FROM the show’s title, “If I Could Paint,” down to the painterly idiom used, which is abstraction, questions are certain to be raised in the visitor’s mind: Is the title a lament for a talent that one does not possess? If one paints in abstraction, does it automatically imply that the artist is incapable of figuration, and therefore, does not know how to paint? Or: If one wanted to paint, why not be practical and just use canvas or paper?
To be sure, the last question is easy enough to answer. Lanelle Abueva is a name that has been synonymous with ceramics. Therefore, not canvas, but fired clay, should be the medium closest to both heart and hand.
These recent ceramics might as well be the canvas-field, where she could let loose paintbrush and colors in bravura passages, or simply revel in the shifting variety of evocative moods.
But try as one might, it is well nigh impossible to treat these ceramic pieces as mere receptacle and surface for the deployment of colors. For these works, before the mediation of paintbrush and color, already possess an integrity of form, a solitude of shape, a contained silence that is disturbed by the intrusion of pictorial images, whether representational or abstract.
The same persona
A spread of empty canvas or paper, however, is neutral space, with no identity whatsoever. It only awaits the slightest mark or a stain of colored pigment for it to start awakening to existence.
What then is the proper way to approach Lanelle’s painted ceramic work? One must perforce accept that, in the same persona exist the ceramist and the painter, impelled by two different instincts, agreeing to engage each other’s skills, and obliged not to subjugate the other in a competitive spirit, to arrive at an artwork greater and richer, more fully realized, after their meaningful encounter.
Using stoneware glazes, Lanelle wields a light lyrical brush, dispensing pastel shades against a deep, intensely saturated background. Free-wheeling strokes, whether running as circuitous coiled lines or whisked around in layers with an obvious sense of play and abandon, float buoyantly in space, or, rather, on the smooth polished surface of plates and vessels with a slit or gaping orifice.
The subtlest, most sensitive, even the faintest, flickers of the brush have left their traces, a visible reminder of the flair and gusto with which they have been rendered.
Some of the vessels bear indentations of design, like reverse impasto. Where the textures are arresting in their simplicity, Lanelle refrains from disturbing the serenity of the lines. That in itself is a mark of an artist in communion with the spirit of her material.
Lanelle Abueva-Fernando’s “If I Could Paint” ceramic exhibition, presented by Hiraya Gallery, opens Aug. 17 at the Mezzanine level of Makati Shangri-La . It runs until Sept. 2.