Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — As is typical with each round of its exhibit changes, West Gallery is hosting four new shows, opening today, June 16. Gino Bueza’s “Systems of Control” occupies Gallery 1, the largest space; Pete Jimenez’s “Shapes of the Heart and Other Shapes” fills up Gallery 2; while Gallery 3 and Gallery 4 display Czar Kristoff’s “Configurations” and Micaela Benedicto’s “Documenting Absence,” respectively.
“Systems of Control”
Gino Bueza, who has a simultaneous solo show on display at Mo_Space in Taguig, focuses on the art of printmaking — in itself a system of control — and the intervention of translation with regard to language, meaning, and location.
In “Systems of Control,” Bueza builds on themes stemming from borrowed statements from the artist Lawrence Weiner, who saw text as a sculptural form. “Yung mga statement niya, parang instructions kung paano gawin ang sculpture,” he says, citing statements such as “spread as thin as can be” (which he connects to paint application for his prints), “done with,” and “at the same moment” as jump-off points for how he goes about his work. He uses common products with words as brand names emblazoned on them, such as Tide, Surf, and Joy, contemplating on the meanings of these names and what they do and don’t suggest about concepts they’re supposed to represent.
Bueza has been a full-time artist since 2013, having had his first solo show at Light & Space Contemporary and having worked on side projects like animation and sculpture projects after graduating from UP Diliman in 2009. Most comfortable with painting directly on canvas (“mas may time siya mag-evolve or magbago”), he says he prefers the quick drying time of acrylic and other water-based gel mediums. “Hindi ako comfortable sa references,” he shares. “Nagkakaroon kasi ng limit minsan.” Bueza’s work is a hodgepodge of visual elements — a painted collage — with suggestions of images bound by space, or the lack thereof, and layers upon layers of words and other images. “Madalas hindi ko alam kung saan galing yung text o image,” he admits. “Minsan nag-iimbento lang ako ng words or ginagamit ko yung text as ornaments. Na-encounter ko na siguro ibang images, so in a way, parang collage na rin siya.”
“Shapes of the Heart and Other Shapes”
In “Shapes of the Heart and Other Shapes,” Pete Jimenez, a relative veteran in an industry which has a median age that is getting increasingly young, continues to work in a spontaneous way, letting the materials available to him determine what kind of work he means to do for the show. In this case, his chosen material is vintage World War II steel mattings, something still used as fences in some remote provinces. And his main point of focus? The basic heart shape.
For the wall-bound works, Jimenez takes inspiration from Bible verses concerned with the heart, flowers, and wings, simply fashioning the pieces accordingly. Primarily working with sculpture since 1999, when he stumbled upon discarded scrap metal and a welding machine while his house was being constructed, Jimenez produces work that often looks raw, in his decision to let the material speak for itself. “I thought about applying bright colors on the metal pieces to make them more interesting to the viewers, but I chose to have them as raw as possible to retain the character marks of steel,” he shares. “I just had to polish everything.”
Jimenez, who graduated from UP Diliman in 1982, still works a 9-to-5 job in a Makati-based post-production house, and always looks forward to weekends so he can make his sculptures. “If I can start and work and finish a single piece every weekend, then I can have about 52 pieces a year!” he says. “I think the pressure of having only limited time to work on each piece helps me in working on more pieces of artworks.”
“I’m happy that more and more people can appreciate art now and they are interested with works of a younger breed of artists,” he says. “Sana the interest is truly pure in heart. Sana it is not artificial."
“Configurations” is the photographer Czar Kristoff’s third solo exhibit, the invite of which features an image of the construction site from which 90 percent of his images were taken. Since finding the place on his 27th birthday, he has returned every once in a while to see how it has changed and to talk to the on-site workers. “I think shooting a construction site is the closest metaphor for renewal,” he shares, thinking back on his own. “Recently, I’m somehow accepting a few facts about myself, but I think it’s a sign of a beginning of renewal.”
In “Configurations,” Kristoff also invites the opening’s attendees to bring and hand him a fist-sized rock or a piece of demolition debris. He is curious about the willingness of participation and anticipates the forms this participation will take. “What is the rock’s value, really?” he muses.
Aside from art shows and some commercial work, Kristoff works a lot on zines and photobooks, something that requires a somewhat different process. “In doing a show, I only choose those that are strongly representative of the information, feeling, or series that I want to share with people,” he explains. “Unlike in a zine or photobook form, where I have some spaces and images in between, a commercial break.”
Although photographs largely represent the preservation of memory, Kristoff uses alternative materials “as a way of questioning the value of photographic content.” He has previously printed his images on tarpaulin, and has chosen plotting or tracing paper to use for this show. “I know that sounds really stupid, because it will eventually fade, but for me, it is an exact interpretation of a memory,” he insists. “There are things that you’re supposed to feel or experience just for a short period of time.”
With “Documenting Absence,” Micaela Benedicto contemplates voids. Jumping off of the late author (and her partner) Luis Katigbak’s idea of the “multiverse,” Benedicto attempts to give nothingness a shape. “The first thought was about voids, about documenting and ‘photographing’ the hole, or something that is missing, and giving it its own shape and existence,” she explains. “And the second thought was about absence as a disappearance, the idea that there was something that was actually once there.”
“I really wanted to dedicate something to Luis in this show,” she says. “The mirror steel work was something I was already experimenting with, so I wanted to explore it further this time, and thought that this would be my attempt at building that multiverse that Luis loved to think about, or an aspect of it. In this case, it was about seeing a vision one second and not seeing it the next. But that image exists, or existed, somewhere."
Benedicto, an architect by trade, saw art as a chance to use her “architectural knowledge for myself for a change, to explore ideas that have nothing to do with practical function.” The photogram, a method of making camera-less pictures using objects and exposure of light-sensitive paper to light, is a perfect way to illustrate memory and impermanence. “There’s an excitement and a sadness to creating and arranging these little structures and formations, then having to take them apart so quickly,” Benedicto says. “It’s like I’m the only one that saw what actually happened, that saw the real thing.”
Although there appears to be a visual coldness to her work, being concerned with geometry and the absence of color, Benedicto insists her art is always deeply personal. “I find nothing more emotional and troubling than trying to come up with your own understanding of abstract things like memory and loss, by conducting a physical experiment,” she says. “The attempt itself is a surreal and emotional experience.”
All four exhibits will run from June 16 to July 16 at West Gallery, located at 48 West Avenue, Quezon City.