From his gallery in Paris, Patrick Coard unveils his latest major exhibition in Manila.
Stepping into the warehouse gallery, your eyes are immediately drawn to the grid of translucent gray fabric hanging from the ceiling. Nestled in the corners are solid bronze sculptures, resting on mirror boxes that reflect the quiet movement in the space. The dim light casts shadows behind the sculptures, creating a sense of depth. These are the sculptural artworks of Patrick Coard, set in an interplay of materials, lighting, sound, proximity, and dimension.
Coard’s exhibition “The King’s Gambit” opens at W/17 in the La Fuerza compound on May 16, 2023, running for two weeks. The exhibition title may make you think it is an allusion to chess, but it goes beyond the game pieces. With a move from his gallery in Paris to W/17, the half-Danish, half-Irish artist notes,
“For me, ‘The King’s Gambit’ represents the perfect opening.”
He marks the exhibit as entering a more anchored point of life in the Philippines, “I’ve not felt as inspired as I feel right now. And the Philippines I believe is a huge factor with a certain higher creative awareness and borderline spiritual awareness.”
Sculptural Characters and Family Ties
A strong believer in energy and family values, Coard ties each sculpture to family. He says, “Each sculpture I see as a family member. They connect.” He points to his wife Kifu, who he calls his soulmate, and lights up mentioning their baby daughter. He cites his parents-in-law in the Philippines as well as his own family abroad. All of which he describes as strong drivers in the artworks that are largely laden with emotions. While each work represents his own familial connections, Coard values the importance for the viewers themselves to connect with the work, highlighting the importance of being present with the physical objects, and slowly viewing each piece in the actual space.
In bronze-patina brass and Crown Ash wood, the sculptures act like ethereal abstract characters. At the entrance is the “Oval Queen,” one of his most iconic figures. While it has taken many different forms and scales over the years, the form has continued to follow the artist. “For me she’s like the mother,” he says, which has led to conceiving other works in the show.
Nearby is the “Deconstructed Tower,” which also appears in varieties, sometimes amorphous, other times with sharper edges. He describes how “the shape represents the spine that somehow holds it together.”
There is “Prometheus,” a symbol of strength, like the father, who appears in both grander and smaller scales throughout the exhibition. There is his “Bird’s Eye,” narrower in width and leaning to one side, yet perfectly balanced.
Behind the ceiling-high glass window at the entrance are two life-sized sculptures on a raised platform. The forms have not been made by the artist before. Coard describes how one sculpture takes after the golden ratio, the perfect mathematical number often calculated in nature and spirituality. Beside it is another life-sized sculpture with a name from Nordic origins that means air or descendants. “There are so many layers in this one,” he says, “The curves, the scooping, the sharp lines, the geometries.”
Weaving throughout the softly-lit mazes of fabric are iterations of his work, some life-sized, others in smaller scales, differentiated by varying edges, layers, and curves—yet all emanating the same mesmerizing effect of brass patina and geometrical experimentations.
Beyond the curtains towards the back of the show are works in stunningly white Crown Ash Wood. The Oval Queen stands, now in blank hues. His formidable Kronos stands to the side. While the Deconstructed Tower and Bird’s Eye take on slightly different forms.
On His Inspired Move to Manila
In this new show in Manila, Coard explores different languages that he hasn’t shown before. He states,
“I’m quite excited about the visual language that is happening right now. It’s almost like it’s matured.”
Born in Denmark, the half-Danish, half-Irish artist speaks multiple languages himself, from French, Swedish, German, and even Cebuano. As a well-traveled artist with a great curiosity for different cultures, he has had significant collaborations, such as with Barneys in New York and with Louis Vuitton Singapore. Yet his current collection is a result of feeling truly at home, having just moved with his family to Manila. Since settling in the city last year, he reflects, “I’ve been coming back and forth for some time, but this time is special.”
In preparation for the exhibition, Coard traveled once a week to Cebu from Manila to work closely with his team of artisans. He is gracious in his praise for them, “It’s extremely important, the artisanal aspect and the connection. I love this Bayanihan – the attitude of ‘Let’s do it.’ That’s one of the things I love about the Philippines. The drive, the sensitivity. It’s extremely inspiring for me. In many ways, it’s something that I value quite highly.”
The time frame to prepare for this specific exhibit was shorter than usual. Yet Coard seems totally calm, unusually unstressed. He credits choosing to just “go with it.” How when he did, everything became intuitive.
“It’s not overthought. You just need to flow with it. A bit like playing Jazz—If you manage to tune in on a good frequency while creating, it tends to become far more original. A lot of great things come out of the momentum.”
Apart from his sculptural creations, Coard has crafted other unconventional, ethereal designs, such as various lights, pedestal bases, and his world-renowned sculptural candles, which make their own discreet appearance behind the exhibit borders in Warehouse 17. Coard smiles as he says, “I wanted to create the most beautiful candles the world has ever seen.” He describes the importance of Candles in Denmark, a country with a colder climate. After working for thousands of hours, the artist managed to create candles out of sculptural shapes that melt beautifully, with materials such as metal and shell inserts, and a bumpy shagreen sheen.
I comment I’d have a hard time lighting the wick of such an elegant candle, to which he replies, “I was very intrigued by how the candle has its own life. It has a temperature in the space, the kind of climate they are standing in. And if you don’t treat a candle well, it can get feisty. But I love how they morph.”
Coard has the same aura as many sculptors tend to keep—grounded, earthy, while moving and speaking with awareness of each moment. And it makes sense looking at the natural and organic shapes of his pieces, as he works with brass and wood, going through a process of carving, waxing, and gliding with the curves of each element. He continually cites the importance of presence—more than physical but energetic, as the sculptures stand solidly, yet not without a sense of connection and flow.
The King’s Gambit by Patrick Coard runs for two weeks from May 16 to May 30, 2023 at W/17 La Fuerza Compound, Chino Roces Ave., Makati. See more of the works of Patrick Coard.