2015/09/07

An Annual Assessment and Some Additional Notes

Between his previous one-person exhibition and the upcoming one, Caloy Gernale took the time to assess himself, his works and his political philosophy. For the artist, examining his own works was one way of examining the larger scene.

After having produced works for more than ten years consistently, he thought now would be the an appropriate time to pause and reflect. Being very conscientious, Caloy Gernale  went through his past works in order to understand how much of himself and his views have changed. Perhaps his work and political beliefs are stronger now--or have they eroded, like many mountains affected by open-pit mining practice in the Philippines? The artist hopes that by undergoing the process of criticism and self-criticism, he would come up with an objective, critical, and of course, artistic assessment of his creative works vis-a-vis the socio-political landscape. Apart from that, he also aims to further strengthen his socio-political commitment and sharpen his analytic tools.

Using Maoist framework, the artist examined his old and recent works. He hopes that his observation will be effectively communicated through seven of his latest works, in a one-man exhibition called "An Annual Assessment."


This exhibition is composed of seven interconnected parts (one part equivalent to one painting). The first part, titled "I. An Exercise on Self-Criticism" seems like a family portrait of some kind, as it depicts part of the artist's family--namely his wife, the artist himself, and their pet cat. In this painting, the cat is portrayed to be literally the largest among the three in terms of size and metaphorically, in terms of power. The cat seems indifferent towards the efforts being made by his two humans. The man and the woman, who are expected to be the masters are portrayed as if they are the ones in servitude of the animal. By presenting himself and his family in this manner, the artist seems to tell us, viewers at least two things: that he is ready to criticize himself and his own, and that his present condition is a petridish of the current status of his beloved country. The artist seems to believe that it would be fair to criticize others if he is prepared and open to criticizing himself.

In this light, it is important to take note of the exhibition's second part titled "II. On Image Branding" portraying an owl-headed person on a horse on a pedestal. As viewers, we are forced to look up and gaze at this painting's protagonist, who's decorated with an all-signature attire. Both his get-up and the laurel wreath around his head implies his/her socio-economic background. The laurel wreath, which obviously symbolizes education seems to indicate something else--that education, like the horse tack, can sometimes prevent the protagonist from seeing only but one direction.

The exhibition, or the artist's assessment concludes with "VII. The Pastime of the Privileged," a painting that features a crocodile-headed man (representing "trapo" or traditional politician) enjoying his favorite leisure activity. This final installment seems to summarize the current socio-economic and political status of the Philippine nation, where public office is generally deemed as the privileged's amusement and business venture.

As viewers, it would help if we also pay attention to how the last painting "VII. The Pastime of the Privileged" seems to parallel the first one "I. An Exercise on Self-Criticism." Perhaps it is up to us to decide whether the former is the one determining the latter or is it the latter that determines the former?