Introspection and Didacticism in Ronante Maratas’ 'Sad Excuses'

Ronante Maratas’ works are generally psychedelic and introspective. At first glance, you’d think they are a frozen clip from the artist’s REM stage of sleep. Colors melt on top of another, shapes of various sizes overlap each other, and some figures gradually become more visible, more definable as you look longer. On the other hand, some figures could just be a little bit too vague for the eyes to decipher. Looking at each painting would make you think the artist probably had spent a long time inside his head in order to create a portrait of his insights—of things he would never have verbally disclosed to anyone otherwise.

And since each piece seems like a page taken out of the artist’s cerebral diary, it is in this sense that the exhibition gives viewers an excellent excuse to examine the artist’s intentions.

According to the artist, Sad Excuses is his attempt to discuss human’s tolerance of the wrong: “Alam natin ang tama pero pinili natin gawin ang kabaligtaran. Alam kong may mali pero wala naman ako o tayong magawa dahil sa takot na tayo ang mapasama.” This seems to essentially sum up the artist’s didactic attitude towards art. The way he explains his works will serve as evidence.

For instance, “Bawal Umihi Ang Pagong Sa Dagat,” the artist says, is actually inspired by the widespread poaching of sea turtles. It is not certain if the artist is trying to be critical about it but it seems that he could empathize with those involved in poaching. He explains: “Gusto kong unawain na nais lang din ng tao mabuhay, iniisip ko kung wala lang ba silang pagpipilian o sadyang kahit alam natin na mali ay ipipikit na lamang natin ang ating mata at ito'y lilipas din dahil ang mas importante ay ang ating kumakalam na sitwasyon ngayon, kahit na inalisan na natin ng karapatan ang ibang lamang-dagat.”

The artist also has something to say about religion: “Lumaki ako na nainiwalang ang religion ay isa sa pinakamapayapang bagay sa mundo na mayroon ang tao. Pero habang nagma-mature ako, nakita ko kung paano magkagulo ang mga tao dahil sa pagkakaiba-iba nila ng paniniwala.” This is the story behind the piece titled “Dear Whoever.”

Maratas’ piece which he claims is about how consumerism and society’s materialistic tendencies damage the natural environment is a little more straightforward in terms of how he named it—“If All You Want Are Flowers, Then Plant Yourself A Garden.” The imperative tone in the title, which is already very obvious, is further reinforced by the artist’s statement about it: “People want and consume everything— na ayos lang sirain ang kalikasan basta may magandang bahay at kasangkapan. Akala natin automatic na mapapalitan ang mga punong pinutol natin kahit wala tayong itanim, okay lang sa atin lahat kasi iniisip natin na may magtatanim para sa atin. Pag rumagasa na ang baha, puro na lang tayo reklamo kahit alam natin sa sarili natin na simpleng pagtapon ng balat ng kendi hindi natin maitapon sa tamang tapunan.”

The lofty and intimidating position (and dangerous, needless to say) that the artist attempts to take in the way he explains his works is somehow counterbalanced by his playful, childlike rendition of shapes, colors, and images. “Bawal Umihi Ang Pagong Sa Dagat,” for instance, is vivid, noisy, and catchy. In “Dear Whoever,” the artist exploits all the available shades of orange in order to arrest the attention of the viewer. “If All You Want Are Flowers, Then Plant Yourself A Garden,” on the other hand, was made to look both innocent and cheeky.

Despite the perkiness of his paintings, the artist does not seem shy about taking a didactic posture. Perhaps, it is because, as Alain de Botton has always been enthusiastically asserting, “Art should be didactic.

Right now, what’s clear is that introspection led the artist to produce a visual medley of all things he considers crucial, hence, his didactic point-of-view on art and art-making. The question now is, however, would the artist be guided by the same introspection and didacticism to create a consensus, a meeting place for his intentions and the viewers’ perception? What if the way the viewer perceives his works (or his “teachings”) is different from the way he wants them to be understood?