The seed and the fallen tree, the empty canvas and the finished painting, the Big Bang and the eventual collapse of the universe: all things that we know of reality, whether big or small, whether natural or man-made, are driven by the twin forces of birth and death whose in-between space makes so-called life possible. Much of our day-to-day attention is concentrated upon this space where things, after all, fulfill their existence and the varieties of experience extend their full-spectrum, never really taking into consideration of the bracket that makes all of this happen. It is in the start and the conclusion, in the beauty of birth and the obliterating darkness of death which the group show, Beginnings, and Endings, on view at Galerie Roberto, situates itself. The exhibition features mostly Angono-based artists who have already collaborated in previous shows, such as Intension and Kamunduhan. They are Severo Barring III, Vincent Balandra, Jojo Barja, Paulo Barreras, Michael “Mael” De Guzman, Ces Eugenio, Isadore Gabriel Lerio, John Marin, Leonardo
Onia Jr., Arturo Sanchez Jr., Kim Hamilton Sulit, and Jared Yokte. The participating artists, who have their own individual style and visual language, grapple with the concept of beginning and end through various approaches in figuration—from monochromatic to polychromatic, from realist to surreal. What binds them together is their courageous exploration of the formal possibilities of material as well as an emphasis on the symbolic approach in image-
making. In contemplating birth and death, the artists give a shapely form and evocative narrative to an otherwise abstract idea, whose mysteries have led them to different places: from the solace of the natural world to the familiarity of the urban space. In the works of Barring, De Guzman, Eugenio, Onia, and Sanchez (who has spearheaded exhibition), the vocabulary of mixed media extends the artists’ ideas into the physical world and allows them to layer the painted surface with objects laden with significance. In the work of Eugenio, for instance, bones applied with gold leaf and insect illustrations draw the viewer’s attention to the never-ending cycle of creation and decay as they are situated against blossoming flowers and a nearby forest. Onia conveys destruction through the actual transformation of the medium with fire. In layering pieces of collage in clear resin cast, Sanchez, on the other hand, evokes
the complex processes involved in birth and death. Balandra, Barja, Barreras, Marin, Lerio, Sulit, and Yokte deal with the complexity through symbolic
imagery, which expresses both personal and archetypal visions. Ordinary objects, figures of men, and things of the natural world feature prominently in their works. Painted in a monochromatic style, Marin offers a view of a dense forest that incubates life in its different, variegated forms. For Barja, still- lives of shriveled leaves provide a close-up examination of the rot that will eventually find its way in all living things. In the midst of a global pandemic, Beginnings and Endings makes a case for going back and moving forward as possible options in the present when what surrounds us feels suddenly vulnerable and prone to degradation. It is a reminder of the eternal—and affirmative—dance of the universe: in every beginning, there is an ending; in every ending, there is a beginning.