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ART AS REFUGE

By DOM GALEON

According to a study commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry, among the sectors most affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic are the arts and entertainment. Naturally, with mass gatherings suspended and people staying at home and so-called “non-essential” establishments closed, places of art—visual or otherwise—have been inaccessible. 

A lot can be said, of course, about whether or not art is “non-essential.” But without going through the nitty-gritty of the largely philosophical and existential reasons as to why art is more essential now than ever, we introduce a series that focuses on art as refuge. 

Online exhibits are not new, especially with today’s so-called “new normal”—a term that is quickly losing its flair because of how often it has been thrown around by the media. Since the start of community quarantines the world over, art has been finding a way to enrich the lives of people stuck in their homes, reeling from cabin fever, and dealing with, perhaps, their own crises of existence. 

Thus, art has always presented itself as a refuge, in trying times most especially, but even during ordinary epochs. Art is and will always be a refuge for the weary and the lost, for the dreamers and the believers. 

‘A/NEW’

First up is Salcedo Private Views’ online gallery exhibit dubbed as “A/NEW,” featuring artworks by Allain HabloRodin Fernandez, and Von Ng

It’s an exhibit that is the first of its kind in the country because it provides an actual, virtual gallery. Instead of just posting the art pieces on their website, something that was already being done even before the world was plunged into quarantines and lockdowns, Salcedo launched a virtual space where the artworks hang on virtual walls. The visitor can walk around this space and observe and zoom into each of the pieces on display. And because one does not rush through an art gallery, the viewer moves through this virtual gallery at a very controlled pace. 

Kintsugi 83

Kintsugi 83, Allain Hablo

To make things even more “normal,” Salcedo hosted an online vernissage on May 9 for a select group of virtual guests, who were each treated to dinner courtesy of the Happy Concept Group, which delivered the food to the homes of the participants. Present during this opening and preview via Zoom were two of the featured artists, Rodin and Von.

An architect by training and profession, Rodin started dabbling in sculptures using his father’s old materials and tools. These he used to develop the wooden sculptures on display at Salcedo’s virtual space. “Art was something I started on when I had nothing else to do before,” he says. “It wasn’t a priority then. Now, I do art and then I only stop when there’s something else I have to do.”

Von’s pieces, on the other hand, are inspired by a fascination with post-apocalyptic themes, something he developed over the years from an interest in science fiction and anime.  “I’m still a young artist finding my way, constantly developing my method and aesthetics,” says the Beijing-based Pinoy artist. “Right now, I may be fixated with this sci-fi, post-apocalyptic look, but who knows what will happen in the next decade?” 

Rodin-Fernandez-6

Art piece by Rodin Fernandez

Like Rodin, Von didn’t initially prioritize his art. But now, he finds refuge in art. “I try to close off a lot of things in my surroundings to make my works very much my own,” he says. “This lockdown has been good for me too. Just shutting everything off and delving into myself, into my mind, and bringing something into my space.”

Both Rodin and Von say that the lockdown has been good for them, or at least good their art. “It has allowed me to think, to spend more time with my art,” says Rodin. 

Asked if this “new normal,” displaying pieces in a virtual space, has affected how they create art, both say there really isn’t much of a difference. While the experience for the viewer has changed, for the artist it isn’t quite the case. “I really enjoy creating, and when I create a piece there’s a fulfillment, a satisfaction that fills a void,” says Von. “I’ll still go create, yes, although it’s not the same in a virtual gallery than seeing it live. But it’s about the satisfaction of creating something and putting it out there.”

Rodin agrees, saying it’s more about the process of creating art that matters. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s in a virtual or a real space. It would be nice to generate income from art, of course, but I never saw it that way. It’s about an image in my head and putting it out there.”

Our Secret Place

Our Secret Place, Von Ng

Also on display at Salcedo’s “A/NEW” virtual gallery are works by Allain Hablo, a multi-awarded artist who first broke into the art scene in 1991, when he became a finalist in that year’s Shell National Student Arts Competition. His works explore how broken objects can take on new meaning, new purpose, once repaired following an ancient practice called kintsugi

To a great extent, the abstract artworks by these three artists are similar, not so much in terms of aesthetics or medium, but in the message that they seem to convey—and a rather timely one, at that. Their artworks seem to be all about rebuilding, reimagining things in a new perspective. These works, which will all be up for auction on May 23, represent a new beginning and prove how art can be a refuge for anyone seeking to start anew. 

You can take a virtual tour of “A/NEW,” on a desktop or on your mobile phone, by visiting salcedoauctions.com/auction/114.

 


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/05/11/art-as-refuge/)

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