Carlo Tanseco presents tales of magic realism with his new exhibit ‘Ex Libris’

The amalgamation of words and visuals

“What happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe?” author Matthew Strecher asks. What he is describing is the novel genre magical realism, a style known for blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, giving such a unique reading experience.

Since the term was first used in the 1920s in Germany, it had been recreated in numerous literary works, such as Garcia-Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “The Secret Garden” by Frances Burnett. This time, these tales become the subject of Carlo Tanseco’s art. Dubbed “Ex Libris,” the Filipino architect-furniture designer-artist’s new exhibit showcases the abovementioned novels as he puts them into his paintings.

Carlo Tanseco (Photo by @augusteyesight/Instagram)

“The term ‘Ex Libris’ denotes ownership of the book, usually found on the first page after the cover where the owner places his/her name as the owner. But I find the literal English translation of this Latin phrase, which is ‘from books,’ the essence of this collection,” Carlo says. “I loved to read when I was younger, and these are books that I have always wanted to read again, not as a forced requirement in school, but as something to savor during my spare time.”

Another thing that Carlo loves about books is their cover art. Much like the pieces seen in his previous showcase, “Panapanahon, Paraparaan’s Rizal Matchbox series,” the artist crafts three-dimensional wall pieces inspired by the novels. His signature juxtaposition of a character on clean lines and patterns, reflective of his own mixed interests and unique combination of architecture discipline and free imagination, will also be prime features in this new collection. The mesmerizing geometric patterns, grids, and symmetry show how Carlo likes solving design problems.

Then, he would begin to “mess up” the perfect images with an unexpected detail or two—whimsical, magical, or even mysterious. Present in his works are “easter eggs” eventual owners will be treated to when viewing his art at another time and place.

"Aureliano" (100 Years of Solitude) and "Mr. Hyde" (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)

"Remedios" (100 Years of Solitude) and "Miranda" (The Tempest)

“I like to establish through my art, what is familiar and real to the viewer to make it initially relatable and personable and then I introduce something off-tangent or disruptive in contrast and counterpoint, yet maintaining a harmonious balance between them,” Carlo says. “I like the fact that the setting is grounded on reality or its representation, and yet magical and fantastical elements appear or occur.”

“Ex Libris” runs until June 14 at the Modeka Creative Space (Modeka Art) in Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City.

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