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RELIGIOSO/ESPIRITUAL A skeletal first sampler-of-sorts of contemporary Philippine religious or spiritual art pieces for diskurso.comâ€™s
The Art Piece as A Closed Text series
curated by diskurso.com
February 16 to March 9, 2019 J Studio Pasillo 18, La Fuerza Plaza Gate 1, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue Makati City, Philippines
ÂŠ 2019 diskurso.com
RELIGIOSO/ESPIRITUAL A skeletal first sampler-of-sorts of contemporary Philippine religious or spiritual art pieces for diskurso.com’s The Art Piece as a Closed Text series curated by diskurso.com
February 16 to March 9, 2019 J Studio, Pasillo 18, La Fuerza Plaza, Gate 1, 2241 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City
YOU’D think that such a show as this sporting a simple, unremarkable title cannot have anything more than the simplest of missions—a mere display, by a random number of sample artists, of the usual religious or spiritual art you see each day. Please think again. Although simply titled Religioso/Espiritual, the show is trying to present a sampling of a variety of sincere and deliberate expressions of the human embrace of 1) divine or spiritual existences or curiosities here or in the beyond, 2) a specific divine belief, 3) a form of religious ritual, or 4) at least a philosophical concept of divinity or religiosity (institutional or personal)—all demonstrated not solely through the emotional means of a quasi-blind expressionism but also via the charting process of either the allegory, Symbolism, the tribute, even black comedy, or any other similar approach to serving visual representations, tools, or accompaniment for one’s or another’s
religion, spiritual leaning, or historical analysis of religion. The three major social functions of the show may be enumerated as follows: 1) As Political Resistance. In a current political environment that comes short of totally dismissing, or chuckling at, the existence of divine or spiritual aspects of life and discussions of these, . . . not only waiving divine laws accompanying belief or faith or reverence or humility, not only adapting divine laws to fit into this environment's preset secular designs, but, as an alternative, haughtily offering attitudes culled from a certainty about its materialist policies, even to the point of encouraging the assassination of religious figures who oppose this materialist urge, . . . we here proffer artists and artworks presenting their opposition to such a pure position, an opposition upholding the act of invoking (or respecting the possibility of) divine souls and/or principles, pressing for faith's or quasi-faith's or religious curiosity’s counter-arguments against lexemes of materialist or “explicitly atheist” or corrupted religious righteousness. We here challenge, in turn, political faith (towards a cult of personality or GodBuilding) and express our favor for resistance. This resistance could lead to a new form of religion, resistance being arguably the root of all religions. 2) As a Demonstration of Religious Democracy/Pluralism Within a Space. Although the show features the significant voicing of various positions within our free society’s continuing discourse on spiritual issues, the show is also politically resistant to violence in religion, as demonstrated by the possibility of pluralism and democracy within this one room or space occupied by this show's participants' possibly conflicting statements. Within religious/spiritual conflict, the possibility of spatial convergence, then. (It posits the question, too, of whether this convergence was made possible by the fact that these visions’ messages are being pushed via the silent media of the visual arts, as against the loud aural media using the microphone.) And as this show is neither in 19th-century Philippines nor a future (quasi-)theonomic zone that would insist on the promotion of a single religious or spiritual or God-Building doctrine, being also situated in our present dynamic democracy, its overall reaction to what may be anti-democratic situations within our hegemonic moment (discouraging alternative free thinking, especially free thinking within areas other than materialist ones, as we mentioned) is, unsurprisingly, to radically choose to counter any mono-cultural encouragement or tendency coming from the top. Again, the show
does this simply through the representation of a variety or diversity of visual religious/spiritual expressions or allegorizings. Religious or spiritual art can, after all, be a ready measure of democracy, since visual propositions of the religious kind—for as long as they remain mere visual propositions within society unaccompanied by proactive impositions—can show both faith and openness at the same time, fervor and tolerance simultaneously. True, each artist in this show is giving us an exploration of things spiritual that would highlight or propose his personal religious philosophy or philosophies, his special concepts of a divinity or a beyond, or his personal representations of those things divine or religious or true. Be these representations iconic or aniconic, or be these approaches truly and purely personal and eclectic or totally informed by conventional or institutional thinking, that is to say, spiritual explorations closed in themselves, the show as a whole as interplay of “faiths” or spiritual explorations or positions would already articulate a democracy of thoughts, a philosophical diversity, a religious openness towards coexistence, even while they (strongly) propose an intellectual questioning of the other’s religiosity/spirituality/truth. 3) As A Demonstration of an Artist-Empowering Genre. And finally, of course, this show—as the second part of a continuing series on the art piece as a “closed text,” started by the use of the allegorical device in the Allegoria 1 show of March-April 2018—lays bare the fact that the presence of the religious or spiritual genre in art already automatically offers an inherent option for the artist to place him/herself on the preacher's seat where he/she can almost literally be that spiritual guru preaching on an institutional or personal doctrine or history, away from being a mere skilled worker for a Pope or Patriarch or Yogi. After all, in non-commissioned religious or spiritual art, the artist finds himself curating his chosen area of religious or spiritual focus, free from the various foci of religious/spiritual authorities or leaders whom the artist may deem as having been neglectful of certain facets of his belief or curiosity. This totally makes sense, as the capacity and power of the visual arts may not only be used as media for the invocation of existing personal or institutional beliefs or presences, or otherwise for curious exploration, it may also be employed for further elucidation or further symbolist or allegorical discourse. Thus, an artwork within this genre may often be found to be tackling a religious philosophy, a specific theology, a form of spirituality, or any similar rigorous (traditional) or
syncretic or revolutionary citation of intangible things, personas, ideas, or patterns. FINALLY, J Studio enters the picture as the perfect space for the show, for several reasons. The gallery's long and tall space, complete with a loft right above the entrance, makes it look like a chapel. Add to that, the building the gallery occupies used to be part of the now-defunct La Fuerza Distillery, where spirits were made through aging and distillation. A place where "spirits" used to be made, get it? Through distillation, purification. Co-curator Alwin Reamillo then had the idea of enhancing the gallery's readily church-y space with Moroccan lanterns suspended from the ceiling. He was interested in producing a bit of an atmosphere that we might associate with the feast of the Pentecost, celebrating that day when, as Jesus' disciples awaited a sign from heaven, tongues of flame and the Holy Spirit descended upon them, marking the early beginning of the Christian Church.
OTHER CLOSED TEXT SHOWS ON THE HORIZON LOOMING on the horizon for the The Art Piece as a Closed Text series: Apropiacion (recontextualizations by appropriation in art); Historia (historical art); Politico (political themes in art); Illustrativo (illustration of literary texts), and so on. Watch out for it.
