From Ripples to Waves – Response to Filipino Artist Ileana Lee

Installation view (on the floor): Gabi Nazareno, Into Place, 2018. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels. 26 x 38 x 1.5 cm (each). Installation view (on the wall): Gabi Nazareno, Lull & Presage, 2017. Charcoal and graphite on canvas. 121.92 x 91.44 cm.
Ileana Lee, Untitled, 1977. Archival photo. 29.62 x 36.62 cm.
Marina Cruz, Drying the Sheets, 2010. Acrylic on canvas. 152.4 x 121.92 cm.
Installation view (on the floor): Gabi Nazareno, Into Place, 2018. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels. 26 x 38 x 1.5 cm (each) /  (on the wall): Gabi Nazareno, Lull & Presage, 2017. Charcoal and graphite on canvas. 121.92 x 91.44 cm.
Nona Garcia, Recurrent, 2018. Duratrans. Edition 3/3. 121.92 x 243.84 cm.
Kat Medina, Reflection and Difference as Understanding, 2018. Nylon net, light. Dimensions variable.
Image: Sandra Palomar, Benedictus: Study in Drapery, 2018. Paper, piña, blood, tape. 105 x 90 cm.
TOP
1570
48
0
 
28
Nov
28
Nov
Video Art Asia by COBOSocial.com

In the 1970s, Filipino artist Ileana Lee produced an installation work, Untitled (1977), as part an exhibition at the Culture Center of the Philippines. For this installation, the artist used uniformly cut strips of tape to form a dotted line across the floor, wall and ceiling to delineate a space within the exhibition space. Produced in the wake of the Philippines’ women’s rights movement and formation of MAKIBAKA (Free Movement of New Women) in 1970, the installation was a time sensitive conceptual work, proposing a critical commentary of its social context and of the male dominated art world. As a female artist, Lee felt the need to demarcate the exhibition space in order to claim her territory.

Today, fifteen Filipino female artists are invited to respond to Lee’s work in an exploration of various markers that define the inside/outside binary, ruminate on their meaning and social function. As a result, Casting Stones into Still Water curated by Dr. Patrick D. Flores at the Mind Set Art Center (Taipei), exhibit an array of methodologies adopted by the artists in dealing with the on-going struggles of socially constructed binaries prevalent in our society. Thirty-five artworks of various mediums spread out across the gallery, forming a discursive narrative on barriers and its absence. Four thematic approach are evident throughout the exhibition in exploring space and varying process of demarcation.

TEXT: Shormi Ahmed
IMAGES: Courtesy of Mind Set Art Center

Ileana Lee, Untitled, 1977. Archival photo. 29.62 x 36.62 cm.

 

Just like the prologue of a story, the exhibition begins with two image documentation of Lee’s installation. It then continues into the gallery space, leading the viewer face-to-face with two works by Marina Cruz. In both of these works, Cruz explores domesticated interiors and gendered space as the subject matter. Drying the Sheets (2010) places viewers inside an intimate space of a household; possibly a laundry room. Despite its immediacy, the intimacy is inaccessible to the viewer due to the shallow depth of space aggressively marked by architectural elements of the room. Positioned up close in front of the wall, the closed door and bed sheet covered windows render the viewer as an outsider and a possible intruder. Cruz’s choice of bed sheet as spatial divider proposes an interesting iconography where an intimate object functions simultaneously as an invitation and a rejection.

 

Marina Cruz, Drying the Sheets, 2010. Acrylic on canvas. 152.4 x 121.92 cm.

 

While Cruz’s works constitute divide of the private and the public, emerging artist Gabi Nazareno contemplates the role of fragments and fluidity in forming and merging boundaries. Into Place (2018), an installation of wood panel puzzle pieces, painted with acrylic and graphite, laid out on the gallery floor, reflects upon fragmented and marginalized communities. One may feel the urge to gather the scattered pieces and complete the puzzle; at least mentally. This tendency reflects upon our inherent desire to be in the company of others and at the same time highlights the difficulty in seeing beyond differences between individuals or communities. Into Place is a thoughtful installation which takes intersections between markers of divide as adjoining points; a tool for blurring out boundaries and challenging the rigidity of binaries.  As you look up from the puzzle onto the wall in front of you, an abstract representation in charcoal and graphite on canvas offer an image of consolation. Lull & Presage (2017) by Nazareno seem to convey aesthetics of fluidity in a composition without lines or borders; light and dark co-habit the same frame in a harmonious manner.

 

Installation view (on the floor): Gabi Nazareno, Into Place, 2018. Acrylic and graphite on wood panels. 26 x 38 x 1.5 cm (each) /  (on the wall): Gabi Nazareno, Lull & Presage, 2017. Charcoal and graphite on canvas. 121.92 x 91.44 cm.

