Art Fair Philippines 2016: An Experience

I have to be honest, I don’t fancy going to fairs. There’s just too many people, too much noise, too much energy. Events like that drain me out. That’s why the prospect of going to the Art Fair Philippines 2016, I can’t even… And to top that, my right leg took some injury two days before the day we planned to go and it hurts whenever moved, and hurts even more when I walk. However, since it is a requirement, I have to go.

We went to the fair on February 20 (Saturday) around two o’clock in the afternoon. There is already a long line of people waiting for the elevator to take them to the 6th level where the main entrance of the Art Fair is. I don’t want to wait, so we decided to take the stairs despite the pain in my leg. We went straight to the 6th level, got in line for admission, and finally we’re in.

GAJAH GALLERY

Me posing for a picture at the Gajah Gallery.

There are eight (8) art works exhibited in Gajah Gallery, each unique and made by different artists:

GRUNGY, 2015 by SABRI IDRUS (b. 1971). Acrylic on canvas. 180 x 200 CM
BANGKAL, 2015 by AHMAD ZAKII ANWAR (b. 1955). Acrylic on jute. 145 x 289.5 CM
LETAKKAN DI UJUNG SANGKUTAN, 2014 by HANDIWIRMAN SAPUTRA (b. 1975). Resin fibre, aerosil, colour pigments, acrylic and duco paint, embossed screen print. 135 x 20 x 15 CM
BALI, 2015 by ASHLEY BICKERTON (b. 1959). Oil, and acrylic on jute with steel grommets in artist made with flotsam and beach garbage on wood. 173.5 x 163 x 10 CM
SUNDAY MORNING, 2015 by UGO UNTORO (b. 1970). Oil on canvas. 200 x 150 CM
UNTITLED, 2016 by YUNIZAR (b. 1971). Acrylic on canvas. 200 x 160 x 5 CM
HEART FELT, 2015 by SUZANN VICTOR (b. 1959). Crushed glass. 12 x 15 x 15 CM

The first time you sweep your gaze over the artworks, it would seem that there’s no common theme or message being conveyed by the art works. There’s a blue heart, there’s a painting of some sort of green, there’s something like a piece of marble, and so on. And when I read the titles of the works, I can’t even understand some of them. What is this gallery trying to convey? But as I looked real close, as I walk around the gallery closely looking at each artwork, I finally came upon an answer: LIFE.

Grungy is a painting of various blue, green, and brown hues — all of which are the colors of nature and wildlife. Bangkal is a painting of a wild boar, which is one of the animals in the wild. Maybe the reason why Ahmad Zakii Anwar painted this is because of the danger to the wildlife seeing as most wild animals are hunted for meat, pelts and skins, to the point of extinction. Letakkan is like a marble column with moss growing over its tip. This also, for me, speaks of life because it shows that moss can thrive even without soil. Junk Anthropologies shows different forms of life, probably in a faraway farmland. There’s a native girl, taking care of animals such as the pig, the rooster, and the dog. Bali is a painting of a woman with lips dripping of colourful paint. I think this shows that different people differs in how much they express. The woman in the painting has lips dripping with various colors, however, her facial expression shows of sorrow. This makes me think of a life being oppressed from speaking out so that they can be heard. Sunday Morning shows of a person reading a broadsheet newspaper. This probably shows the lives of most people on Sundays: having a break from work, staying at home, and reading the papers. The untitled one is a painting of a person, and across the canvas there are scribbles and drawings that are indiscernible. Some words stand out like poet, and beer. I think this shows how people of today live their lives: too much uncertainty, too much confusion, too much distraction. And lastly, Heart Felt depicts a human heart, although it is color blue. Again, for me, this speaks of life since all of us can’t live without our hearts. Also, it is the heart that feels every emotion we feel as we live our lives: love and hate, happiness and sadness, anger and hurt. Putting together all of these messages, I can say that the collective message being conveyed by these artworks is life.

SPECIAL EXHIBIT: Raffy Napay

My leg wound has been throbbing like you wouldn’t believe after walking in circles in the 6th level for two hours or so, so I said to my friends that let’s go to the 7th level and find two special exhibits and be done with it. When we got there, I reread the instructions to find the names of artists with special exhibits. Just as when I looked up, I was ever so happy to see Raffy Napay’s name just four feet away from us.

When I entered, my jaw dropped open. My friend said, “Look, I’m glowing”. I thought it was just lights, but when I looked up, I was like “What in the world?”

I can’t believe it. It’s not just the UV light, there are threads too! Lots and lots of glow in the dark threads! Is it that even possible? How did they manage to make the luminosity of the thread higher than usual so that it glows in the dark? Did they use certain chemical compounds to make it so? However, I get no answer. It’s not like I said those questions out loud.

