Fragile Ecologies

Twenty-four pieces comprise the recently opened exhibition of bachelor’s theses at the UP Diliman College of Fine Arts. Autobiography was apparently a strong strain, addressed in different ways varying from oil paintings to installations. A noteworthy piece examined self-invention (translucent cylinder of images of the artist’s invented personas), quite remarkable among a sea of stories that draw from childhood anxieties.

One of the works inquired into the act of making art, a rotating machine that spatters paint while another piece concerned itself about the state of knowledge mediated through print, specifically books. Some works bravely explored sexuality, up turning with humor and bite a topic  rarely discussed publicly. These include the large-scale monochrome painting of exploding phallus, depicted like the destructive mushroom of atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One other is a cabinet of underwear, custom-made panties that record the artist’s coming to terms with her sexuality. Other works were about experimentation and innovation with material, thermal paper and clay from Ilocos the most interesting. Suffice to say, almost all show great potential, with majority of students laying their thoughts and intentions with admirable clarity, brevity and openness to critique.

I went home with images in my head of two installations I liked best. Jezzel Lorraine Wee’s Bauhinia Phllotaxis is a circular patch of  dried leaves, earth and whatever else comes with it. Overhead is a canopy of leaves painstakingly cut to look like hovering butterflies, faintly swaying to breeze. The canopy is well crafted, the installation points well noted for the trellis of crafted butterfly forms. The network of nylon cords makes the leaves cascade, seemingly sluicing through air. Wee works with tempered ease through her materials, exploiting to fullness something scarce (leaves that are dry and crumbling, earth sullied by trash).

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Jezzel Lorraine Wee’s Bauhinia Phyllotaxis, 2013
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Detail, Jezzel Lorraine Wee’s installation 2013

One encounters Joseph Martin Gabriel’s Ephemeral Bread Sculptures in a darkened room. His enclosed domes of mold sculptures are fascinating yet also chilling. Molds grow rapidly on bread inside these vivariums, a thriving, breathing landscape of patches and fissures. They are like urbanscapes of ruin, crumbling forms overtaken and misshapen by growth.

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Joseph Martin Gabriel’s Ephemeral Bread Sculptures, 2013

These are arresting pieces because their near fragile existence recalls the comparably threatened state of environment. The pieces change with time, magnified in density or heft as Gabriel’s bread sculptures or frittered by air and wind as Wee’s installation. A sense of delicacy, fine craft, and quiet containment shapes the latter while there is sinister element to the former, however subtly formed.

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Joseph Martin Gabriel’s Ephemeral bread sculpture, 2013

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