PARTICIPATING ARTISTS: MARCEL ANTONIO, a well-established Filipino painter who needs no introduction, has long been seen to quote religious or spiritual imagery in his narrative, pseudo-narrative, and satirical paintings. As one who gets inspiration from literary sources, sometimes also as an anti-narrative artist in much the same way the Symbolists were known to be symbol-users who nevertheless denied the sufficiency of their symbol, the prolific Antonio has also used religious/spiritual words in the titles of his multi-meaning pieces. It may be argued that all of his paintings are loaded with religious and/or spiritual allusions, but he joins this show to be out with an outrightly religious/spiritual statement—going against his usual semiotic democracy—to give a sermon on an aspect of human existence close to his daily experience as a Christian. There is much you do not know about University of the Philippines (UP) College of Fine Arts-deriving artist PABLO BIGLANG-AWA, JR., whom many know as a film director (Inang Yaya, Maling Akala), producer/associate producer (Last Supper No. 3, Kamera Obskura), film editor, and special effects man. He also exhibited art pieces in college, when he won the grand prize for painting at the Art Association of the Philippines' 36th competition while still a sophomore. So his recent solo shows at such galleries as Mag:net, West, and Finale Art File are actually a return to painting. He is also a graphic artist. And he was batchmates with fellow Religioso participants Alwin Reamillo, Ian Victoriano, and Jon Red at the Philippine High School for the Arts at Mount Makiling. We'll let him tell you about himself: "After receiving that grand prize for painting at the AAP competition while I was a college sophomore, I also became very curious with filmmaking after watching Raymond Red’s short film Magpakailanman at the 7th Cinema-as-Art workshop at the UP Film Center. The following year, I attended the 8th edition of Cinema-As-Art workshop. From then on, I never looked back at painting. After the workshop, I became part of Tikoy Aguiluz’s Boatman crew as a propsman" (under whose team fellow Religioso participant Jojo de Veyra also painted
two large Gauguin painting reproductions for scenes in the film). "At the same time I was also discovering video at Solid Video at the Sony Philippines office. I learned editing from the music-video tapes of the Chan Brothers. I also created the program logo, and made custom font and graphics, for their early-Sunday music-video countdown show, Video Hot Tracks. I also did the visual effects for Ora Engkantada, the pilot episode of Okay Ka, Fairy Ko! and numerous other program titles. "It was at Sony where I met the film director Mike de Leon. I did the 8-bit logo of his music video of Jim Paredesâ€™ seminal "Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo" and became one of the assistant editors and titles designer for his first full-length video, "Bilanggo sa Dilim," produced by Solid Video in 1986. I later joined his shop, Cinema Artists Electronic Studio, as one of the first 3D digital artists in the Philippines. We went to NHK Japan in 1989 to explore CAES' possible expansion from CGI work to full video post-production service, but after the military coup led by Gregorio Honasan, the economy became unstable, and MDL decided to close shop. The following year, I joined Optima Studios (later Optima Digital). "In the early '90s, Optima was expanding and we were in London, visiting studios and negotiating for a major equipment acquisition. After visiting a competitive supplier (now non-existent), I had the chance to go to the British Museum. There, I was able to touch the basalt surface of, and the carved Greek and hieroglyphic inscriptions on, the Rosetta Stone. I realized that while we were about to acquire a high-end digital workstation, I had a tactile encounter with one of the most important analog objects in history. "But my stint at Optima was a most erratic experience. I was in the crossfire between the shift from analog to digital technology. It was a steep learning curve for everyone. Not everything worked properly. It was an awkward, free-for-all affair. Since everything was always changing, there were constant tweaking of managing projects. Operation costs were high, but since the economy was in a better condition most of the expense were burdened by the advertisers and, eventually, the consumers. "After doing post-production work for several years, I became a
visual effects supervisor for Unitel and eventually became a TV commercial director and, later, had the chance to crossover to feature films. Just before 2003, I embarked on a journey back to painting with the support of friends. I was able to put up a string of shows. In 2008, I lost my studio space and went virtual most of the time. "Finally, after so many years, I am back in my studio, both the real one and and also the virtual one via my laptop, tablet and phone. Traversing old and new paths in my art-making!" JEHO BITANCOR emerged as a student artist in the 1980s with quasi-surreal paintings for group shows the imagery in which would soon evolve into ones with a clear social realist direction. His social realist works culminated in the political compositions he made for his first solo show in 1995. He would later receive a Cultural Center of the Philippines 13 Artists Award, but in 1997 got a Vermont Studio Center Artists Award, a residency that would lead him to settle in the United States. He writes of himself and his work thus: "Primarily a painter and performance artist, whose paintings and performance art pieces investigate the social landscape and the contradictions inherent within it, his highly symbolic figurative works work out a quasi-surreal atmosphere that narrates on personal struggles, class disparity, and workings of ideology. His keen observation of established patterns in society informs his practice of articulating the nuances, notions, and nature of alienation, as well as displacement, resistance, assertion, and empowerment. He utilizes the human figure/body and its environment as sites of provocation from where to glean facets of violation and implied redemption." Bitancor has presented his works in numerous solo and group exhibitions and performance art festivals across Southeast Asia and some parts of the United States. Also a UP College of Fine Arts graduate, he later trained at the Arts Students League of New York and New York University. He lives and works in New Jersey, USA. Some of his works are in permanent collections, most notably in the Singapore Museum, the UP Museum, Ateneo Art Gallery, De La Salle University Museum, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.
JASON DY, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, conceptual artist, and book illustrator who has featured in solo projects and two-man and group shows here and abroad. He has a masters degree in arts and humanities from Liverpool Hope University. CRISTINA ESCARIO presented her masters degree exhibition titled Dahon: Transcience in Infinity last year at the Corredor Gallery of the UP College of Fine Arts, a product of four years of studying dried leaves as well as a shocking allergic reaction to paint and resin that she developed while a painting student. She is currently in the process of completing her masteral, with painter Nestor Vinluan as her adviser. WILLIAM GAUDINEZ, a 1982 art graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, has been integrating painting and sculpture to concoct visual stories in the form of crafted mixed-media urnas and retablos. Using capiz and coconut shells, carabao bones and horns, colored beads, jade, mother of pearl, and kamagong hardwood shaped into leaves, he aims to restore the tradition of inlaying materials into carvings, embroideries, and furnitures. His retablos' thematic concerns revolve around historical, socio-political, and cultural-religious subjects presented to complete satiric narratives. After his return to painting in 1996 through a group show, followed by a hefty number of more group shows, internationally-awarded and Singapore-based Filipino cartoonist DENGCOY MIEL debuted as a solo-showing painter in 2016 with an exhibition of visual puns not far from his political cartoons. But while a cartoon of his may be the equivalent of an exquisite problem play, his paintings exhibited at Kaida Gallery in Quezon City in 2016, and then in 2017 in his second solo show at the same gallery, were strong black comedies about long-standing cultural realities. Miel is divine proof of the possibility of artistry not loathe to direct meaning as clearly as a social/cultural critic or erudite parodist could. He joins this show of religious art to extend his commentary on a universal spiritual theme, presenting signature visual puns as signifiers of mental and emotional truths hiding beneath root images.
JASON MOSS, born in Metro Manila in 1976, is a painter, sculptor, installation artist, and veteran of the literary-visual art of illustration. Moss already had a first solo show in 1993 at the age of seventeen but chose to take up a Fine Arts Advertising degree at the University of Santo Tomas, graduating in 1997. Having had no formal training in painting, he taught himself the techniques and lexicon of the art and has since been prolifically exhibiting both in and outside the Philippines. Moss’ subjects deal with various themes in contemporary art, often allegorizing humanity's psychological condition. SIMKIN DE PIO, a young painter who has made the rounds of galleries with a number of group shows and one solo show, was diskurso.com art magazine’s managing editor during its launching phase. While a student at the UP College of Fine Arts in the 1990s, he won in several art competitions. In 2014, he was chosen as a delegate to the Langkawi Art Biennale. After having shown works consistently allusive in their avoidance of excessive expressionism or surrealism, he was chosen as one of a number of painters tasked to paint one large history painting each for the permanent exhibition of Philippine history paintings (the Siningsaysay exhibit) at the Gateway Gallery. De Pio situates many of his works around ideas about language, history, and the human condition, and has consistently flaunted his respect for both figuration and abstraction as producers of signs, often with religious allusions. ALWIN REAMILLO is a stalwart flaunter of cultural metaphors and has been managing—all through the years of his art practice here and abroad—the allegorical device quite well for his social commentaries. Constantly aware of the context not only of his works and the tiniest details of these but also of the space of his works’ locus as well as of the materials that built them, he has also ventured into social sculpture. His 2016 installation at Tin-aw Gallery, involving hedgehogs in their privileged cages as illustrative of similarities to life in gated communities, stands out to us as a masterful handling of visual metaphors and semiotic tropes. An agnostic, he nevertheless finds religious rituals, music, and history as worthy allies of art and human experiencing.