I looked around and saw the artworks. They’re amazing. I’m good at sewing, but I’m never good at making shapes with it. And here is Raffy showing me an artwork sewn into a semblance of a family, mother and son, and father and son.

Family by Raffy Napay. Thread, glow in the dark on canvas.
Father and Son by Raffy Napay. Thread, glow in the dark on canvas.
Mother and Son by Raffy Napay. Thread, glow in the dark on canvas.

The Family is the most intricate one since it is bigger, and it has more details compared to the other two. I love how he depicted the family as connected by heart, since that is how Filipino families are. We are known for the extensiveness of our families, from the grandparents to the grandchildren. Also, I loved how he included the pets in his work. That is really true of us Filipinos; we really treat our pets with love, as if part of the family.

While inside Napay’s exhibit, surrounded by different types of families, I can’t help but think of my family. I don’t think mine would fit in any of the category. I don’t have a father, so maybe I could be categorized under Mother and Son. But my mother has a family of her own, in which I don’t really belong. So that can’t be, nor can’t The Family be. It makes me wonder why categories, classes, labels and such are very important to us. Why do we want to be categorized? Is it because we want to be normal just like the others? But there’s nothing I can do. You can’t choose or change the family you belong to. Right there, I came to realize that it doesn’t matter whether my family is complicated and that it can’t be categorized. Raffy Napay’s artwork is his; therefore, it doesn’t mean that it holds true for all of us. Right there, I learned an important lesson: don’t let labels define you.

Outside the exhibit, is this artwork entitled Unbroken.

It really seems fitting for me. I just learned an important realization that no matter how broken my family can get, it doesn’t have to matter to me because it doesn’t define me. And here is Raffy, telling me that I’m unbroken. Did he know how some people would react to his works inside, that’s why he also put another work to tell these people they’re unbroken no matter which family they came from?

What sorcery is this?

SPECIAL EXHIBIT: Mark Justiniani

Mark Justiniani’s exhibit is perhaps, the most interesting exhibit I’ve been in. I didn’t even mind the crowd milling around his works, that’s how amazed I was. I know about the power of mirrors, I’ve been to a science museum before and I admit I’m a bit of an expert in physics. But, oh man, it was way out of the ordinary. I have never seen an artwork done with mirrors or two-way mirrors, before.

The very first work I saw was the one placed on the floor so that when you look over it, it’s like you’re looking over an endless pit.

I was squatting over it for quite some time, trying to ponder over how could this be. That was what made Justiniani’s exhibit so engaging, the fact that it really scrambles your mind as to how in the world did that happen, and so you have to think fast and find the answer or you’ll lose your mind. At least, that’s how it is for me. I can’t say for other people.

It’s been a while until I realized that there are actually other works in the exhibit. If my mind was blown by the first one I’ve been mulling over, I think my brain was blown into bits and pieces when I saw this:

It’s one thing to make a show of an endless pit, but it’s another thing to make a show of an endless tunnel that has a bend. By then, I’m screaming inside because I’m just desperate to know how he did that. Was it the lights? Was it the position of the mirrors? Was the lights refracted so that it looks like the tunnel has a bend? I’ve been recalling some of the lectures in physics back in high school that might enlighten me. But after some time, I finally gave up and just admire his work.

I can say that as I left Mark Justiniani’s exhibit, I learned that art and science works hand in hand. I know many people would contest with that statement, but Justiniani just showed me incredible works of art with the use of mirrors and LEDs. And LEDs and mirrors, the reflective power of mirrors and light, these are being studied in Physics. So now, you can’t tell me otherwise. There may be no exact science to art, but you can’t deny that art uses science, just as science can be art.

CONCLUSION

Art Fair Philippines 2016 was very eventful. It served its purpose to showcase various works of various artists here in the Philippines. People were really engaged, happy, and there’s this buzz of energy in the air that tells you they’re really excited. Although I have to say that most of the visitors are teenagers, and most of whom are more busy taking pictures for their Facebook or Instagram than actually appreciating the artworks.

I already admitted that this is not my kind of affairs, because aside from I’m an introvert (based on MBTI), I’m more inclined to performing arts. But I admit that I had fun at the special exhibits, especially the two I have highlighted: Raffy Napay’s and Mark Justiniani’s. Whether I’m going to attend next year’s Art Fair, I wouldn’t know. If there’s an opportunity and if my future endeavour (e.g. work) permits it, I’d be happy to go. And if I’d go, I’d make sure that I’ll go on a weekday so I can make sure there is lesser visitors. And also, I’d make sure I don’t injure any of my legs so I can walk around as long as I like.