Artist Joy Mallari revives the folk figure of the Bakunawa for an exhibition at the 2014 Philippine Art Fair. Titled Illuminations, the exhibition retells the folklore of how eclipses came to be: a primordial story about the delicate balance between heaven and earth. Retold in various forms, the myth of the Bakunawa is about a fearsome dragon or sea serpent that devoured six of the moons that brightened the night skies. It was said the creature lived with a lover, who travels to land bringing the sea along with her. As most folk legends reveal, it is human folly that disrupts the latent harmony of the cosmos.
Lowland dwellers kill the harbinger of the seas and earn the ire of the Bakunawa who then proceeded to swallow six of the skies’ seven moons. Alarmed that only one moon was left and of the ensuing darkness if this last orb is swallowed whole, Bathala advised village folk to make relentless sounds to drive the creature away. They succeeded by banging on pots and pans but had to make do with the last moon left.
Mallari wields her singular gift of narrative to render afresh a myth that explains the often unfathomable turns of the cosmos. She unravels in sentient beauty these stories, dispersing their sequence through a most compelling approach to the figure and a delicate yet entrancing fabrication of their milieu. In Joy Mallari’s art pieces, there is familiarity tempered by somber enigma which she fashions in meticulous and fine-grained manner.
For Illuminations, she retells the myth of the eclipse across art formats and mediums. These include wall bound works and a central sculpture piece. Here, she recasts the gleam of moons lost when harmony is shattered. By resuscitating a story passed by word- of-mouth into the many dimensions afforded by image and three-dimensional forms, she recasts for her present-day audiences age-old knowledge in danger of being mired in forgetfulness. Indeed, if there is anything central to survival in a world where lasting harmonies are bygone if not illusory, memory is one such vigorous means. Joy Mallari in her artistic practice, her choice of themes to explore and the materials and methods best to convey them, grasps the extent of recollection’s reach and conveys it in potent and moving ways.
About the artist
Joy Mallari’s recent exhibitions highlight the ease with which she transitions from artistic mediums and the consistently engaging and invigorating means she tells stories through art. Scribe, a 2013 exhibition at the Secret Fresh gallery is one such example showing as it did the seamless melding of painting and sculpture. Recent solo exhibitions include Doll Eyes at the Glass Wing of the Ayala Museum Makati City, Recuerdo at Sitio Remedios in Ilocos Norte and Perennial at Art Verite gallery at the Bonifacio Global City. She has actively participated in group exhibitions, joining four exhibitions annually for 2011 and 2010. These included Re:view at the Bencab Museum in Baguio City and Monumental at the Manila Contemporary in Makati in 2011. For 2010, her pieces were shown in the exhibitions Soundbyte at Tin-aw Art Gallery and Cross Over in Denmark.
Joy had lived in Los Angeles for several years before settling back in Manila. She was given the Solidarity Award and was part of the Tarfest Juried Show organized by the Lawrence Asher Gallery, both in Los Angeles. Her citations include a Juror’s Choice at the ASEAN Art Awards in 2000. She studied fine arts at the University of the Philippines and was part of the Sanggawa Collective.