.
In an almost cyclical turning of the seasons, the recent works in the “Heofon” series allude once again to nature, charged with the presence of the Divine. Lascano in fact prevails over the suggestive colors of nature, analogous with the color green, receptive without being discursive to emanations of verdant vegetation and foliage. The artist, however, opted for the rather faded and drained hues of greens, tamed and tempered by the tinctures of browns and siennas, implicit of autumnal silence, solitude and stillness.
One can now advert to an artistic parable about an ancient Chinese painter who, it was said, entered his own landscape – never to be seen again. In viewing the “Heofon” paintings, the viewer may catch, in a flash, a glimpse of the artist Rico Lascano residing therein, communing with the Divine.
Cid Reyes is the author of choice of National Artists Arturo Luz, BenCab, J. Elizalde Navarro, and Napoleon V. Abueva. He received a “Best in Criticism” Award from the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).
Art Anton is at G/F, S Maison, Marina Way, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. Call: (02) 551-3086 and 0922-305-0196.
Rico Lascano at Art Anton
Art Anton presents “Heofon”, a solo exhibition by Rico Lascano, slated from Nov-17-Dec. 6.
An old English word meaning “the heavens”, the Heofon works are evocations of celestial space: boundless, endless, with no beginning or end, eternal. Lascano plunges the view into a sea of spiritual energies felt when we see ourselves in true light: man’s insignificance in the face of the Divine.
Art Anton is at G/F, S Maison, Conrad Hotel Manila, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City. Call: (02) 551-3086. Mobile: 0922-305-0196. Facebook and Instagram: artantongallery.