Art Lounge Manila presents a five-artist abstract exhibition entitled ASTRAK, which runs from October 2-15. ASTRAK, a playful contraction of the word, abstract, is a lighthearted exploration of the range of local abstract expressionist strains. Except for known abstractionist Fred Tan, the other artists shown are not known for their abstract works, and this might come as a surprise to the gallery’s audiences.
Migs Villanueva, known for her wabi-sabi figurative abstraction of children, channels the Spanish abstractionist Tapies and the American Basquiat in her subdued works of ochres, grays, and shades of white. The influence of Tapies is seen in her understated works, which are punctuated with some figurative symbols like crowns, stars, and flowers, are reminiscent of Basquiat’s symbolic abstraction. But for those who follow Villanueva closely, the symbols are also often found in her paintings of children. And these are why her abstract works are devoid of angst, but instead radiate playful innocence and melancholy for simpler times.
Acclaimed film and tv director, Louie Ignacio has made a name for himself in painting for his works of flowery seascapes, which are influenced by Juvenal Sanso. It is only the second time he will present abstract works, but the first time to present his “Random Strokes Cloud Series”, a colorful stream of consciousness abstraction that, as their titles reveal, revel in clouds, rainbows, and daydreams which lend themselves to pareidolia, or the tendency to see something familiar in something random like a cloud. Choosing bright and primary colors, Ignacio highlights the need for a joyful and innocent outlook in life.
Also in this vein of apophenia, or the human tendency to seek patterns and meaning in something random, are the Rorschach-like works of multi-awarded sculptor and architect Jonathan Dangue whose works emphasize bilateral symmetry. Dangue, who won the first prize for sculpture and for architecture in the prestigious Metrobank Art and Design Excellence (MADE) competition, exhibits this series specifically for this exhibition. His works rely on working with both his design and with chance. Striking a balance, not just with symmetry and order, but between chance and his own will, has always been a thread in all of his works, be it sculptural or architectural.
Curator Ricky Francisco also joins a painting exhibition for the first time with works that pay homage to the colorfield abstract expressionist Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman; focusing on the spiritual and emotive aspects of color in his series “Hidden Darkness, Hidden Light.” The series was the result of searching for meaning in relation to the mortality that is looming due to the pandemic, and the isolation because of the quarantine. They are, in essence, similar to the sunsets he photographed religiously throughout the ECQ, in which, the act of meditation becomes an act of gratitude to the divine.
And rounding off the exhibition are the predominantly white, gray, ochre and black works of Fred Tan, who is currently focused on textural abstract expressionist works which echo the sensibilities of the Chinese landscape. As a form of meditation, the works echo the need for a deeper connection with nature and the natural order of things, seeing chance as a vital component to life, and acceptance as an important aspect of living with it. This path of acceptance is a path of non-resistance similar to that espoused by Taoist beliefs which seek balance between man and the forces that surround and indeed govern him.
Although abstract art is subjective, all artists focus on the formal aspects of color, tone, and hue to create an intimate space for the viewers to reconnect with something beyond them. Whether it is the past, a virtue, chance, joy, acceptance, or the divine; all works lend themselves to become a mirror of the inner workings, not just of the artist’s mind, but of the viewers’ subjectivity. To search for meaning, particularly in this time of great change, is something natural that we all feel at different levels. In this case, the artists of Astrak, allow for an opportunity, and a safe personal space for which the audience may well do that. And this is the value of the works in the exhibition.
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