Various Artists

8 – 19 September, 2021

“Ugat” features ten artists of different persuasions and dispositions taking the idea of roots, and its various connotations, as their artistic point of departure.

The word “roots” is commonly used in botanical terms, to refer to the part of a plant which attaches to a ground or support to extract and transport water and other nutrients to the rest of the plant. Through its Tagalog counterpart “ugat,” roots share affinities with veins, vessels through which deoxygenated blood courses from various organs back to the heart, further reinforcing the images of movement and communication that roots conjure.

Moreover, blood is a metonym of familial bonds—something which roots also signify, most clearly illustrated in how genealogy is typically visualized as a tree. Roots can denote family, ethnic, and cultural origins, just as how “returning to one’s roots” implies an attachment to a certain place or community. As such, not only are roots a potent symbol of nourishment, growth, and life, but of identity.

Thus, roots symbolize not only fluid motion and communication but stability, as in “to take root” or “to be rooted in,” phrases which refer to actions and states of being deeply embedded or firmly implanted in thoughts, behaviors, or cultures. Roots convey sources, origins, and causes, but also networks, community, and shared experience—biological and emotional sustenance through connection.

Thinking through the polysemy of roots, “Ugat” similarly exhibits plenitude in the varied approaches, iconographies, modes, materials, and strategies pursued by the artists. Exploring both realist and expressionist figuration and lyrical and materialist abstraction, the artists conjoin biomorphic forms and floral motifs with labyrinthine linework and dense, painterly thickets to form amalgamations of portraits and landscapes that, at times, verge on the surrealistic and the fantastical. “Ugat” is a variegated display of ruminations on life, death, health, the ecological, the psychological, and the social.”

-Dominic Zinampan