The Human Condition: Man Confronting Himself
Altro Mondo, which means another world, hosts this arresting assembly of international artists, who by sheer happenstance, all work on the theme of the human condition. The show has a fitting title, “Enigmatic Fantasies.” The gallery then becomes a place of engagement for a visual discourse on man at odds both with himself and his psychic terrain, thus inscribed as “another world”. Man’s confrontation with himself is a narrative exploration that leads to the discovery and revelation of disquieting states. Reality or fantasy?
Christophe Avella Bagur’s images plot connections between a present state of extreme self-consciousness and a projection of a dire but inevitable future. The artist conflates two conflicting within one persona, which the viewer may adjudge to be the artist himself. The titles he ascribes to his works identify the artist himself as I. Bagur transforms the human physiognomy and visage as a malleable vessel for a cumulative introspection. Self-Portrait is an act of self-deprecation, mirroring an internal definition of his identity, at the same time projecting the self as central figure in a drama enacted by the artist for himself. Indeed, the titles are all self-referential: I Need To Improve, where the artist mocks himself by wearing a clown’s bulbous nose; I Am Surprised To Be Old, where the artist, now ancient and wrinkled, wearing spectacles, emerges from the same youthful body of magnificent physique.
Mateo Andrea counterpoints figuration with geometric abstraction. He situates the images of attractive and appealing woman between twin towers of a grid network, as if they (Mia, Adri, Laurie) had been imprisoned behind bars. The towers themselves appear to be symbolic and metaphorical, in rich connotations that the viewer himself will instantly mine for himself. Despite this ominous reading, a light-hearted tone can be read in the linking of figuration and abstraction.
Detecting currents of anxiety and alienation in the human individual, Sha Zijian depicts his figures in isolation, seemingly lost and directionless within very realistic spaces: a woodland, an enclosed chamber, an indeterminate hall. The paintings are seemingly still and contemplative, evoking a meditation on the human condition. We are anchored on a sense of place but which, at the same time, is a zone of defamiliarization. The works are untitled, the better to induce in the viewer a discomfiting sensation of loss and confusion. Zijian’s chromatic tonalities are blurry and misty, as though tinted by the haze of memory. The artist quietly engages in the art of remoteness and distance, physically and spiritually.
Man in a state of dissolution compels our attention to Guy Oberson’s painterly renditions of figures, whose anguished expressions are indistinguishable from the slathered pigments defining their inner selves. Like lyrical homages to the tortured images of Francis Bacon, these works have a palpable physicality, no matter that the images are featureless. An exception is Ojos Negros, a portraitist’s obvious homage to the Spanish artist Francisco Goya, painter of elegant Spanish ladies as well as of macabre phantasms.
Teruhisa Yamanobe’s nude male and female figures are posed as in a life class. Their passive gestures take their cue from the artist from whose imagination they seem to emanate as mere extensions or projections. The bodies are hewn from layers of successive applications of pigment, endorsing them with a sculptural solidity. There is an intense focus on bodily gestures and movements which are indicative of the person’s psychic state. The concordance between the body, mind and spirit is what is addressed. There are of course undercurrents that will never be visible even to an artist’s astute perception.
A single work by Andres Barrioquinto, entitled Lullabye, is ravishingly lyrical and dreamlike. A young girl’s innocent visage transforms, as it were, into a performative site for the efflorescence of nature. Her face then doubles as a vase or urn for the curiously enigmatic profusion of flowers, establishing a linkage between nature and beauty, innocence and mystery. It is a delightful, bravura painting but does not overwhelm.
Like Barrioquinto’s work, Jason Montinola’s works subject the human body to a surrealistic mutation. While we expect a Filipino artist to depict his own racial kind, the portrayal of Western characters enforce a distancing effect. The viewer, who is instantly seduced and absorbed by the artists extravagantly effusive orchestration of reality and fantasy, can only stare admirably at these skillfully rendered artworks.
Kiko Escora subjects to inquisition a particular human frailty: stereotyping man. An attitude and practice deserving denunciation, the abominable habit nonetheless persists. The artists mocks us and opens our eyes by profferring us with totally unexpected images, thus turning our habituated prejudice on its head. Thus, in Silent Type, we are confronted by a skull from which nose, now merely a twin aperture, gushes forth a stream of blood–not the expected incarnadine red but royal blue. (The Fauvist master Matisse taught us to envision green skies and blue grass!) Western Type is a Ku Klux Klan–like, shrouded figure, again with streaming blue blood. Superstitious Type conjures a nun-like figure damned by all her abysmal ignorance and darkest beliefs.
From such unfathomable depths did Helene Duclos excavate the imaginary narratives of her twin series of works titled The Sound Worlds and The Sign of the Times. In both, a multitude of figures are shown from a distance, rendering them puny against a vast empty space. Animated as though engaged in some activity or ritual, they transform the scene into some eerie narrative, a spectral vision. The void into which these human figures, (often a mere agglomoration of pigment), find themselves is the stage in which fragmented humanity relentlessly plays each individuals role.