Is BIGGER necessarily BETTER? With the advent of Modern Art, particularly with the rise and stay of Abstraction, artists have resorted to using a bigger canvas to express themselves with, and as a result, engulf the viewer by the sheer scale of the project. This translates viewing into an overwhelming experience where the painting is no longer an object that can easily be comprehended, but rather, a location where the viewer finds himself situated in.
With walls that could accommodate oversized works, ART LOUNGE MANILA presents “MONUMENTAL ABSTRACTS” by Anna de Leon, Francis Nacion Jr., Louie Ignacio, Jonathan Dangue, Ricky Francisco, Melissa Yeung Yap & 0270501. Using canvases with one side more than 10 feet (most using 16 feet), this project has been born out of the thrill of creating something memorable and impactful; like an explosion of pent up energies from being so cooped up in their respective homes for so long.
In the line-up of artists for this exhibit is Anna de Leon, who garnered an honorable mention in the GSIS 2010 competition for abstraction but has since focused on figuration and is known for her pastel paintings of flowers and birds. This exhibition is a welcome return for her in finding expression without narrative elements that she often relies on in figuration. Focusing on composition, her work is as neat, tidy and balanced as the interior design projects she is also known for; showcasing her mastery of color, form, balance, and movement. Anna de Leon has been the president of the important Saturday Group of Artists, and her paintings and sculptures are in many important private and institutional collections.
Creating his oversized work while listening to Handel’s Messiah (the Hallelujah chorus in particular), is film and T.V. director Louie Ignacio, who found emotional release through the frenetic splashes and drips he did to create the work. Using not only his whole arm, but his whole body in the process, the gestural strokes he used were simultaneously liberal and liberating; matching the energy of the music and creating something equally majestic. Ignacio has been painting for the past decade and has had numerous successful solo exhibitions.
Balancing planned order and intuitive discovery is the work of Jonathan Dangue, whose technique is a synergy of painterly drips done with both planning and intuition. Dangue’s intimate familiarity of his material enables him to create tonalities, patterns, and form using a combination of watery and thick acrylic in a variety of techniques; allowing him the ultimate pleasure of balancing planning, with intuition, serendipity, and chance. A licensed architect and sculptor, he is the only back to back grand prize winner of both categories in the Metrobank Art and Design Competition to date.
Also integrating intuition into his sunset-inspired work is Ricky Francisco, who has taken to painting recently after more than two decades of museum work and a decade of curatorial work. His fascination for light has allowed him to explore both bright color and light-reacting metallic and iridescent paints. Using the horizontality of the canvas, Francisco presents an abstraction of a sunset, a favorite subject of his in his many photos taken during the lockdown. For him, sunsets are glorious and awe-inspiring as they allow for the light of the sun to be seen in various colors quite different from when the sun is high in the celestial sphere. With broad strokes, Francisco emphasizes the horizontality of the canvas and uses it as the horizon which his abstract sunset is staged.
For his mural-sized work, well-known and very sought out artist Francis Nacion takes a short break from his rich, highly detailed figurative work to revisit to a textile-inspired series he focused briefly almost a decade ago, as a tribute to his mother who loved to sew. Using textile-inspired patterns as the compositional device for his abstraction, Nacion introduces a color field and diaphanous layers to his richly detailed sgraffito oeuvre, and focuses his attention to composition using sewing-inspired elements that remind viewers of textiles, patches, stitches, and thread overlaid and assembled into a central image that is compositionally balanced and yet full of movement.
Two other artists who are inspired by textile and actually include them in their works are Melissa Yeung Yap and the artist who prefers to refer to himself as 0270501 (whom we will call “Zar” as reference for the majority who find it difficult to remember a string of numbers).
Melissa Yeung Yap integrates t’nalak, a woven textile made from Philippine abaca by the T’boli, into her mural-sized work. The flowing flowery organic forms are complemented by flat and folded t’nalak, creating a highly textured, nearly bas relief, painting. By choosing to use a lot of t’nalak in her paintings Yeung Yap is able to create a demand for the t’nalak, which for her, along with other indigenous fabrics, are truly beautiful but are in danger of being lost because there is not enough market for them. By integrating them into her work, Yeung Yap not only creates an alternative outlet for the fabrics to be used in, but also raises awareness about their beauty and precarious condition. By choosing indigenous fabric, she also connects our wonderful traditions to a hopeful future.
Also following this train of thought is 0270501 whose works integrate abaca fabric sourced from Bicol, one of the country’s foremost abaca producing provinces. Finding ways to create a market while simultaneously increasing their value are some of the motives that prompt 0270501 to create the works. Aesthetically, 0270501’s work reference the Japanese gutai in that it reminds us of the relationship between material, spirit and freedom, as well as contemporary aesthetics, while using the highly traditional and utilitarian abaca fabric. By sticking to earth tones for his palette, 0270501’s work also remind us of the relationship of the art scene to the largely agricultural geographic majority of our country.
“Monumental Abstracts” presents different expressions of abstraction in a large scale. The diversity of subjects and inspirations show how color, composition, balance, movement and sheer size present a welcome alternative to narrative for aesthetic delectation. Monumental Abstracts also marks a point of expansiveness as our society is opening up to the new normal; a break from being cooped up for so long in our own homes.
“MONUMENTAL ABSTRACTS” by Anna de Leon, Francis Nacion Jr., Louie Ignacio, Jonathan Dangue, Ricky Francisco, Melissa Yeung Yap & 0270501. It is presented by Art Lounge Manila. The exhibition is located at the Podium Mall, Ortigas Center. The show will run from March 27, and runs till April 17, 2022. It will be on view at Art Lounge Manila: Molito on April 16 – 30, 2022.
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