FOR MANILART 2015, Gallery Big showcases internationally renowned artists Ramon Orlina and Clarence Chun in back-to-back exhibits that, in one shared space, present an insightful dialogue on form, substance and contemporary Filipino identity.
Orlina, whose art practice spans four decades, is regarded as the premier glass artist in the Asia-Pacific region. Many of his works have been exhibited in museums, galleries and public spaces all over the world.
Chun is a young Filipino-American artist who was named Artist of Hawaii in 2013 and a recipient of the prestigious John Young Foundation award.
In “Close to Something Left Unknown,” Chun returns to ManilArt with a new collection of paintings that, while still enamored with the ocean and its metaphors, hints at a pivotal juncture in the artist’s personal and aesthetic journey.
Born in the Philippines and raised in the United States by parents of mixed American, Chinese and Filipino heritage, Chun returned to Manila in 2014.
In navigating the multiple and often conflicting terrain of space and identity, Chun’s sojourn has, inevitably, led him face-to-face with the postmodern dilemma of hybridity.
“My experiences in Manila have left me looking inward, internalizing how I am viewed and looking for inspiration from within,” said Chun. “I can say that I am both a Pinoy and an American. But in both cultures, I am viewed as an outsider. I exist in this ambiguous space where as a Chinese mestizo balikbayan, I feel that I have to explain myself constantly. It’s just like in the States, where I have to explain that I am an immigrant and a nonlocal. In a sense I am constantly on this middle ground of identity, floating between my American, Chinese and Pinoy cultures.”
Chun’s artistic discourse, is an attempt to navigate the liminal seascape of multiple currents where belonging and alienation coexist. Through his artistic process, he “floats” between the ambiguities of his own hyphenated identities even as he translocates between timezones and international borders. It’s a tricky venture, one that yields more questions than answers.
In “Maybe We Could Find Time When We Wake Up” And “I Will Become a Silhouette When My Body Finally Goes,” Chun layers his compositional plane into multiple surfaces that suggest underlying depths that have yet to manifest or reveal themselves.
The ensuing reflections and imageries borne of this interrogation seem opaque. But therein resides its inherent beauty. Hybrid expressions, after all, are never finite and forever open to a plurality of meanings.
In “Transcendence,” Orlina also references the sea and draws signification from its expansive allure.
In the artist’s hands, the brittle, fragile and nonmalleable all transform into monuments of strength and grace, transcendental objects of art that demonstrate how divine aspirations find expression in human creativity.
ManilArt 2015’s assemblage of Orlina’s recent works pays tribute to the transcendental potential of art-making and offers insights into the sculptor’s ethic and philosophy. It also coincides with the sculptor’s 40th year since he shifted from architecture to glass sculpting.
In this collection, Orlina deploys corporeal and topographical landscapes as metaphors of our shared ideals, virtues, identities and aspirations.
“Resplendent Eve” is an erotic use of supple bodies that connote passion or maternal strength. “Meditation and “Mellifluous in Amber” are reconfigured crystal mandalas that call for ecological harmony.
These glass and crystal pieces in Orlina’s signature green, peach, Mediterranean and cobalt-blue spectrum are carefully designed and carved to maximize the medium’s refractive engagement with light. There is not one prescribed vantage point to appreciate these illuminations as Orlina’s sculptures encourage viewers to discover multiple focal points.
“Transcendence” is an ode to the liberative capacity of art with a heuristic signification for artists and plebeians alike. For while not all of us can be artists, we are all gifted with the lesson of transcendence, that meaningful transformation when we allow ourselves to see things in a different light.
Both exhibits are on view at the Gallery Big space of ManilArt 2015, SMX Aura, Bonifacio Global City, Oct. 8-11. Call 6667755.