Like Reamillo and Biglang-awa, JON RED studied painting and visual arts at the Philippine High School for the Arts and then at the University of the Philippines, but later also made a name for himself as a filmmaker. Red is no stranger to religious allusions in the Philippine sociological surround, and has demonstrated these in his films. Apart from his UP background, he attended a film workshop at the Mowelfund Film Institute, after which he directed independent films and TV shows including Es, a 1988 video which won the Best Jury Prize at the Mondiale de la Video in Brussels, Belgium. He doesnâ€™t regard himself as an allegorist of social, political, or religious subjects but more as an expressionist around such subjects. His other short works, likewise possessing some resulting heaviness, include Tiempo and Trip, both produced by Mowelfund and both Best Short Film awardees at the Gawad Urian in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Still Lives, a pioneering digital film screened as an Official Selection at the 2000 Singapore International Film Festival, and ASTIGmatism, which won the Silver DV Award at the 28th Hongkong International Film Festival in 2004, are some of his notable longer works. He has exhibited paintings and videos in various group shows and is one of the 25 recipients of the first Indie Bravo (presented in 2010), a Philippine Daily Inquirer tribute to independent filmmakers. ANGELO ROQUE VALMORIA ROXAS was a visual communication major at the UP College of Fine Arts who has devoted much of his post-college years to teleplay writing for ABS-CBN's drama department and to TV criticism. While clothed in a deep love for both the media and the arts, namely television, film, and music, he has recently been attracted to art show launches while at the height of planning a novel. This two-headed call would pave the way for his passion for the arts' exponential expansion, branching out into an important form, painting. He particularly sees in painting a strong capacity to express various colorful and personal emotions and narratives that seem to fit snugly into his unwavering curiosity for literature, the philosophies, and natural religion.
The works of GROMYKO PADILLA SEMPER, as his Facebook page describes them, "lingers in the air between the allegories of the old masters and the sinews of contemporary art. His visions, nightmares, illusions, and apparitions, simple yet powerful, express all aspects of the human being." Semper is a Cabanatuan-based artist based who is largely self-taught. His work has found exhibition exposures in Germany, the United States, Portugal, France, Russia, Austria, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. His drawings are executed to imitate woodcut prints with the intent of embodying a personal, invented mythology, after the fashion of William Blake in the early nineteenth century, the Symbolists, the Surrealists, the decadents, British artist Patrick Woodroffe’s Mythopoeikon (1976) and The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony (1979), and Vienna School of Fantastic Realism forerunner and visionary painter Ernst Fuchs. Semper’s woodblock-style drawings draw heavily on both the Roman Catholic and supernatural folk traditions of the Philippines, quantum mechanics, alchemy, world mythology, classical art, the occults, art nouveau, and the gamut of erotic drawing from Ukiyo-E to Aubrey Beardsley. Semper sees his art as a mystic revelation of a hitherto unknown mythos and pantheon, a synthesis of Jung, the Kabala, Gnosticism, and various archetypes borrowed from the ancient civilisations of the Mediterranean to the Middle and Far East, encoding a synthesis of his views. JOJO DE VEYRA, otherwise known as JOJO SORIA DE VEYRA of diskurso.com, is that art e-zine’s editor and permanent critic as well as a co-curator of Diskurso Curation along with Alwin Reamillo. A UP College of Fine Arts dropout, he left painting to venture—through and after training at the Silliman University Creative Writing Center and the UP Creative Writing Center—into poetry and fiction. He worked in the advertising and publishing industries at various times and later also made a bit of a name for himself as a cultural, social, political, and art criticism blogger working on the fringes. He made his lateblooming debut as a painter in 2018 in the Allegoria group show at the Altro Mondo at Greenbelt 5, at the encouragement of college buddy Marcel Antonio and some others, wherein he pushed his own brand of contemporary allegorical painting. His first one-man show
shall ensue on March 7, 2019 at the Altro Mondo Gallery at The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences, to highlight his late and ostensibly permanent return to painting. He shall also appear in another group show, this time on the theme of appropriation in art, here in J Studio, due to open on March 16, following Religioso/Espiritual's stint. IAN VICTORIANO was schoolmates with the Reds and Reamillo at the Philippine High School for the Arts and then the UP College of Fine Arts. However, he shortly shifted his gaze towards journalism and wrote for the Philippine Collegian while he studied at the UP College of Mass Communications in the mid-‘80s. He was workshopmates with de Veyra at the 1988 UP National Writing Workshop. A short story writer writing in Filipino, he is perhaps better known as Raymond Red’s constant co-screenwriter, the writer of the 2016 TV series Katipunan, a writer for children’s television, and as a co-writer of Mikhail Red’s multi-award-winning feature film Rekorder. After participating in six group shows and two two-man shows, he launched a career as a solo-showing painter at the Kulay-Diwa Gallery of Contemporary Art in Parañaque in 2003, displaying there a collection of expressionist works allegorizing the positive facet of mythmaking— one good reason for him to belong in this sampler album of a show of Filipino contemporary visual allegorists working on spiritual themes. NESTOR OLARTE VINLUAN is the most senior painter in this show. He may not exactly look the part, being quite amiable and younglooking, but he actually was once the dean of the UP College of Fine Arts a few years after his return to UP from completing a master of fine arts degree at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York City. Now a stalwart in the history of abstract art in the Philippines, especially in the minimalist genre replete with spiritual leanings, he was de Veyra's and Antonio's teacher (and friend) at the UP College of Fine Arts during the latter two's struggles there. He continues to teach there as an emeritus professor.
Marcel Antonio, Agony of Eros, 2019, acrylic on canvas, laterally 51" x 92Â½"
After reading what MARCEL ANTONIO wrote below about his piece, the audience's engagement with this satirically-titled work becomes witness to a nearly self-explanatory visual drama about the tragedy of Christian philosophy as observed (or not observed) by many among the Christian religious: "The Agony of Eros is my take on the scene of Jesus' cruciﬁxion. It touches on the crisis of Christian love brought about by blows from unbridled individualism, by activities that ﬂatten everything to a market value, and by the capital-driven desires that govern our relations. "In this spectacle of the cruciﬁed body of Christ, as a symbol of true love capable of self-negation or self-sacriﬁce for the sake of the Other, we mingle with a sampling of actors who have engaged this sight of ideal love but care about nothing more than agreement, agreeability, and narcissistic gratiﬁcation."
Detail 1 from Agony of Eros. From left to right: an image of the righteous Jimmy Swaggart caught with his pants down during a historical moment when he cried a confession of engaging the services of prostitutes; a narcissistic ﬁgure with a selﬁestick whose supposedly Christian awareness would reduce her religious aggression into a merely cynical meme of "thoughts and prayers"; a religious ﬁgurehead catching the "blood of Christ" which transmutes into a bowlful of money; and a Make America Great Again hat-wearing Ayn Rand, that atheist pop philosopher who was nonetheless embraced by the self-serving Christian right of the United States.
Detail 2 from Agony of Eros.
Detail 3 from Agony of Eros. Foreground to background: a horriďŹ c creature, resembling Duterte, eating a little being, much like Saturn devouring his children for the sake of power; and Nietzsche "hammering the truth" in favor of perspectivism; while a "queer" ďŹ gure and an evolving apeman (archaic human) watch from the rear, as outsiders, with curious amusement.
Pablo Biglang-awa, O-M-Illuminated G, 2019, wall-bound installation including a discarded bicycle wheel, objects (including a toy figure of Morpheus of The Matrix) and a video on a tablet containing looped images of the letter M, and a hanged 48" x 48" acrylic on canvas painting, 102" x 96" overall occupied wall space
About his installation piece titled O-M-Illuminated G, PABLO BIGLANG-AWA writes: "In the Middle Ages, symbols were the characteristic mode of expression. There was also an intimacy with nature, its patterns. Every natural fact was some sort of spiritual fact. Every appearance in nature corresponded to a state of mind described simply by presenting that natural appearance as the state of mind's picture. A cunning man is a fox, a firm man is a rock. . . . The world was explained in terms of good and evil forces. Even writing was embellished with illumination, a way of making the letters; words themselves carried a symbolic force over and above their bare logical meaning. The letter G is probably the most-difficult-to-decipher letter of the Gothic calligraphic alphabet, and in the English-speaking realm aptly represents the omnipotent and eternal oneâ€”God. "When unprecedented aspects of nature confront us, our world-
model becomes strained; we become confused and shocked. We invent monsters using old, outworn images and symbols. We manipulate and amplify them; we invent minotaurs, mechanical giant robots, strange virtual versions of our world, until we find new meanings and symbols growing from the new world. Rapid expansion of knowledge and technology have swept us into a world beyond our control. Like the forests and mountains of medieval times, our new environment harbours strange menacing beasts, lunatic leaders, invisible viruses, deadly deluge and quakes, etc. "Oftentimes we are in awe and fall in disgust and disgrace in all that is happening (mostly because of our doing); we surrender with a resounding invocation of our creator, 'Oh my God!'. "O-M-Illuminated G is a deconstruction of the Gothic calligraphic letter G. It probably mirrors our evolving, mangled, saturating/fading sensibilities. It illustrates how we dearly hold on to our preferences. Some defy the passage of time, just like perfect and rare inventions that stay unchanged and retain their essence, always dependable. Some are held sacred and placed on pedestals or inside impenetrable boxes. Some fade like thermal ink on shop receipts or just drop dead like mayflies under a sweltering, humid, tropical noon sun. "Also," Biglang-awa adds, "the reason why there's a celebratory aura to this piece shouting OMG is because of a very close encounter I had with another religious relic that I remembered; it was an encounter more intimate than the one I had with the Rosetta Stone. I was shooting an audiovisual material for San Agustin Church's museum years ago. We practically covered most of the collection including the cantorales (choirbooks) of the Augustinians. They were large heavy volumes of books with parchment pages. I was able to browse through a couple of books. They were handwritten in the style of illuminated manuscripts. The pigment and calligraphy had retained their quality, even the color saturation had remained intact!" As for the video loop of M's found on the spines of books in his library, the artist says: "The illuminated text/letter is practically one of a kind. The crafting is as if driven by the artist's or writer's extreme reverence for the sacred scripture, and there was very limited access
to manuscripts then versus now. Today there's an unending reproduction and consumption of letters and text driven by market forces and individual interests."
Jeho Bitancor, Summum Bonum, 2019, oil on canvas, 36" x 72"
JEHO BITANCOR’s Summum Bonum is the artist's take on—and reconfiguration of—the retablo, where instead of a saint he displays an embattled ordinary person. Says the artist, this work means to do a "radical departure from what exists in churches, but also to serve as a metaphor for what I believe in as a Christian raised in the Roman Catholic religion." He explains: "I believe that man as created in the image of God must be an embodiment of God-like attributes. He is not perfect and does not control everything (as symbolized by the missing hand), but he can choose goodness over evil, harmony over chaos, beauty and order over destruction, altruism over greed, and so on. Simply put, belief in a Supreme Being must also be a belief in the essence of that being. For me, Christianity parallels the concept of the summum bonum, or Kant’s Ultimate Importance. I think it is the highest good that man should aspire for. Anything that runs counter to it must be resisted. As regards one of the symbolisms in the painting, the crumbling arches signify the believer’s criticality over man-made institutions, including religion itself and the atrocities it has perpetuated in the name of God."
Jason Dy, SJ, When Forty Days’ Sojourn in the Desert is Not Enough, 2014, installation of a set of Giclée printouts on archival paper framed in glass of 40 Facebook posts, 74" x 36" (overall occupied wall space)
For the show, JASON DY, SJ, brought two sets of work that he showed in Liverpool, the United Kingdom, in 2014. These pieces have not been previously shown in the Philippines. The works, namely When Forty Days’ Sojourn in the Desert is Not Enough and Standing with Each Other in Grief, tackle the paradox of grief or sense of loss unavoidable even among Christians, even among Christian priests immersed in the theology about glorious existence in the beyond. The installation pieces also put into the thematic mix the rituals of Christianhood almost for Christianhood's sake, beginning with the ritual of baptism, then later total communion with other Christian believers on social media as adults, communion with God's creation and the mysteries of life through art, the idea of an earthly
home contrasted with the idea of a heavenly home one goes home to in death, as well as the idea of the biological family and small coterie of friends here evocatively transposed by the Christian idea of a literally more universal family or community of friends (or a divine family with a divine father and mother). They even suggest a contrast between the idea of digital illumination with the concept of a divine one. Dy writes: "For When Forty, I selected Facebook correspondence for forty days, starting from my fatherâ€™s death last April 28. Referencing the traditional Filipino duration of grieving, I appropriated this tradition for a contemporary ritual using social media, chronicling my brief visit of my hometown for the funeral and my return to Liverpool to continue my art studies. Mounted in a monthly grid of weeks and days, When Forty transcends the seven-hour time difference between the Philippines and the UK and points to a certain presenceâ€”the constant influx of past, present, and future as well as the cyclic dynamism of birth, death, and rebirth. These fluctuations could sideline the process of griefâ€”either speeding it up or submerging one into it. For me, the fluctuations provide a wider perspective on my personal grief."
larger photo of the right part of the installation
detail of the left part of the installation
Jason Dy, SJ, Standing with Each Other in Grief, 2014, installation of two photographs and a GiclĂŠe printout on archival paper of one Facebook post, all framed in glass, each frame 7" x 28"
Of the installation beside When Forty Dy writes: "A distinct yet related work is a triptych I titled Standing with, which consists of two photographs taken during my home visit and one Facebook personal message from my friend. Though each individual print is either smaller or larger than the screens of an Ipad and an Android mobile phone, the items under glass mimic the digital screens as analog screens that cannot be zoomed in or out by simple touch. Because of this, the viewers would grapple to read through to the end text, indicating entry into the artistâ€™s difficulty in grappling with the sense of loss. Strips of light lined up provide a steady sense of illumination, however minuscule."
