Art in isolation
In the land down under, the Sydney Biennale has just recently opened its galleries to the public—actual, physical galleries that people can view. It almost seems surreal, under the circumstances. An art show that isn’t virtual, in a time when many have been heralding the future of art exhibits to be online. It also is a glimmer of hope, a perfect reminder of how today’s “new normal” isn’t the normal normal. There is a world we can go back to where people can once again view art in a space dedicated to art.
But while most of the country continues to be under one form of quarantine or another, artists have continued to do what they do best, creating beauty, turning their experiences of isolation into artworks that resonate with each one of us who has felt trapped in this pandemic.
The Cure, 25” mixed media, 2020
By Ram Mallari Jr.
Master metal manipulator Ram Mallari Jr. showcases his creativity yet again in this steampunk sculpture in mixed media. With colors that, intentionally or otherwise, remind the viewer of a certain iron superhero, Ram’s The Cure is indeed a hero for the time. After all, what the world needs now is a cure, and not just for the persistent pandemic.
Lady Circus II, 36” x 48” oil on canvas, 2020
By Nikulas Lebajo
In the wake of his carnival-themed quarantine exhibit, Nikulas Lebajo continues to paint images usually associated with revelry. Yet there is something unmistakably sad, palpably lonely in the image of this gray girl even if she is in the company of flowers, birds, and a butterfly, next to the image of a merry-go-round. That the colors of what are usually symbols of happiness are also subdued paints a poignant image of isolation.
Portrait painting in the time of Covid: Jonathan, 51 x 41 cm oil on oval canvas, 2020
By Plet Bolipata
True to her style, Plet Bolipata painted a rather colorful portrait of a person in quarantine. Almost every element that has become familiar to most of us because of the pandemic can be seen in Portrait painting in the time of Covid: Jonathan. It’s a person who is visibly stuck at home, wearing a face mask, looking into some “fourth wall” that is, perhaps, a screen of a phone while chatting with friends via some video conferencing app. Going by its title, this is quite possibly part of a series.
By Anton del Castillo
It’s a painting that speaks for itself, really. And true to Anton del Castillo’s penchant for critiquing contemporary life through his art, Lockdown is an exposition on isolation. It captures in a very telling image the experience of the everyday person during this pandemic: bottled up. Everything is bottled up. But perhaps more than the physical limitations imposed by a lockdown, it’s the effect it has had on the human spirit that is more alarming. Everyone’s existence has been bottled up.
While you were Sleeping, 60” x 48” oil on canvas, 2020
By Janos Delacruz
There is always something that captures the eyes in the dreamlike paintings of Janos Delacruz, whether it’s the powerful play of colors or the carefully crafted shapes or the seemingly hidden details here and there that reveal more about the artwork. And in his quarantine art While you were Sleeping, Janos captures just how surreal everything has been over the past three months—and yet we were awake through all of it.
PEYSAWT (phase out/face out), 4’ x 3’ acrylic on canvas, 2020
By Cedrick Dela Paz
For this one, we’ll let the accompanying poem Cedrick Dela Paz wrote for this huge painting speak.
Ako ang Hari, kinakatawan ako ng aming lahi
Nasa kalsada ako sa loob ng maraming dekada,
pero ngayon pakiramdam ko’y nai’echapwera
Noon nilalarawan ko ang aming bansa, pero ngayon tila ba tinatanggalan nila ako ng MUKHA (phase out/face out)
Dati ako ang bida, pero tila inagawan na ako ng korona,
Makikita pa kaya ng susunod na henerasyon?
ang tulad kong dyip na tadtad, puno ng dekorasyon
sabi nga sa mga bulong bulong .
ang buhay raw ay tulad ng isang gulong,
umiikot, at sumusulong.
pero may gulong nga ba ang aming buhay?
itinatanong palagi sa aking malay,
hanggang ngayon walang parin akong maisagot.
dahil kaginhawaan kailan may hindi maabot,
Wearable Sculpture 1: I CAN breathe, 7.5” x 6” mixed media, 2020
By Ian Inoy
Playing on what has become the most telling symbol of today’s times, Ian Inoy created a series of wearable sculptures. What is interesting about this is that in order to breathe safely nowadays, we put a cover on our mouths. Yet Ian says I CAN breathe is a reminder for people not to take for granted what they still have today, when even a face mask is not that accessible to everyone. “If you can afford to buy one,” Ian says, “be thankful because you can breathe.”
Rest to Ration, 30” x 24” oil on canvas, 2020
By Bryan Teves
One of the narratives people have taken to heart in order to somehow make sense of the pandemic is that it is nature’s way of breathing. True enough, in the first weeks after quarantines had been imposed the world over, the earth did breathe—the skies became clearer, the oceans became cleaner. But Bryan Teves captures in this hyperrealist painting the irony of it all. As nature breathes, humanity’s breathing is stifled, with humankind forced to wear a face mask in order to survive.
Laban, 24” x 30” oil on canvas, 2020
A Mask Have, 24” x30” oil on canvas, 2020
By Rose Marrie Saplad
Husband and wife artists Pongbayong and Rose Marrie Saplad created a pair of black and white or monochromatic oil on canvas paintings that, like most of the works featured here, capture enduring symbols of the pandemic. But these aren’t just reminders of the literal ills that Covid has brought humankind. These, as both artists have shown in their works, are also powerful symbols of how humanity has been struggling to get back up.
Cincuenta Y Seis Años sa Panahon ng Damuho’t Covid, acrylic and oil on canvas, 2020
By DengCoy Miel
It’s truly amazing how an image can speak volumes and DengCoy Miel’s Cincuenta Y Seis Años sa Panahon ng Damuho’t Covid is no exception. This quarantine artwork, however, doesn’t just “talk about” some random topic. No. This painting is a history lesson. Contained in the spaces of DengCoy’s painted cupboard are episodes in Philippine history, culminating in the issues of contemporary times, with a human body trapped, as it were, by the pandemic.
*PEYSAWT is part of an ongoing virtual exhibit called “Pause,” which is viewable through the Exhibit App.