Thursday, March 16, 2017

In the world of fiction, the idea of a gentleman’s parlor occurs throughout 19th century Victorian fiction. Imagine a room full of curios and collectibles from a cultured, well-travelled, and sophisticated man — a place to plan out a round-the-world itinerary, or rest from a long journey. This place appears as the Reform Club of Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days, or the den of Dorian Gray. Or the gothic cloakroom of the British Parliament, where great men like Benjamin Disraeli and Winston Churchill discussed important world events. It is a domain of the gentry, where a man can have a cigar, sip some aged scotch, and put his feet up on a plush ottoman.

In A Gentleman’s Domain, a new exhibit of works by Ram Mallari, whose very aesthetic echoes the chambers of these dens and parlors is presented. Ram Mallari’s new sculptures transform the space, at SM Megamall’s Art Center, into a veritable gentleman’s parlor that would not be out of place in a Sherlock Holmes story. Placing various sculpture-as-furniture elements around the room — a grandfather clock, a chess set, et al — Mallari takes his audience into a rich and elaborate setting.

A Gentleman’s Domain is the latest exhibition of the renowned sculptor, who uses found metal objects to craft new and wondrous sculpture that take on the visual characteristics of their original purpose: post-industrial and mechanical, yet with an almost organic quality. “It just happened one day,” said the artist of his approach. “I saw abandoned and rusted metals. I felt them beckoning to me ... wanting me to transform them. I find hidden in each of them images so compelling, so grand, so inspiring, so magical.”

This exhibition will be the 2nd time Mallari exhibits in this space. His last exhibition at the Art Center, called Visions from the Foundry, focused on the industrial aspects of a workshop. His oeuvre has refined since then, into a look that is more infinitely more detailed, exploring themes of tension between past and future, and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology. For this latest exhibition, we step out of the factory workshop, and into the more sophisticated confines of a gentlemen’s parlor.

Consider Mallari’s series of grandfather clocks. A fixture of any den, Mallari’s clocks are examples of functional art that can be used to tell the time (and chime at the appropriate time), while admired for that sense of Victorian industrial chic each piece brings. Likewise, his works of sculpted fauna (such as that of a Lion in “The King”) blurs the distinction between a traditional, mimetic sculpture, and that of a post-modern industrial object. Interestingly, there is a similarity of concept with that of contemporary art star Ronald Ventura, whose own practice likewise juxtaposes the organic and inorganic. This tension, from Mallari’s point of view, is entirely negotiated within a curated concept of a gentlemen’s parlor, thus forming a link between each work.

The idea of utilizing space in this way comes naturally for Mallari, who studied Architecture at the Technological Institute of the Philippines. The idea also runs through his previous projects, such as 2013’s Greenstallation, a project by Ayala Museum and Nuvali in Sta. Rosa. Mallari’s contribution to the project, called “The Last Tree”, is a wonderful example of this approach, depicting a man crouching with a tree sapling in his hands, in the act of planting what is to become a forest, demonstrating the sculpture’s ability to utilize a thoroughly inorganic medium to represent what is inherently organic.

Step into Ram Mallari’s Gentleman’s Domain, and be taken by the stunning new works of this rising contemporary artist.

The exhibition runs until March 25, 2017 at the SM Megamall Art Center, 4th Floor Art Walk, SM Megamall Building A, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.

For more information, please call +632 570 9495, or +632 723 9418.

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