detail of the installation
Cristina Escario, Dahon in Continuum, 2018, dried leaves sculpture, 60" x 60" x 60"
CRISTINA ESCARIOâ€™s soft sculpture of dried leaves titled Dahon in Continuum, meanwhile, was part of her masteral degree thesis exhibition at the UP College of Fine Arts' Corredor Gallery last year titled Dahon: Transcience of Infinity. For her pieces at that show, Escario devoted four years of post-graduate life to gathering dried sea grape (coccoloba uvifera) leaves with(out) a clear knowledge of what she would do with them later. The product of that devotion did finally come to pass, demonstrating her equally devotional mimicry of nature's biomorphic constructs, even to the point of meticulously guiding this to follow the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence, mathematics' and geobiology's approximations of natural beauty, symmetry, and history. It's obvious that Escario is using the leaves to generate a visual signifier of rhythmic patterns and cyclical changes of time and season in nature. In the artist's words, she's out "to create a symbolic form that articulates the story of my belief about creation, living, and dying; to present dried leaves in a new embodiment that depicts the essence of understanding and submitting to the design and 'timing' of nature." Escario's work tackles the same major themes touched by Dy's, but in her piece birth comes in the form of natural history examined, death in the form of witnessing a moment in the leaves' natural degradation (and chemical slowing of same degradation), and rebirth through the process of art as devout mimicry of divine creation.
William Gaudinez, Ang Bangungot ng Novus Ordo Saeculorum, 2019, mixed media, 41Âź" x 63" x 2Âž"
Via his neo-folk retablo titled Ang Bangungot ng Novus Ordo Saeculorum, the celebrated WILLIAM GAUDINEZ joins this show to represent the voice of Traditionalist Catholicism. In the words of the artist as a sedevacantist, his piece contains "symbolism that aims to unmask the real but hidden reason why there is a massive spiritual crisis engulfing the Catholic Church" today, namely as an evolutionary product starting with "the infiltration by the Freemasons of our seminaries and up to the highest positions in The Vatican's hierarchy, including that of the Papacy itself, as has been prophesied by our blessed Lady of Fatima and our blessed Lady of La Salette, to destroy the Catholic Church from within."
Gaudinez is a fervent critic of the Novus Ordo and a supporter of the Traditionalist movement's call for the return of the Tridentine Mass. He regards present Catholic rites as an apostasy; Cardinals Villot, Benelli, and Casaroli, along with Pope Paul VI, as traitors; and Vatican II as an abomination. He points to Marie CarrĂŠ's AA-1025: The Memoirs of an Anti-Apostle and the Alta Vendita document as good sources of information about his position. As manifest in his sardonic piece in this show, Gaudinez combines Philippine art nouveau motifs, the folk art practice of inlaying nacre (mother of pearl), and surrealist symbolism, to compose his satires. He writes: "My work is a direct response to the unseen crisis of contamination in the Catholic Church today, where we are witnessing the fulfillment of the Biblical and Marian prophecies, particularly of the blessed Lady of La Salette when she prophesied that the priests, nuns, and laymen of the Church are to be those stars mentioned in the Bible, in the Apocalypse, and that the serpent's tail will drag down a third part of these stars (priests) of the heavens and fling them to the earth. "I have been closely observing also if, indeed, the ancient prophecies of our blessed Lady of La Salette would happen in our lifetime, particularly her prophecies about the coming apostasy, about which she speaks that 'the apostasy shall begin at the top', directly referring to the Pope, including the danger of altering the faith (the sudden shift from the Latin Tridentine traditional Catholic mass) and creating a totally familiar, understandable, and fake medium called the Novus Ordo mass. And this we have all experienced with the creation of Vatican II, where, as early as the late 1950s, dark, sinister forces invaded and contaminated the Catholic Church from within, when Pope Paul VI asked the help of Protestant ministers to create a draft for a new Catholic mass (now known as the Mass of Paul VI). These dark, almost unseen diabolical forces have seemingly triumphed in their intention to deceive the world, concealing particularly the truth about the Third Secret of Fatima. I hope that, through my work, I will have done my small part, in my small, little way, to foster awareness . . . that we are living in prophesied times."
Gaudinez' retablo closed
DengCoy Miel, Athanasius Contra Mundum (diptych), 2018, acrylic on canvas, 80" x 30"
Similar to Gaudinez's satire but from another perspective, DENGCOY MIEL has this very important thing to say about what his work, titled Athanasius Contra Mundum, is trying to preach concerning the sacrosanct artist's struggle to be honest about the reality of many Roman Catholics' behavior in the practice of their slippery worship of The Word today: " ".
Jason Moss, Seventh Grade, mixed media, 2019, 16" x 28"
Jason Moss, Dead Before You Answered, mixed media, 2019, 6" x 6" x 18"
As a response to the show's concern, JASON MOSS brought in "my personal philosophical concept of divinity. In Seventh Grade, which is a compendium of found objects strewn together, looking like a
seventh grade project, I used the concept of craft-building and even aging to build from, and fuse, my experiences of childhood. I interjected spite into a broken-up statue of the Virgin Mary which I found in a demolished lot. Having been raised in an all-boys Catholic school wherein I was bullied for years, I am here pointing out that If prayer cannot reach the divine, then the divine has to be reimagined (alluding to past experiences and resultant outlooks on religion and the divine)." Then the artist started to break apart form and function, half of the salvaged statue, and used that to create a different narrative on the same theme. From this act, Dead Before You Answered was hatched, turning half of that source statue into an oversized candle. "The exhaustion of prayer, the need for miracles, is portrayed in the sculpture," Moss says. Is frustration and despair anathema to religiosity or spirituality? Or is it part and parcel of either or both? Is doubt a part of faith? Is complaining to the gods an affirmation of our faith in the existence of personas divine?
Simkin de Pio, Lazarus Unbound, acrylic on canvas, 2016, 24" x 36"
Just to remind some, referenced by SIMKIN DE PIO's work titled Lazarus Unbound is this Bible verse: "The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, and let him go'." - John 11:45. But the painting is not a simple illustration of that verse or story. Says de Pio: "I find a spiritual connection in my process of layering paint, in masking or 'wrapping' and stripping/tearing and then relayering, in repeating that pattern with no definite plan in mind, in just working away until I get a sense of the process' completion, in a manner of speaking. "There is power in the act of relinquishing," de Pio adds, "as when Jesus said, 'unbind him and let him go', commanding Lazarus' spirit and body to awaken and rise. When painters paint it's the same; on command we breath life and images into the world and give flesh to what we know is truth, and then we set them free. "There are truths we encounter while painting away by our lonesome in the studio, truths that sometimes I worryâ€”after hanging them out there in the open, like flesh that had been cut out from inside of usâ€”if I had bared too much or too little of." Often, though, there's something else to a work of art, too much sometimes. De Pio testifies: "I also painted this at the height of Tokhang (the Philippine Drug War) in 2016, when bound corpses were popping up all over the country in the early stages of that drug war. "So I guess one could construe that this is also my way of condoling with or lamenting for those countrymen of ours, both children and adults, who met their gruesome deaths in this war. They say that singing is praying sevenfold. Well, perhaps painting is praying 70-fold."
