This is Why We Do This
Among the quandaries of contemporary Philippine art is its uneasiness with great traditions of painting. Inherent is the distinct narrative content, personal expression and functional aesthetics after its own form. Often it is deeply ironic–taking off from various foreign and indigenous influences—it views the art practice veering on plurality, relatively spontaneous and being dysfunctional. Contemporary artists long to exist to create their stories. On its third year-end group exhibition, the artworks in Quadro are couched in allegory and metaphor, their multilayered narratives unfold reflecting the experimental yet distinct, confident yet sensitive brushstrokes. Quadro is a stylized derivation of the Spanish cuadrar, which means a framed image, focused vision or venerated devotion. Quadro is the annual collective platform by Galerie Roberto showcasing the best of Contemporary Philippine art. Newly initiated in the art scene, these currently emerging artists are members of local art groups, graduates of fine arts and other art-related disciplines who have already shown potential by exhibiting in Galerie Roberto or have already been recognized in national art competitions for their promising visual language and in finding new approaches to painting and sculpture.
Contemporary Philippine art persists taking a pun intended on our identity and culture, socio-politics, spirituality and artistic autonomy as its main corpuses. Quadro explores further of the heterogeneity of the present to the fast evolving imaginative styles displaying surreal evocations of man’s folly to playful festivities of the sublime. Not to downgrade too are the ghoulish millennial antics and macabre gestations highlighted by constricting lines, bold brushstrokes and luminous hues and earth tones as hanged on the walls and displayed on pedestals. The struggle against the limitations imposed by these disciplines breed new ideas. It seems that as long as the choices an artist makes are necessary ones, growing out of the need of the work to move in a given direction, the work will be intelligibly accepted. For art to be contemporary an engagement with the process is essential. For them, art has become a revenge against circumstances that persists in their everyday undertakings, be it intimate, peculiar or communal. It has become their
natural creative response in making something out of nothing; that you are no longer slayed black and blue by life’s constant beatings. Preferred in the personal, longing for identity and eliciting memory, Quadro weaves all these artists’ concerns not merely as a conscious interlude of colors, illustrations and other medium but as something that was originally perceived within their fertile subconscious and manual skill by laborious hands.
Realism at the moment has redefined traditional genres for it to create new actualities. Often rejecting the banal and sacred, it defies fixation with the tested canon. By exhibiting in the proximity to the art center these artists may be hinted with copying established painters as frames of reference for commercial or aesthetic purposes yet opting to practice in the peripheries have taught them fresh perspectives they have conceptualized other evocative manifestations. Art critic Alice Guillermo stresses in her book Social Realism in the Philippines how the choice of contemporary subject matter must draw from the conditions and events of our time and is essentially based on keen awareness of conflict. Although mostly versed in figurative representation, the artists in Quadro are also skilled in abstraction, photorealism and engage with multilayered images on canvases.
Quadro is a validation of the exhibiting artists own contents, intents and permutations. Stressing the value of spontaneity, appropriation and relevance in their expressions, most artworks even establish inherent tension and issues. They may not be as colorful and lyrical as other established artists but have their own rhythm and essential elements. They may not be commercially-eye candy pieces but it is their subtlety or even harshness that convey the sense of wonder in the painters’ free reign of imagery and meaning. Depending how one would come to view the collective significance of these artists, in Quadro they are all espousing the contemporary–that is all that matters. Whatever the exhibition lacked in space it made up in artistic lineage.