Illusion as an Access to Reality

In Defining Illusion, four young artists—Isko Andrade, Mark Maac, Tony Mercado, and Rafael La Madrid—meet to present illusion as a way to access reality.

Illusion, which is often understood as a deceptive image or a false belief, has always been regarded as art’s (or the artist’s) shortcoming. However, scholar Lawrence Kimmel strongly believes that illusion can also be art’s powerful feature. In this light, Kimmel (2005) argues that “…illusion [is] essential to the coherence of the lifeworld.” He then expounds: “We notice and inquire into reality in the essential illusions of time, of meaning, of life. At some indeterminate point they all mix and mingle, collapse into the experience of human sensibility and perception. The culture of art is a reminder of the illusion of reality in life, and of the other side of it—the reality of illusion in our lives.”

“A reminder of the illusion of reality in life…”—this is the core idea that gives potential to the works of art curated for the exhibition Defining Illusion. In this exhibit, the artists hope to represent the usefulness of illusion in making art. To achieve this, each artist allows himself to be greatly inspired by his own perception of reality. And in order to illustrate illusion’s promising ability to frame reality, each artist makes the most of their artistic abilities. Isko Andrade, for instance, typically makes use of dark, minimal tones in order to compose hyperrealist images. Mark Maac, on the other hand, tends to create clean and detail-oriented, somewhat mystic presentation of young-looking women.

With his thick and heavy way of employing paint on canvas, Tony Mercado manages to create paintings that seem to breathe out a Renaissance-like sensation. Rafael La Madrid also uses thick and abundant amount of paint to bring life to the women that used to be only in within the confines of his brain’s right hemisphere.

Defining Illusion is a four-way attempt to look at and present reality, as reality is formed, perceived, and re-interpreted as a work of art. There is a clear boundary between illusion and reality, as believed by many, but in this exhibition, the artists take the liberty of marinating their perceived reality in the illusions they create.


Kimmel, L. (2005). Reality and Illusion in the Work of Art. Analecta Husserliana, 87, 11-25


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.


One Question About 'Can You Hear the Silence?'

“Silence, I discover, is something you can actually hear.” 
-Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

Is the exhibition Can you hear the silence? an escapist detour or a critical interruption?

Silence, often being associated with indifference, passivity, or submissivenesseven death—is more commonly interpreted as a sign of weakness or an escape from the traumas of reality. However, scholar Mary Joanne Church Farrell* argues that silence, particularly in the context of women’s discourse, can also be a “rhetorical strategy” that gives agency to the person who holds it.

It would then be too easy (and insolent) to call the works included in Can you hear the silence? as emo-surreal-escapist type of art, considering that silence, which is and will always be an important component of art-making, can also be a powerful communication tool.


An Artist in the Age of Media Overstimulation

Interference is the second installment of Mark Arcamo’s recent works on paper, a sequel to his May 2016 exhibition called Static Individual. (1) Similar to its predecessor, Interference is a collection of black-and-white headshots of anonymous individuals. Each headshot almost feels like a copy of a copy of a copy—if not for the appropriated silhouettes, sharp strips and blocks of colors that break the homogeneity of the images.

The artist claims that the headshots are intended to convey what American spoken word artist and Youtuber Prince Ea refers to as “pageantry of vanity.” Like Prince Ea, Arcamo is perhaps also “…so tired of performing in the pageantry of vanity/ and conforming to this accepted form of digital insanity.” (2) Hence, the faceless portraits. It seems that the artist could empathize with the sentiment expressed in a Prince Ea video that went viral a couple of years ago (although Arcamo prefers to speak upon the subject of anonymity, oversharing, and media overstimulation, whereas the spoken word artist focused more on social media addiction and the current generation’s FOMO (3) tendencies.)


Ambiguity in Gary Custodio's 'There'

Gary Custodio's latest one-man exhibition titled There is an ocular precis of the artist's childhood experience. It is inspired by a particular time in the artist's life as a youngster, when relocating felt like the only thing certain. In the province, the artist recalls, life was not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel--and in most cases, it was unquestionably necessary to migrate from one distinct site to another. The artist then frames his abstract perception of this specific experience and offers both viewers/spectators and passersby a chance to migrate from certainty to ambiguity.

There, according to the artist, pertains to either the "undefined location" or the act of pointing to a non-particular direction typically by pouting the lips. The artist relates this to a common encounter in the past --"When I was very young, whenever somebody asked me where I live, I'd simply say 'there.'" And then he uses this particular experience to create an aesthetic experience that capitalizes on the ambiguous quality of art.


