On Caloy Gernale's "Allegories and Allergies"

The airbrush, more typically used on a model's face to cover imperfections, or on a jeepney's body to make it look appealing, receives leverage as Caloy Gernale once again exploits this tool to create five of his latest acrylic paintings for a one-man exhibition called “Allegories and Allergies.”

“Allegories and Allergies” is actually a continuation of Gernale's earlier exhibitions in which he took advantage of the potency of metaphors and allusions in presenting his vision and critiques. For instance, he would use popular tales and characters to signify the recurring ills of neo-colonial Philippines. The exhibition, moreover, is the artist's attempt to make social commentary using popular literature as reference. Gernale explores the use of intertextual themes and parallel signs and symbols in creating visually and intellectually enticing works of art. Needless to say, the artist attempts to maintain balance between form and content. The aim is to come up with socially relevant and intellectually cathartic works while the artist displays uncompromising dedication to form and excellent use of airbrush techniques.

Compared with Gernale's previous exhibition which mainly examined the protracted issues of large-scale land acquisition and land-use conversion, “Allegories and Allergies” deals with more comprehensive social disputes linked together by anti-hegemonic undertones and underscored by burning humour. “Malediction of Pina” (60” x 48”, acrylic on canvas), for instance, depicts a pineapple-headed man in a business suit, against a formation of sunset-lit clouds. The closed-circuit television cameras embedded in the pineapple's skin are impossible not to notice. This image is a witty play on a popular Filipino tale, “Ang Alamat ng Pinya.” Gernale uses this allegory to invite the viewer to critically think about a one-man controlled “surveillance society,” something which our nation seems to have systematically turned into.

The viewer also cannot miss “The King of Pride Rock” (60” x 48”, acrylic on canvas), which is obviously inspired by one of the most unforgettable Disney films, “The Lion King.” But the painting shows a lion-headed man in business suit, carrying a young buffalo. Behind them is a lush green forest and the silhouette of a factory not too far beyond. The composition of images as well as the appropriation of symbols (i.e. the silhouette of the factory, the carabao, the lion in business suit) make the “king” look deceiving despite the “benevolence” that he tries to exude.

“Allegories and Allergies” is an agglomeration of everything that influenced Caloy Gernale as an artist—airbrush, animation, puns, editorial cartoons, and his desire to use art to make reverberating impressions and a long-lasting impact on the collective unconscious. More importantly, “Allegories and Allergies” is Gernale's contribution to a larger movement.

Caloy Gernale aims to use airbrush not to cover blemishes or decorate jeepneys. Instead, he uses his airbrush skills and storytelling abilities to highlight social flaws and amplify our collective desire.

"Allegories and Allergies" will be unveiled on May 16, 2013 at West Gallery, Quezon City. Exhibition runs till June 3, 2013.