MM YU AT SILVERLENS GALLERIES

Monday, January 13, 2014

When the artist-photographer frames her subject inside the viewfinder, sets her finger around the camera's dials and on to the shutter's trigger, there is an act that takes place beyond the constraints of perception—beyond mere intuition on what is visually appealing and beyond the trusted sense to augment memory. What also transpires is an act of taking. An act of possession. It is an act we are obliged to commit when we say, I took a picture of a certain subject or event. It is an act that goes beyond our seeing and reasoning, and is more internally woven to the depths of desire and need.

It is an act that we refer to when we say we have captured a moment through a photograph. This entrapment, our crude trick to reality, is a device we relentlessly resort to for our need to claim a piece of authenticity that cannot be truly ours. The artist, MM Yu, in her recent show LANDPAINTING, continues to explore the mind’s recapitulation of the world: the framing of reality. There is a question that lingers with each attempt to acquire reality—what can we really take from it? Having worked on both photography and painting, MM Yu has been susceptible to the problematic conditions of representation in each medium and, to a greater extent, of how the two can overlap and provide further difficulties to the narrowing down of reality’s essence. Her paintings, since her early experiments of letting paint drip freely onto the canvas, have always took on a kind of anti-pictorial stance, which can be said is very much in opposition with her practice as a photographer. But her painting, as an ‘allover’ design of a process, adheres more to the conscious aspirations of image-making, rather than say, the rhythmic antecedents of a Pollock modeled through chance or the decorative, precariously balanced motifs of Pattern Painters during the eighties. Yu’s, with her more pre-determined approach, maintains the vital role that memory plays in her art: “the colors are swatches of pigment recorded from a specific space in an environment, and the process of making the painting is a gesture of framing what was a previously unframed reality.”



This unframed reality, in the eyes of a photographer, could mean absolute freedom from the confines of the camera’s viewfinder. And this sudden lack of restriction, which was once anchored within photography’s territory, could also mean the dizziness from an unlimited supply of reality to choose from. MM Yu, in trying to resolve whether a piece of unframed reality—unscathed by the default process of selection through setting margins and enclosures—can be possibly recorded, came up with allowing color and pigmentation to take its place, a kind of diffused substance from our realities, permeating and lingering in our memory without the sharp lines/outlines of borders. It is also color, in terms of visual perception, which is the most subjective of all components. Unmeasurable except through trial and error or direct comparison (a system that is diverted through the regulation of color through codes i.e. in the use of Pantone). And as observed by Josef Albers through his many years of teaching art, “color is never really seen as it really is—as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.” This fact, for Yu, makes color the only reliable expression of reality in art.

It is interesting to see how color invades our memory rather than ideas of lines or dimensions. According to MM Yu, colors can have the effect of being implanted in memory the same way hues and tones are the basis of images in a photograph, not shapes or figures. Her choice of which pigment to use ascribes wholly to the memory of place, of a scene, or maybe an event. Like photographs, the colors are recorded in memory, in an almost subliminal fashion, and are exposed through her process of painting. It is for MM Yu, an extraction of reality. Reality as memory, memory as a palette of colors.

The ‘drips’ of paint in her canvases communicate hard, constructivist reality in itself. Devoid of any subjective interference except for the painter’s judgment on which part of the canvas pigment will roll, the painting becomes an object of reality itself, a kind of hard material or prop, not a mere recording of reality but hard evidence of its essence. The dripping, is its own realness, the by-product of its own actuality. It achieves the same effect of re-directing the reality of image-painting or image-making by recording the mere signals of the entire process the way MM Yu has recorded (either photographed or re-constructed through painting) the different palettes artists use in achieving their images. There is a kind of base reality which MM Yu seems to bring into light here. The kind of base reality which is the actuality, not the illusion of things. IT is the actual stain that drops on the floor, the actual blemish that stayed long after the image was completed, the actual imagery that was formed inside the wooden palette while our minds were busy fantasizing on the canvas.

When included in her photographs, MM Yu’s ‘drip’ paintings go beyond being expressions of reality to becoming accessories to a conceptual approach to reality. The photographs are taken from the scenes where the memory of her paintings might have dwelled. They are places and objects where the tone and hue of her paintings each correspond to: a particular corner of a street she might have frequently passed by, a spot in her studio, a place right inside her yard, or beside an object that has influenced her memory. These are the influences to her palette. And in photographing the painting, she exposes this palette. In taking its picture, she tries to possess what already was hers.

These pictures are actual scenes that reverberate the reality found in her paintings. Although often at the center of Yu’s mise-en-scene, the painting does not assume the role of subject or protagonist, but as negation to the frame, a cancellation of the picture where in it stands an ambiguous piece of what appears to be an imploded view of the whole scene. Likewise, the picture does not serve as a documentation of the whole process but as cancellation of the whole scene’s taking, of MM Yu’s possession. The picture belonged to the painting and Yu has simply provided a vacuum of reality where nothing is held together except feedback after feedback—echo and reverb—of two images circulating inside the frame. Is it possible to assume that it is neither photograph nor painting, but two chunks of appearances derived from memory and actuality?

The captured moment, in MM Yu’s art portray more than mere recording, more than mere custody of the thing. It even goes beyond memory and its extraction of the image’s essence through colors and perceived correlations. More than possession, it acts as a kind of fulfillment—of both the painting and the picture’s selfrealization through colors, of both photographer and painter yielding to the perfection of such event. — Cocoy Lumbao

The show runs until February 8, 2014.

For inquiries, contact Silverlens Galleries at 2/F YMC Bldg. II, 2320 Don Chino Roces Ave. Ext. Makati, 816-0044, 0917-5874011, or info@silverlensgalleries.com.

Gallery hours are Monday to Friday 10AM– 7PM and Saturdays 1–6PM.

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