Alwin Reamillo, Ad Maiorem Dei.30-Gloriam, 2019, installation, dimensions variable
Remember ALWIN REAMILLO's piece at the Allegoria show last year titled Marcelo H. del Duchampilarâ€™s AleGloria, or The Pride Stripped Bare by Herr Batchelors, MĂŞme? In his piece for the Religioso / Espiritual show, Reamillo reused that part of the installation that he has been calling his "rockenroll piano". Here it is upturned, and on it stands a found object, a gigantic or lifesize toy sculpture of a familiar figure, the movable body, head, and arm parts of which are suspended from the ceiling using thick fishing lines. Four lanterns hover above the work, lanterns that are supposed to work as much for the sculpture as for the other artworks in the entire space of the group show. Conceptually, the figure references both the mythical creature
called the "manananggal" and that other—perhaps equally mythical— creature called the "manananggol" (lawyer, defender, savior). The figure wears an ₱800 "Du30" mask bought online, among other object elements attached to his body. Of course those familiar with this figure will recognize it as Thrall, a major orc character from the video game Warcraft. Now, notice that Reamillo's rendering of this figure in the installation makes it appear like a religious statue in a church, not in emulation of religious statues but as a subversion of them. The subversion as a form—or product—of artistic meditation, likewise as one's response to the religious imagery as it relates to current states of affairs. Using this large toy, then, he mimics sacred objects or statuary. But that mimicry does not parody the medium of sacrosanctness, it parodies instead an appropriator of that imagery or that sacrosanctness or sanctity, the major figure of current states of affairs here alluded to by the Du30 mask. On this figure is also a breastplate, on the two breast discs of which are found the seals of the Philippine state: the judiciary and the legislative, respectively. The figure's belt buckle, meanwhile, has the presidential seal. One might guess that perhaps this figure is a parodying critique of Duterte's God-Building favoring China's agnosticism, and consequently perhaps an implied defense of what Duterte wants to subvert, the Church. But Reamillo's imagery with the figure is actually more focused on the persona of Duterte, underneath whose facade he thinks there is inherent evil. So it is primarily a critique of the deification of Duterte by his supporters. In him as a caricature, represented by this figure and his contextual image in the media and present culture, Reamillo sees not a god but a simple-headed attacker of religious institutions who is likewise thin-skinned towards counter-attacks on his leadership and the state. A simple orc. Yes, for this was Reamillo's reaction to the figure from Warcraft when he saw it. A boorish orc with a drug war craft. But what is the religiosity or spirituality lurking within Reamillo's work that would suggest an alternative to Duterte's cult of personality
or God-Building for China? Reamillo says it is afloat. It is in the critique itself—in the intense opposition to the current state of affairs, waging through artmaking a religious-like war against the Duterte state. By being very political and oppositional, he is reminded of growing up Catholic, brought by a belief to maintain a religious zeal, and Reamillo has always tried to tap into that mode of experience in his growing-up years. It is no different from a form of fundamentalism, he says, risky and precarious in a land with a feudal culture and brand of politics. There is a sublime aspect to all of this, too. While propping up the toy statue over a weekend, Reamillo accidentally twisted and dislodged the head and torso. These fell and cracked into parts. He realized then that the monster, just like ordinary mortals, can be disassembled. This happened on the very same day that victims of a mysterious monstrousness were being displayed on Facebook— disassembled parts of the dead inside a bombed church in Jolo. So what is Reamillo's piece trying to preach in this show of religious/spiritual artworks? Is it preaching against Duterte's cult of personality or God-Building for China as well as against religion's being an inch away from being fanatically/zealously violent? Is he peddling, through his representation, the position of the irreligious?—which would be a mission and presence one might suppose to be anomalous in this show. Ad Maiorem Dei.30-Gloriam is, true, oppositional to Duterte's self-deification as the saviour of the Philippines, against his cult of personality. But in terms of the show, where everyone is offering either their points of spirituality, critiques of religious text and the conflicting behavior of the followers of that text, or rigid religious beliefs, Reamillo's seems to be the voice in the show that comes out to say, "faith is all crap, because look at the resultant politics being produced by faith." But is it really true? In his Allegoria show work, it was obvious he was attacking the state via the allegorical device. Here, it may seem that he is merely attacking DU30's voice as a new religion. So it may seem as a mere critique on power and the dominant or ruling ideology, no more, no less. Also on faith, or what sociologists would call confirmation bias.
But, you see, when one loses faith in the big organised structures and the faith that these structure peddle, one also reclaims faith in standing up against such power. Faith in art, for one, in a back-tobasics Davidian sort of faith against the Goliaths of the world. In fact, during the last few days of thinking about this new work, Reamillo saw a manifestation of a kind of religious discernment. He has had faith all along, he thought, trusting that his work may actually present some truth behind all the facades on media. So, in that sense, like de Pio, Reamillo also sees art as a religious activity in itself. A prayer. A meditation. But can we believe that pronouncement, coming from an artist who has through the years has not been shy to display his acquired aversion to institutionalized religion? Could it be a mere put-on, just for this show? Well, get this. Reamillo had not always been an agnostic. He actually had dreams of becoming a priest. Twice at UP while a sophomore at the College of Fine Arts, he went with college buddy Jon Red on a three-day retreat at the Ateneo Loyola Schools to find out if he had a calling. Then he had a try at St. Paul Seminary Foundation in Silang, Cavite. He found their publishing advocacy interesting. Previous to this, his first public artworks were religious posters, done when he was recruited by his Religion teacher in Paco Catholic School to be part of the school's art club. He was keen on entering the seminary where his cousin (his first art teacher) was in. But this dream was shelved when he was admitted to the Philippine High School for the Arts. . . . It was a nephew of his who succeeded in becoming a priest, a Recollect one. But he became involved in liberation theology, went up the mountains of Samar to organize basic Christian communities. Fr. Jack, as he was called, passed on a few years ago, after eventually leaving the church, getting married, and dedicating himself to social work. To Reamillo, he was an inspiring human being who left behind two highly intelligent daughters and a wife who has continued her own advocacy with a social enterprise that makes soya milk for the street children of Lahug, Cebu City. Now, you'd ask, why in hell are we putting in all of this excess backgrounder about Reamillo . . . on this text about his work for the
Religioso show? Well, it's simple, really. Reamillo's piece is actually a conjecture. It asks this: perhaps all religions were born out of resistance. So, if Ad Maiorem Dei.30-Gloriam is both a critique of a people's blind faith in a political personality as well as an endorsement of the theory that says religions were probably all born out of resistance, then this position would already be embodying Christian philosophy itself. Or, rather, it will have demonstrated the true seed of Christianity. After all, lest we forget, Christianity was born from Jesus of Nazareth's critique of the early Jews' blind faith in their authorities as well as the Sanhedrin's faith in their Power as Religious Authorities. These critiques paved the way for Jesus' movement of resistance to expand, birthing a new faith sourced from Love (against Rome's faith sourced from Might). The effort to destroy Rome's Mightis-God philosophy with an alternative Love-is-God philosophy churned out a champion that became popular with the people. Reamillo says that this was the very comment of his supervisor in Perth when he did similar works critical of Catholicism. The supervisor said that Reamillo's resistance to Catholicism was very Catholic. And it's true. After all, Catholicism is the very Christian church that has been able to embrace such resistant views as those in liberation theology. Of course one can argue that resistance is very Catholic for only as long as one's Catholicism is behaving within Christian philosophy, and referencing perhaps Jesus' role as the first non-violent revolutionary as well. After all, Christianity itself, in all its forms, would be corrupted, with its structure and power hierarchy, every time it became a state's religion, much in the same way the Sanhedrin's Judaism was coopted by the Roman Empire to serve the latter's conquering and corrupting purpose. Much the same way, too, that the words "love" and "compassion" and "charity" are daily coopted by the selfish and ambitious. Later, the churches would also behave much like corporations themselves, with corporate interest placed above other interests. In the same way, too, that its teachings would be corrupted by one of its preachers to advance, say, a state's death penalty advocacy. "Subversion is my religion," says Reamillo, "a way of confronting
power." And isn't that what religion really is? To reference resistance as the root of all religions, including a regard of even Buddhism as a resistance to noise pollution, among other things, is to discuss the paradox of religion and faith in relation to power. And then, finally, to discuss the seed of religion and spirituality itself.
