Myth in Resplendent Form

After its successful run at Art Fair Philippines, Illuminations moves to Tin-aw Art Gallery and can be viewed starting today. Join artist Joy Mallari for a discussion later, 28 February 2014 3PM at Tin-aw.

Following are excerpts from my catalogue essay for the exhibition:

“Every myth is driven by the need to solve a paradox that cannot be solved.”

From Wendy Doniger’s introduction to Claude Levi Strauss’s Myth and Meaning

For Illuminations, Mallari casts light as beacon for a myth revived for our times, as visual and haptic element by which to navigate the circuitous paths of a meandering tale. She installs light boxes constructed in streamlined form to frame the myth of the eclipse. These light boxes anchor the stage occupied by the elaborately rendered central sculpture.

Through a subtle and exquisite tension between contrasts in form and style, the artist foregrounds a narrative of elusive harmony. The myth where the bakunawa is central character tells of its fury as it avenged the death of a loved one. It gorged on the earth’s six glowing moons.  Lowland dwellers dutifully followed Bathala’s advice to drive away the fearsome creature by deafening sound. The last orb in the night skies was thankfully saved but it is said the bakunawa would visit time and again, and when it does the world falls into deep darkness. As in myth as well as Mallari’s art, light prominently presents itself.

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Installation view at Art Fair Philippines 2014
Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery

Myths such as the bakunawa’s revenge and the eclipse are attempts to intuit the chaos of the cosmos and to place ourselves waveringly in such turmoil. It is an attempt to restore a balance or harmony that has been lost. In trying to explain natural phenomena, myth ponders the breadth of consciousness as well as the consequence of human actions. They are means by which we locate ourselves in a baffling and oftentimes, mysterious world. Much of this enigma is gone, blunted by our effusive desires and our heedless rush towards the unimaginable horizons of progress. But our present-day world is plagued by suffering and pain, which seemed to have expanded in great measure despite our gains. We are surrounded by hunger and death, by agony and loss: it is a world gone astray.

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Installation view Art Fair Philippines 2014
Image courtesy Tin-aw Art Gallery

Joy Mallari through this recent suite of works mines the depth of an age-old story, sifting them through a fascinating path of forms founded on sentient beauty and restraint, one not entirely devoid of enthralling tension and complexity. She combines fragility and strength not only in the way stories are told but more important, by the way the capacities of art to ‘move’ and ‘touch deeply’ are employed through artistic gesture. We are brought to realization that to be moved by powerful art is to allow for past and present to meld and for ancient wisdom to reside in the continuum of our lives.

Illuminations reminds and asserts through fantasy and wonder affinities long lost and momentarily regained, relived through the devices of art. From its spaces we emerge resplendent, overcome with wonder and awe within the briefest of moments.

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