Paano gumawa ng effigy?

Ang kaputol ng modyul na ito ay matatagpuan dito.
Samantala, ang kumpleto at downloadable na kopya ay narito.


Makipagpulong sa mga kasama. Bago ito, tiyaking nakapangalap ka na ng impormasyon at nakapagtanong-tanong ka na sa masang nilulubugan, sa komunidad na kinikilusan, halimbawa, hinggil sa kanilang palagay at pagsusuri sa mga suliraning nararanasan at sa mga isyung mahalaga sa kanila. Alamin ang kanilang interes. Gamiting inspirasyon ang mga aral na makukuha sa kanila sa kung paano bubuo ng konseptong gagamitin sa pagdibuho ng study, sketch o plano sa paggawa ng effigy.

Anu-anong mga bagay ba ang maaaring makapukaw sa interes ng kalakhan ng mga mamamayan? Maaaring ang mga bagay na may kinalaman sa kanilang mga nakikita, napapanood, napapakinggan, o nararanasan ang paghalawan ng inspirasyon. Maaaring paghalawan ang poklorikong Pilipino, ang mito, maging ang kulturang popular.


Caloy Gernale's Exploration of 'Class Love'

Ang pag-ibig sa kauri ay ang pag-ibig na sumisibol sa makauring pagsapol sa kalagayan ng lipunang kinabibilangan ng isang uri, sa pinagmumulan ng pang-aapi at pagsasamantala ng uri sa kapwa uri… Pag-ibig na malalim na hinuhugot sa sariling kapasyahang mag-alay ng panahon, kakayanan at buhay para sa mithing paglaya ng uri mula sa pang-aapi at pagsasamantala.

-Ka Roja Banua
Spokesperson, NDF Bicol

What is the foundation of the long-lasting ‘marriage’ between imperialism and feudalism, state-imposed violence and bureaucrat capitalism, class and struggle? Is it love? If so, what kind? For Caloy Gernale, it is ‘class love.’

According to the National Democratic Front’s “Guidelines and Rules on Marriage inside the Party,” (April 1998), ‘class love,’ in the context of a party-officiated marriage, pertains to the party member’s initiative to prioritize his/her “commitment and promotion of revolutionary objectives” over his/her personal desires. This is the kind of love advocated within the current revolutionary movement in the Philippines. One’s personal feelings (‘sex love’) should be subordinate to his/her love for the proletariat (‘class love’). But what Caloy Gernale understands is that ‘class love’ is also what reinforces the marital and material union between (individuals and) institutions that belong to the same exploitative class. This is what Gernale intends to explore in a richer, more detailed one-person exhibition titled You Are Cordially Invited.


Nunelucio Alvarado's Continued Relevance

Quickly and without hesitation, Nunelucio Alvarado responded with a resounding "yes" when asked "Sa palagay mo, maaabutan mo 'yung tagumpay na sinasabi ng mga rebolusyonaryo?" (Do you think you'd still be here by the time the success of the armed agrarian revolution actually comes?) Despite his age, his political and artistic stand remains youthful and vibrant, like the works that comprise his latest one-person exhibition Pretty Pretty, Pity Pity.

Alvarado's latest works on paper are familiar with those who experienced and survived the most horrible chapter of contemporary Filipino history, the Martial Law years. The seasoned activist gazing at the artist's "Tatay Series" (9.5 x 15 inches, colored pen on paper) for instance, might be reminded of the struggle of sugarcane workers in Bacolod and of how art critic Alice Guillermo (2001) described Alvarado's rendition of the common Filipino, particularly the sakada: "...as squat and angular figures, with well-articulated muscles to show their closeness with the earth as well as their strength in production. He also uses vivid colors to enhance the sense of vitality and energy, while at the same time conveying intense emotion." On the other hand, whether it was Alvarado's "Nanay Series" (9.5 x 15 inches, colored pen on paper) or the "Nawong Series" (8.5 x 11 inches, colored pen on paper) being referred to, the cynic would perhaps notice that there's really nothing "latest" about the artist's portrayal of the marginalized Filipino, that it has always been the same: "as squat and angular figures, with well-articulated muscles..." But how about the millennial? What would today's social media savvy youth say about Alvarado's latest visual articulation? Would today's generation of spectators agree on the idea that a Nunelucio Alvarado work is still relevant? Or would they think it's passe?