Eyes of Gauze: The Trails and Mists of Santiago Bose’s Vision

Artists’ Talk at 3PM 31st August 2013, opening cocktails afterwards. Works can be viewed from 23rd August to 6th September

The group exhibition Eyes of Gauze takes from an article written by visionary artist Santiago Bose in 2002. The article is subtitled ‘why art matters’ and therein, Bose wrote of his vision for art, the roles of an artist, and the life of imagination which he describes as ‘a life without boundaries’. It is not surprising that such ideas speak strongly to young artists of the present generation. Bose’s words are as vivid as his images. In Eyes of Gauze, he wrote of art as communication of ideas, its power the energy that rekindles our sense of being. The travels that informed his art, his incorporation of indigenous forms and materials with contemporary elements and formats speak to his understanding of the role of the artist as creator of ‘the fresh and new’, for such art to be able to stir, reform and invigorate both viewer and artist.

Santiago Bose’s influence on contemporary art is as deep as it is broad. His vision is far afield, crossing archipelagos and continents. Moored to the vicinity of home, his imagination was never constrained by the conflicts that marked its terrains. His art is complex and characterized by deep understanding of the metamorphoses of cultural forms. It is all at once intelligent, humorous, critical, irreverent. Art historian Alice Guillermo describes his practice as where a work becomes not “illusion on surface but a charged material sign capable of holding within itself the tensions of conflicting forces”.

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Santiago Bose, Carnivores of the Session Road

Sixteen young artists from the University of the Philippines Fine Arts dialogue with select works of Santiago Bose for Eyes of Gauze. The works were initially exhibited at the UP Fine Arts Corredor Gallery, pieces for a Visual Studies course taught by artist Benjie Cabangis. In keeping with Bose’s challenge to develop ideas both fresh and new, students were acquainted with Bose’s works through the exhibition Can’t Go Back Home Again at the UP Jorge Vargas Museum in November 2012. The exhibition showcased art works, interview footage, illustrated journals, and documentation from the Bose family collection. Several of these have not been publicly shown.

Efren Madlangsakay, Indeterminate Landscape (A take-off from Baguio Souvenirs)

Can’t Go Back Home Again revisited the geographies that informed Bose’s art. The ensuing dialogue with select pieces from the exhibition comprised afresh an itinerary, the artist’s vision imagined as expansive continent yet to be charted. One conjures such a voyage marked by trails yet uncertain as there remains much to be discovered. It is deep forest, sweep of land, span of skies, and mist-shrouded marsh. This encapsulates Bose’s imagination of vision as translucent, brimming with treasures awaiting discovery, the ‘hidden histories’ he was bent on charting his entire life.

The student exhibition initially entitled Boses (a play on both Bose and perhaps their own voice through art) rekindles the energies that define Bose’s art. Its current configuration for Eyes of Gauze constructs a contemporary dialogue with his ideas. Taking from and conversing with about seven art works from the Vargas Museum exhibition artists Josef Alfonso, Katrina Andrews, John Laurence Bacay, Julia Barrameda, Finness Calacal, Carzen Esprela, Katherine Kim, Efren Madlangsakay, Michael Arsenio Marcelo, Michael Nilles, Henrielle Pagkaliwangan, Nel Diamond Paredes, Vianelli Ponce, Ilya Salveron, Ness Sheen and Nicole Tee engage the works through contemporary understandings of material and strategies. While largely informed by Bose’s approach, their art reflects visions tempered by what it means to live the present. They reflect on identity through collected objects, re-imagine Baguio of the distant past through appropriated images of place, of objects and bodies that by turns have become souvenirs yet revived through potent forms. These young artists remake the topographies that define not just Bose’s art but trace the links and weave the strands to establish ties to their past, the histories Bose himself was keen on discovering.

eyes of gauze

Intermedia is fitting description for the works that are outcomes of a course that hones and interrogates approaches to vision. Such a term signifies the fluid possibilities inherent to artistic mediums and visual strategies. It likewise connotes the limitless spans of forms and approaches that define contemporary art as well as the heightened tendency among artists to employ interdisciplinary methods. This state brings us back to Santiago Bose’s conjuring of the life of the imagination – one without boundaries, of which the same can be said of his influence on contemporary art.

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