Jon Red, Dito Sa Lupa Para Nang Sa Langit, 2018, acrylic on wood, 48" x 96"
About Dito Sa Lupa Para Nang Sa Langit, JON RED testifies that he lived for four years in Mount Makiling in his teenage years, so the mountain theme is personally relevant to him, especially as it relates to the spiritual. He tried to Google "mountain" and was surprised to read what he found. In http://umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/M/mou ntain.html he saw this: "The mountain is thought to contain divine inspiration, and it is the focus of pilgrimages of transcendence and spiritual elevation. It is a universal symbol of the nearness of God, as it surpasses ordinary humanity and extends toward the Sky and the heavens. It symbolizes constancy, permanence, motionlessness, and its peak spiritually signifies the state of absolute consciousness. In dreams, a mountain signifies danger, but climbing a mountain depicts inner elevation." He started his project for this show with a concept of clouds and mountains, but during the process of painting worked with abstract images and forms referring to the mountain's "mountain-ness". He exploited the standard plywood measurement's verticality. Then he incorporated his flair for putting in text into the picture, as he did in a piece at the 2018 Allegoria show. In the resulting piece, while evoking the intended ready visceral spirituality associated with the human experience with mountains, clouds, quiet in mountain heights, birds, and so on, the incorporated text expands the painting's experience to evoke meanings to do with ambition (climbing), the Tower of Babel, wealth hierarchies, and heights of sexual enjoyment, which all interplay and contrast with the enjoyment of a sense of that spirituality quite beautifully.
Angelo Valmoria Roxas, Wrestling with the Unknown I, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"
Angelo Valmoria Roxas, Wrestling with the Unknown II, 2019, acrylic on canvas, 24" x 36"
Meanwhile, in Wrestling with the Unknown I and Wrestling with the Unknown II by ANGELO VALMORIA ROXAS, displayed in a corner of the gallery to almost face each other like semi-mirroring images, we become witness to both pieces' alluding to men lost in their gentle thoughts with eyes expressing innocence or silent disbelief. But also of a woman queen and a female angel looking like provider of either a hugging comfort or sympathy. But both works also reference an orange light, with the one work placing that light on a robot-like entity while the other places it on a Virgin Mary-looking crowned figure's corneas. To the artist, orange signifies fascination, like the fascination of observers watching on their monitors the movements of their human subjects. So the female figures are not providers of comfort or sympathy, after all, but are merely imagined beings available to those â€œwrestling with the unknownâ€?. As representatives of religious narratives, the females here are portrayed as conscripted figures of religious allure. While the man or boy in 1 may be expressing fear, which could be a foe but often ultimately a friend of faith, the man in 2 is definitely wrestling with his thoughts through knowledge and philosophy. These two pieces, especially together, seem like the perfect representation of classic agnosticism that neither embraces nor dismisses faith.
Gromyko Semper, Raptura, 2018, acrylic, oil, mineral pigment, ink, and graphite on canvas, 36" x 48"
GROMYKO SEMPER joins us in this as the representative voice of evangelicalism. And, according to the artist, Raptura is "a work based
on a dream I had after reading the Book of Revelations. He goes on to explain that "in my belief, based on fundamentalist Baptist theology, the 'rapture' is the harrowing of the elect saved. The woman here signifies the woman bearing the savior of the world; it is the Immaculate Conception of the Christ. "Contrary to Catholic dogma, the conception cannot be focused on the virgin's birthing but on the Christ's birth," in spite of the imagery where we cannot see the yet to be born and can only see the beautiful mother. "The background here denotes that the one she is carrying, the Only Savior, will soon be 'capturing' the elect in the air before the Anti-Christ's reign on earth during the end time's occurrence. "You would notice that there is a mushroom creature at her feet," continues Semper. "Conspirary theorists believe that John the Beloved, the writer of the Revelations, had been taking drinks of wine the barley in which was infected by psychedelic mushrooms." Semper is aware that his medium of discourse is painting and not words, and is thus aware that he is inevitably presenting both the thesis and the antithesis to those views on the mushroom, and might inevitably therefore be offering the viewer the two options of reading that image concerning the mushroom according to his/her prejudice. Especially as, being a self-proclaimed advocate of visionary art, Semper knows that "visionary experience often involves either a psychoactive trigger or, in contrast, an authentic spiritual enlightenment. To tell which cause is true is often very subjective. So, here, the reader may be given free reign of interpretation." But as free interpretation is a given, especially in our era where artists abound who declare that the audience can decide what they see since they have already done their job of providing their audience a stimulus, Semper would also not be shy to be more concrete whenever he would be called upon by opportunity to expound on his intents. "But if it were up to me," he goes, "I'd have the woman in the picture be read as being in the act of stepping on that mushroom, definitely as it would be in the usual snake-on-Mary's-feet iconography.
"That means that I'm debunking the psychedelic antithesis. Because in the Biblical text, what is portrayed here is supposed to be an authentic visionary experience. "Every Biblical vision is inspired by the in-dwelling Holy Spirit and can only be triggered from the mind of the 'elect' 'prophet/visionary'. The fundamentalist belief goes that only the elect will be saved before the seven-year reign of the Antichrist. So, the rapture is not for all; it is only for the pre-selected predestined souls. The logic behind the concept is quite ambiguous and a bit 'racist' in human terms, I know, but in a strictly Puritan sense, it really makes sense." Also, as it is our historical habit to read figures as icons, it would be hard for some to understand why Semper would aver that the figure in the imagery is iconoclastic. "Unlike my previous gothic symbolic imagery, which was more iconic albeit sometimes ironic, the iconoclasm in this work is through the sense that though it is still symbolic, a transcendence is made by the 'realism' or reality of the vision." We fully understand Semper's view of the iconoclastic figure, as this would have relatives in the view of Byzantine art as well as in Symbolism's celebrations of and expressed frustrations with the 'symbol'. But Semper's art, he says, is more influenced by the flat realism in Japanese art. But that doesn't matter, as while the rule in Byzantine iconography is that the figure must not be so 3D, as 3D iconography would be sacrilegious, so it is in Japanese ukioye, where spirituality must be expected to inhabit the lines. To Semper, "spirit" or "spirituality" is also an abstract energy and not a mere concrete halo. This energy is supposedly visible in Raptura, "represented by those cloud-like masses of luminous energy." But what, finally, is Semper's work talking about? Well, as evangelicalism itself would say, "that the world as we know it is coming to an end soon, and that we should be reminded that once the rapture is done evil shall be allowed to reign upon the earth for a period of time, and that this image here serves among many as a reminder of how everything is transient, as per Ecclesiastes 3."
