There is a lot going on in Iya Consorio-Barrioquinto’s ongoing exhibition, “Unpretty,” at the Provenance Gallery in BGC. Right off the bat, the works release a swarm of images, references, and styles, as if purposely overwhelming its viewers in an attempt to dazzle. And to a certain extent, it delivers.
In “Unpretty,” Barrioquinto presents her usual macabre flair and seamless combination of both the elements of art nouveau and pop surrealism. Here, however, evident is the heavy influence of Japanese culture, particularly traces of ukiyo-e art and aesthetics, such as the The Great Wave off Kanagawa, along with other Japanese symbols like the Oni mask.
Each piece is packed with lines and patterns that are either carefully puzzled or carelessly doodled together. It is hard to tell. But for Barrioquinto, it does not matter. As the title suggests, the exhibition is about imperfection, the celebration of it. Moreover, and once again borrowing from Japan, the show takes inspiration from the concept of kintsugi, the art of fixing broken pottery by revealing traces of its mended cracks glued using gold.
Like kintsugi, “Unpretty” aims to be a metaphor for accepting and embracing imperfections and flaws. The concept resonated well with Barrioquinto personally as an artist. This feeling of fallibility, according to her, allows her to feel more human.
“When I feel broken, I create,” she says. “This makes me feel whole again. Sometimes, I make perfectly lined portraits and then I purposely pour water and mix or add some painterly parts. It is like adding mess to an organized room. It gives it a more human feeling to it. Like in kintsugi, it makes it more beautiful.”
Beyond the horde of lines and symbols, the element that unifies the entire exhibition is the image of a woman. According to the exhibition note written by Joanna Preysler Francisco, “Unpretty” channels women “that have overcome, survived, and recovered from adversity.” Headlined in the artist’s work is the “feisty face of femininity.” The conversation about femininity, however, seems to end with the concept of image and beauty.
Interestingly, Barrioquinto views artmaking in a maternal way. For her, creating art is like labor during childbirth.
Interestingly, Barrioquinto views artmaking in a maternal way. For her, creating art is like labor during childbirth. “And as a mother, it is also a celebration of another life,” she says. “The process of creating is like giving life to something new. It is satisfying to the soul.”
In many ways, it is evident that the works serve only as personal gratification, to “satisfy” the self, which, of course, is totally normal for an artist. But even then, the exhibition, with all its random elements and universal musings, still falls flat, failing to introduce anything unique or anything that stands out, even on a personal level.
Ultimately, Barrioquinto’s exhibition dazzles the viewer, but just for a moment. It kind of reminds me of the particular art you encounter on highly gentrified streets and neighborhoods. You start walking slower for a second to inspect its cool, hip, and “lowbrow” details, and another second later, you fade out and pick up your pace.
Provenance Art Gallery is located at Shangri-La at the Fort in Bonifacio Global City; @provenanceartgallery; [email protected]; 63 917-825-2041 or 02-9463236