Kurt Lluch’s “Addendums,” his fourth solo, is a feast of visual paronomasias or puns, which may appear whimsical at first glance, but proves full of serious statements upon closer scrutiny.
The artworks—watercolor on shaped panel and watercolor on paper—explore thematic concerns dealing with the environment and other sundry matters.
“Threshold,” one of the larger panel pieces, seems from a distance to be a representation of an iceberg, seven-eight of the figure being submerged below what looks like the waterline. But a second gaze reveals that it is actually a light blue garbage bag, and the waterline black, which affirms the hint given by the title, that global water pollution has already reached the “threshold” level.
“The Hold,” where the word “SANGUINE” is inscribed on a yellowish ribbon and incorporated in the painting itself, is not only brimming with whimsy but also full of semiotic irony. It depicts what appears a leafy hill or mountain surrounded by seawater with blue cumulus clouds adorning its upper portion. But the entire figure is contained inside a reddish basin with a hole mended by a couple of band aids, contradicting and affirming at the same time its optimistic or positive message, since sanguinity appears brightest in an apparently bad or difficult situation, though this verdant vision is confined to a small tub, held as it were to the barest minimum.
There is also a sense of foreboding in the other paintings, indicated by the recurring presence of shark’s fins. The cryptic piece titled “Hard in the Middle” highlights a burst grayish pillow inside a rainbow-colored pillowcase with a thick belt constricting its middle, which is somehow connected to a bluish hat shaped like a shark’s fin but also reminiscent of the conical headgear of witches. Does this painting denote that all colorful dreams camouflage a drab reality, or that any form of stricture is bound to result in rupture?
One the other hand, “Resisting Leviathan” features the more familiar figure of a man holding an umbrella against the rain during the monsoon season. Nonetheless, there is still a sense of double or even triple defamiliarization to the scene, since the head of the man is completely covered by the bluish umbrella with the signature shark’s fin on its peak, and his right hand which holds a coffee cup seems to be burned to a reddish brown, the victim perhaps of acid rain?
Furthermore, the man is wearing a reddish coat on top of a salmon pink shirt and a maroon tie with a bluish shark’s fin bit of handkerchief peeping from the left breast pocket, an atypical ensemble in the Philippines, not to mention that the handle of the umbrella appears submerged inside the coffee cup.
Moreover, the edges of the scarlet suit seems to end in tabs, which calls to mind the paper dolls of years past, suggesting that such an outfit can be worn by anyone as the need or situation arises, and in the local context that is everyone.
Iligan clan of artists
Lluch’s iconography for this exhibit is stark and recognizable, but full of double entendre, visual play and punning and ironic intent, thus making his paintings both accessible and mysterious, simple and cerebral, fanciful and serious, all at the same time.
Originally from Iligan City but now based in Manila, Kurt Lluch belongs to the same clan of artists that produced sculptress extraordinaire Julie Lluch and her equally talented daughters Aba Lluch Dalena and Kiri Lluch Dalena. —CONTRIBUTED
Catch his exhibit at FnF Art Lounge, basement, Ronac Art Center, Ortigas Ave., San Juan City, until Aug. 30.