Jojo de Veyra, Iesus Nazarenus Resorts, Inc., 1990, oil on canvas, 31 ½" x 46 ¼"
JOJO DE VEYRA's 1990 vertical oil landscape titled Iesus Nazarenus Resorts, Inc. features a seascape beyond a resort fence at the top of the canvas and an asphalt road crossing in the top middle. The road looks like a black crucifix, and by the title we understand that this is an attempt to illustrate the Crucifixion of Jesus aniconically. But, listening to the artist, it—as a Symbolist painting— actually goes beyond that, presenting to us an allegory of the Christian philosophy and a critique of many Christians' views that seem to go against the very philosophy they tout to be followers of. Here's how Veyra would enumerate the details of his Symbolist composition and visual argument: 1) The crossing asphalt roads in the painting’s foreground obviously depicts a black cross. At the top of the road appearing vertically is a gate-cum-guardhouse with a door, on top of which door is a sign that has the letters “INRI,” commonly understood as an acronym for "Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum" but here corrupted to stand for "Iesus Nazarenus Resorts, Inc.," presumably to parody businesses that use Jesus' or saints' or angels' names. The guardhouse-cum-gate, though sporting a peaceful white wall, sports a blood-red roof for a crown. We’ll go into a peace/war or life/death duality symbolism later; just remember that image. 2) Now, if this vertical landscape composition depicts the Crucifixion of Jesus, then the rocks on the right foreground must signify Jesus’s disciples. St. Peter was himself called The Rock, and every Christian church is referred to as a rock, while Jesus was wont to preach atop a humble rock or mound. Note that the rocks seem to appear as having eyes, which may expand to either negative contexts involving anthropocentrism or positive ones involving Taoist philosophy and man's relationship with nature. 3) A large white X interferes in the landscape’s presentation, like a white X on a building’s newly-installed glass wall or window. This X could signify the spears of the centurions at the Crucifixion of Jesus, and qua interference or “wound” on our comfortable landscape view could also signify the centurion's spear that supposedly inflicted a wound on Jesus’ right side. One of this X’s upper points, the one piercing the vertical road’s right side, does seem to touch a red gash
on that part of the road, which may be understood as some blood on the road, perhaps from a car accident or from an animal roadkill, or as some blood-looking spilled can of paint, but here signifying something else: the spear-piercing at Christ's Crucifixion. The spear-piercing referencing here actually quotes a long-held tradition in Christian art of putting that wound on Jesus’ right side, which presumably symbolizes Jesus's saving of the soul of the penitent thief Dismas who was crucified to his right. 4) Notice also that the vertical road’s curve to its left (to Gestas’ side) appears to be the quicker or most-often-taken turn, while its curve to its right (to Dismas’ side) appears to be the harder and lessoften-taken turn. Along with that symbolism, a bush grows on the cross's right side, while grass to its left seems to be drying/dying. The parking lot to its left also has a parking meter (you pay), while the parking facility at its right has none. Furthermore, that gray asphalt-or concrete-topped parking lot to its left there seems to sport an islandcum-plant box that looks like a coffin, representative of death. 5) The two empty parking lots themselves could symbolize an oncoming populace who could then be on Jesus’ shoulder once they come to park here, ready to be saved or not. 6) Going back, the large X looking like a newly-installed glass window’s traditional/functional X could also be hinting at that “wall” between here (the viewer’s position) and there (beyond the glass), referring to a behind-the-glass landscape that is presumably the land of Christianity. This land of Christianity, then, is not a land that you can just point to and declare as being in/on; it is a land you have to go to and take steps in/on, by first opening or breaking that glass wall separating the "here" from the "there." It could even refer to a bunch of Christian religious "here" who observe all the rituals of Christianity but have yet to actually live the Christian philosophy "there." 7) Now, if the sea is a symbol for life, the hazards of life, and then death, then it should also be an apt symbol for Christian philosophy, this philosophy being one which merges death with a happy afterlife, a life with Jesus and God. Notice the welcoming (albeit a bit fearsome) royal purple sky above this sea? Notice also the cloud/s that seem/s to form a halo above the vertical road? Now, the beach is
a symbol of fun and living, which could here be the symbol for happy Christian living, Christian life being a kind of living supposedly not fearful of being near seascapes of hardship and death, being faithful towards that Christian sea of life and death and resurrection. This, then, is the very crux of Christian philosophy, its philosophy that covers issues concerning war/peace, life/death, and punishment. Those who campaign for the death penalty, therefore, in the name of Christianity, misunderstand the concept of punishment as well as death in the Christian philosophical context. 8) But while true Christian living is not fearful of death, neither must it be fearful of life. Thus the presence of a lifeguard, symbol of a beautiful human being who could be preaching the beauty of life as well, and who, while not fearful of death and decay in his/her athleticism and courage, stays appreciative of life, protective too of everyone's body’s and mind's health and constant safety. 9) And if there are disciple rocks to be seen in Jesus’ Crucifixion, representing the rocks of old, those rocks beyond the resort fence (inside the Christian resort of Christian living looking out to the lifedeath-afterlife sea and to the royal purple sky above) must be the new “rocks,” the new Peters, the priests and preachers of true Christian philosophy espoused by the painting. 10) And, lastly, what about the title, Iesus Nazarenus Resorts, Inc.? Remember that Che Guevara, or was it Pablo Neruda, referred to the Church mockingly as “Christ, Inc.,” suggesting that it has been mired in institutional corruption within the capitalist system. That satiric view, while seemingly quoted in this painting via its title, is actually reversed here, since the embrace of a happy Christian life is described as similar to going to a fun beach resort, and since the word “incorporated” here consequently possesses new Christian community meanings beyond those connoting deceptive free-market associations and corporate corruption. . . .
Ian Victoriano, The Colorful Mysteries, 2019, watercolor on paper (6 frames), each frame 14 Âź" x 11 Â˝"
IAN VICTORIANO's The Colorful Mysteries is a composite of six small watercolor paintings that depicts six various scenes of what Victoriano refers to as a spiritual journey. He writes: "I believe that there may be many doors that open into spirituality. One door is the desire to understand 'reality' through science, physics and the study of the universe. "I define spirituality as being high with the mystery of existence, resulting in a heightened love of life. A sense of wonder about the
nature of things (everything: material reality, consciousness, language, knowledge, and so on) leads to it. "The spiritual journey depicted in this hexaptych centers on spiritual awakening through a study of physics, the nature of the universe in particular. Pondering the nature of reality at the smallest (sub-atomic) and largest (universal) levels causes both the joy and pain of discovery. "According to Carl Sagan, science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality."
Nestor Olarte Vinluan, Pieces from Omega Centauri, 2013, paint, wood, plexiglass, and paper, variable size
NESTOR VINLUAN's Pieces from Omega Centauri echoes Victoriano's statement about the spirituality that one would almost automatically inherit from visions within science (as well as from memories concerning science towards visual stimuli one encounters in art and artmaking). However, Vinluan seems to also state in his piece here that while, indeed, there are things still alien to science, things science is still unable to explain, manifest in its brother or sister-field science fiction's explorations of still-unexplainable phenomena or future-witnessed phenomena, the spirituality within the awe must already be acknowledged not just upon an encounter with such stimuli (in, say, lab science) but even upon just their imagining (science fiction and theoretical science). After all, the mysteries of, say, space and the galaxies are just as much there (in Omega Centauri, and so on) as it is here in our minds, our minds wherein the awe has constantly been residing.
The online catalog of the February 16 to March 9, 2019 Religioso / Espiritual show at J Studio, Pasillo 18, La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Chino Roce...
Published on Feb 15, 2019
The online catalog of the February 16 to March 9, 2019 Religioso / Espiritual show at J Studio, Pasillo 18, La Fuerza Plaza, 2241 Chino Roce...