 

In a room right across from Nazareno’s works is a lightbox installation by Nona Garcia, Recurrence (2018); capturing what appears to be a vivid imagination of a night sea. One cannot help but draw similarities between Garcia’s glimmering seascape and Nazareno’s puzzle pieces across the gallery floor. It’s as if the puzzle pieces are floating into the sea, forming an ocean of fragmented communities. As the viewer walks closer to the lightbox, what at first appeared to be moonlit waves, start to take the form of driftwoods floating on water. By foregrounding driftwoods as the focus of the seascape, Garcia reverses the relationship of subject and object. Garcia’s clever representation urges viewers to contemplate their perspective on dominant social order, the authorship behind this narrative and the fluidity of such ideology.

 

Nona Garcia, Recurrent, 2018. Duratrans. Edition 3/3. 121.92 x 243.84 cm.

 

As if taking cue from Garcia, Nathalie Dagmang’s immersive video and sound installation Floodwater (2015, 2018) on the adjacent wall further anchor the theme of fluidity in room. Dagmang’s artistic practice adopts an ethnographic approach and Floodwater is part of a larger research on Barangay Tumana; a flood stricken community in the Philippines. In this work, Dagmang documents “how the river has rendered the landscape [of the community] both as home and as a danger zone to its own residents.” The video installation in this exhibition accentuates the duality of a singular concept and the invalidity of its binary status; one cannot praise nor curse the flood.

Continuing the thread of fluidity, artist Kat Medina challenges conventional aesthetics by producing an on-site painting of a landscape, a traditional genre, on an unconventional medium such as fishing net. Through her painting Reflection and Difference as Understanding (2018), Medina demands an inspection and deconstruction of traditional modes of narrative and their limitation in portraying contemporary issues. Unlike painting on a canvas, Medina feels that fishing net is reflective of its environment “through its own properties.” Shadows casted on the wall by the fishing net introduce an intangible depth, a form of three-dimensionality that is evocative of the diverse communities and their concerns. There are countless pertinent issues in our society that have yet to find their mode of expression, just as Lee’s conceptual demarcation of the exhibition space once emphasized the lack of women’s representation in the art world.

 

Kat Medina, Reflection and Difference as Understanding, 2018. Nylon net, light. Dimensions variable.

 

So far we have come across artworks that express markers of binary through linear divide, fragmented communities, fluidity or indefinite existence. The final exploration in this exhibition takes place in the form of absence. Sandra Palomar’s Benedictus: A Study in Drapery (2018) return the viewer back to Taipei, as the semi-transparent artwork with multiple apertures is adhered on a glass window looking out onto the city. The ununiformed and organic appearance, resonating conventional characteristics of femininity, present a contrast to Lee’s geometric and pragmatic approach. Unlike in Lee’s installation, where the space between each dots serves an illusion of continuation and forms a line, the holes in Palomar’s artwork resist any definite delineation. Instead, it opens up the exhibition space into another dimension with a dialogue between the interior and the exterior. It’s as if the conversation initiated by the artworks in the exhibition wishes to end on a concluding remark that is unrestrained, imaginative and adaptive to its contemporary circumstances. Perhaps this signifies the shifts in the discourse on gender binaries and women’s space in our society over the decades since Lee’s installation.

 

Image: Sandra Palomar, Benedictus: Study in Drapery, 2018. Paper, piña, blood, tape. 105 x 90 cm.

 

Casting Stones into Still Water is curated with calculated precision. Each artwork not only respond to Ileana Lee’s installation but also engage in a dialogue to its neighbouring piece. Strong thematic cues guide viewers throughout the exhibition in a gentle persuasion to open up to the discussion. Starting with the familiarity of boundaries to its gradual deconstruction enable viewers to enter the exhibition and be part of the conversation within the works. Casting Stones into Still Water does not provide any definite answer or alternative to the discourse of binary oppositions of identities, space or value-form. Instead, it opens up the exhibition space to allow the artists room to experiment and to challenge the hegemonic discourse with subtle acts of rebellion. It invites audience members to add on to the dialogue, forming a wider debate. Just like casting stones into still water and turning ripples into waves.

 

 

Casting Stones into Still Water
Mind Set Art Center
27 Oct – 8 Dec 2018

 

 


 

Shormi Ahmed is a Bangladeshi-born art practitioner in Hong Kong. She was the Head of Arts at Duddell’s Hong Kong and has executed several public art projects including Carnival – fundraiser for Amnesty International HK and Art in the Bar for CoBo Social. She studied at the University of Hong Kong and is currently pursuing MA in Curatorial Studies at the National Taipei University of Education (Taiwan). Shormi is interested in art, education and contemporary art developments in Asia.

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply