Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The 7 Chronicles of Madness

Lunacy and lunar cycles

The Maya Calendar predicted that the world would end in 2012. In The 7 Chronicles of Madness, artists Froilan Calayag and Ramona Dela Cruz-Gaston have taken this prophetic circle of doom and turned it into a labyrinthine carnival overflowing with naïf creatures, esoteric symbols, inside jokes, personal memories, snatches of everyday conversations, and meditations on the future.

Calayag, a well-established artist with five solo exhibitions, is a dark prince of fairy tales. His three-dimensional paintings, sinister and beguiling at once, are populated by deceivingly charming beasts with predatory eyes and rictus grins. His brush is capricious, guided solely by the whims of his imagination.

Dela Cruz-Gaston, on the other hand, is an art-scene ingénue who favors the mandala—technical, geometric, and deliberate—as her medium. Her flat-perspective symmetrical designs require methodical planning that is almost the antithesis of Calayag’s impulsive nature.

Chaos and calculation meet in The 7 Chronicles of Madness, a transcendent display of artistry. The show’s 7’x7’centerpiece, titled Mad Calendar, is collaboration in the truest sense of the word. Calayag and Dela Cruz-Gaston painted together, pushing each other to new creative heights. Looking at the finished oil-on-canvas work, it
is impossible to tell where one artist ends and the other begins.

Composition-wise, the concentric circles that make up Mad Calendar echo the piece’s Mayan foundation. At its center, a hybrid creature, white-furred and open-mouthed, replaces the Tonatiuh, the Mexican sun god. Around this blue-eyed beast are four layers, teeming with images.

In the innermost wheel, the four elements—earth, water, air, and fire—alternate with human basic needs. Beyond, the four cardinal directions punctuate 12 petals, one for every month of the year; and in the outermost wheel, 31 divisions representing the number of days in a month. The 12 signs of the Zodiac are likewise present, scattered throughout the circles.

Avatars of Calayag and Dela Cruz-Gaston—a prickly pumpkin and a young girl with lucky clovers in her hair, respectively—watch the colorful abundance unspool before them.  In place of the Maya Calendar’s glyphs, the artists have painted brief but luminous visual metaphors, which, taken together, form a radial constellation so full and so generous that the eye is overwhelmed.

This visual bounty is separated from a black void by a wall assaulted on all fronts by a noxious green morass of negativity: a knife through a heart, broken crayons and broken dreams, general decay. The wall holds firm. Battered as it is, it is not breached.
Mad Calendar is complemented by six works (hence The 7 Chronicles of Madness), three oil-on-paper paintings, also circular in composition, from each artist. Completed after the show’s collaborative centerpiece, these smaller, individual works bear witness to how the mimetic process affected both Calayag and Dela Cruz-Gaston.

Dela Cruz-Gaston had an epiphany while looking at her most recent work: “I’ve to realize that the purpose of collaboration is not to paint or draw side by side with your partner,” she said. “It is to learn.”

The impact on her rendering style is visible, and she is not loath to admit it. “I’ve seen great changes, which I cannot undo. These changes don’t just happen because many artists—myself included—can be

Calayag, with a few pointed words, explained that the exercise was a success because he and Dela Cruz-Gaston were kindred spirits: “We’re probably old souls that met before.”

The 7 Chronicles of Madness is a prime example of how true collaboration can stoke the fires of creation. It is a show born out of mutual respect and admiration. It is an unconscious, unselfish embrace of another’s divine inspiration. — ll

The exhibit opens on June 30, 8pm onwards at Vinyl on Vinyl gallery at The Collective, 7274 Malugay St, Makati.

To see the rest of the artworks, click HERE.  

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Art has always been an ever-changing, infinitely morphing animal. But such change has not seen anything as drastic as it has in the last decade. As the liberating light of social media and the internet blankets our shared consciousness, so does it cast dark shadows on the fringes and empty byways. Today’s Pop Culture, and the Art mirrored by it, has forever transformed.
Yesterday’s art feels distant, as if eons have passed.  Yesteryears Pop Culture almost seems laborious; inspirations coming only from one’s local culture and what the Masters  Of Mass Media choose to hold sway over—to disseminate over to you or I. Imagination is supposed to be limitless, but only now does it feel this way.

Today’s Art is freedom. It is now a collective hive-mind of a shared culture, a worldly make up of ideals and wishes and purity. But most of all, today’s Pop Culture is unpretentious;  a shared experience that the same joke can be delivered to 2 distinct individuals oceans apart, yet laugh at the same time. Technology and social media has afforded our Pop Culture Art to be something it has never been:
Art is now Unity.

Art is the crashing rubble, where old walls stood wide and silent.
Art is our tangled web, and all the wondrous confusion that entails.
But mostly, Art is our mirror.

This exhibition is that reflection. It is the lipid pool where we all catch our reflections together; our waking dreams staring back at us, delivering the punch line. This time, unlike times past, we get it, and laugh and smile in unison.

Adrian Evangelista

Anjo Bolarda

Carmie Cucueco

Ciron Seneres

Dino Gabito

Dominic Alfonso

Iggy Rodriguez

Iyan de Jesus

JR Urao

Jepoy Almario

Kris Abrigo

Luis Hernandez

Soleil Ignacio

Tokwa Penaflorida

Michael Vincent Zacarias

Iconopop runs until June 27, 2012 at Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery, at The Collective 7274 Malugay St Makati. 

For exhibit more exhibit photos, click HERE.