Dennis Bato, Anjo Bolarda, Archie Oclos and Roberto Sanchez
In Unusual Tranquility, the artists examine the relevance of artmaking in today’s state of affairs, sourcing inspiration from personal experiences during the pandemic with astute observations, notes on survival, maintaining sanity and deciphering new codes. Collectively, pieces reference the body and how its journey goes from the personal to universal, how circumstance affects the artist’s psyche and prepares one for what might be bigger struggles ahead.
Dennis Bato’s multilayered layers of aerosol, acrylic and oil paint in blacks, whites and grays on wood with epoxy resin show how humanity exists by building on top of the markings of the past – be it earlier civilizations, previous regimes, social issues brought about by actions of the preceding generation, or even yesterday’s personal decisions. Paths converge on multiple planes, with what appears to be moving figures stuck in between. Haziness translates how current reality appears, where normalization pressed upon individuals by society and the powers that be blur the lines between the negative and the positive, the future remaining unclear.
Archie Oclos’ portrayal of indigenous people in his works takes on a more familiar route as he not only inscribes patterns on an individual figure posing in front of the viewer with arms outstretched, but also in the space occupied by a mother and child. As he fills these silhouettes with earthy textures and tribal designs which give life to his figurative illustrations, he chooses to give form to maternal love and their other sentiments. With one of his pieces showing hands that lead to the center of the piece, one questions whether the figure is pleading or offering, and whether we have given enough attention to their plight.
Roberto Sanchez, however, draws more from his philosophical leanings in his series of paintings about Amor Fati, or love of fate. He posits that since we cannot do anything about what is happening, the sensible tendency is to choose to love, trust and accept what transpires, whether it is to your advantage or not. His works feature a figure wearing a hooded jacket whose body language shows dejection, disappointment and betrayal, but he stoically embraces his fate as his own form of escape, to cope from unpleasant realities. Adding chalk outlines also plays on impermanence and the acceptance of possible loss.
For Anjo Bolarda, personal exploration of the body has resulted into works on paper investigating how the public has reacted to the pandemic. With the increase in social media use, not only are basic needs put to the forefront, but so is the desire to be seen and heard. The body, which has always been an instrument of self-expression, is taking on new creative channels showing gestures, action, dances and even skits in vlogs and short-form mobile video app Tiktok, which not only disseminate new, probably filtered concepts of beauty, but even overt sexuality and political leanings. Body language and its images, whether whole or in parts, offer new conundrums to be interpreted, and Bolarda shows these by assembling mixed codes of anatomical parts and gestures and even portraying identities outside the gender binary.
As we gather the pieces of our lives post-lockdown, the works in the exhibition remind us to be centered in our rootedness and not to be comforted by a false sense of security. It is better to be grateful yet wary, than be misled by baseless optimism. We might have gone through what we deem some of the worst times of our lives, but this serenity too, shall pass, and we should not be lulled in this calm before what just might be greater storms.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Dennis Bato graduated with a degree in Architecture from Far Eastern University Manila, but decided to be a full time visual artist after working for a year in various jobs in the industry. Since then, he has participated in group exhibitions in various galleries and museums including QCX Museum, Jorge B. Vargas Museum, Ayala Museum Artistspace, Museo Orlina, Mizuma Gallery Singapore, Sikka Art Fair Dubai, ISB Gallery Rhode Island School of Design, Yul Gallery New York and Shanghai Young Art Fair 2018, and is part of the New Wave group exhibition organized by Deutsche Bank. His affiliation with PSP Pilipinas Street Plan has led him to take on various mural and street art projects. He currently explores this leaning in creating paintings featuring layers of spray paint and stencils, while his installation and resin sculpture are mostly made up of dark nooks and crannies of black textured fabric that he transforms into various forms.
Anjo Bolarda is a muralist, graphic designer, illustrator and cultural worker who has shown his works both locally and abroad. With his creative expression spanning several genres such as drawing, painting, installation, video, event, performance and even workshops, he shows his experiences and observations regarding the everyday and its stories, including customs and traditions, beliefs and myths, and even man’s spatial relationship with his environment. In Bolarda’s art practice, his interpretation of geographical navigation through the examination of his personal space wherever he goes becomes the core of his work, both physically and in terms of logical reasoning. He intervenes into particular spaces he finds himself in, first exploring then then leading to minute observations that he would like art audiences to partake in, often providing a different way of seeing while exposing the intrinsic aspects of place, to be contemplated, explore and be more conscious of.
Archie Oclos graduated with a degree in Painting from the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. A proud native of Catanduanes, he comes from a family of farmers and fishermen on one side and welders and construction workers on the other. He is a multi-awarded mural and street artist whose works address issues concerning farmers and indigenous people, their way of life, plight and struggles. As he creates monumental pieces revolving on socio-political themes, Oclos immerses himself in the lives of his subjects, doing in-depth research and gathering stimuli for his works, and focusing on using public art as an instrument in inspiring social change. He was one of the 2018 Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Thirteen Artists Awardees, an honoree for the Forbes 30 Under 30 2017 and 2018, and was shortlisted for the 2019 Ateneo Art Awards, winning one of the Fernando Zóbel Prizes for Visual Art and People’s Choice for his work Lupang Hinirang which tackled social injustice.
Roberto Sanchez draws on his life experiences straddling the creative and music industry to apply them to the visual arts by creating montages and live, performative video-on-painting pieces that usually serve as the highlight of his shows. Working with acrylic, watercolor, graphite, ink and collage has led him to surprising explorations of both medium and form. Exercising his creative muscles by creating small works daily also serves as sequential documentation of his pieces, allowing him to experiment and letting loose of artistic energy. Aside from his gallery exhibitions, Sanchez has found himself involved in creating public art as well, such as the design for the Kapit kapit Sculpture in UP Los Baños in 2018, and serving as Project Manager for the VoV Studios-initiated 361 feet long, 15 feet high mural at the Planta in Roxas City, Capiz. As he creates and shares something new every day through social media, he also serves as inspiration to other artists immersed in practice and discipline.