Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Alfredo Esquillo and Renato Habulan hold simultaneous solo shows — “Sequence and Consequence” and “Panimula: Loob at Kaluluwa,” respectively — which are on view until April 30, 2014 at Finale Art File, Warehouse 17, La Fuerza, 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City.

Alfredo Esquillo exhibits a series of new works in triptych panels: a succession of stories strung together. These encounters between related images change through time and space, creating narrative sequences. A surreal sense of fantasy takes over as the story unfolds: a fish emerges from a man’s mouth, a hook beckons, a man emerges from the fish’s mouth, drawn out by the hook. The progression between three states points to the flux of change, and to the turn of events: visual puns and twists in the tale emerge from the process of constructing the turn of events.

Rendered with Esquillo’s precise sense of realism, the works are a continuation of the artist’s ongoing exploration with visualizing sequential narratives. In this exhibition, Esquillo’s stories focus on the concepts of ‘loob’ and ‘saysay’—two words conveying the sense of values on which Filipino culture is rooted in. The words themselves pose a double entendre: for loob can denote both interior space and self; saysay can pertain to both the act of telling or narrating and the Tagalog word for meaning or relevance.

“I am sharing a study of Loob via a style of depiction that is Saysay,” Esquillo writes. ‘Loob’ denotes the balance between materiality and spirituality, “pointing to what is within and essential but never separating itself from what is outside; evaluating what is inherently Filipino but also crossing boundaries between the local and the universal,” he continues. ‘Saysay’, on the other hand, captures the sense of what art should be used for in the present, a word that begs for meaning and worth.

Alfredo Esquillo (b. 1972) studied painting at the University of Santo Tomas and won the Grand Prizes in the 1993 Metrobank Foundation Painting Competition and the 1995 Philip Morris Asean Art Awards. Influenced by Filipino Social Realist artists during his earlier years, he was also a member of art collectives such as the Anting-Anting and Kalye Collectives. In 2000, Esquillo was named among the 13 Artists Awardees of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Renato Habulan’s latest one-man exhibition features new pen and ink drawings. This boceto series centers on a theme that the artist has continually reflected on throughout his practice: seeking parallels between the human condition and the suffering of Christ.

The works attempt to “tell the stories of our people and the triumph of the human spirit in their daily struggle,” Habulan says. The drawing series is a collection of stories about the subaltern, reflecting on the contemporary experience of alienation by also utilizing the iconography of Christian religious statuary.

The format that Habulan chooses — pen and ink — also speaks of his resolve to engage in representation. “Post-modernism has rendered the wall-bound painting obsolete and narrative art as passé, but I do not want my art to be reduced into an object or focus on the materiality of my content,” Habulan adds.

Renato Habulan is among the artists associated with the group of Social Realists whose work came to fruition during the years of Martial Law in Philippine history. Also an award-winning watercolorist, he represented the Philippines in the 1995 Cheju Biennale, South Korea and cited as a Cultural Center of the Philippines 13 Artists awardee in 1990.

Simultaneously ongoing with their respective one-man exhibitions is a collaborative endeavor by Alfredo Esquillo and Renato Habulan, composed of two video installations. The project is a continuation of the artistic exchanges that these two artists of different generations have engaged in since the 1990s.

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