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Saturday, November 7, 2009

ESQUINITA: ESSAYING REINTERPRETED REALITIES


ESQUINITA: ESSAYING REINTERPRETED REALITIES
By JCrisanto R. Martinez


Race. Moment. Milieu.

The contemporary conditions stirring every Filipino’s psyche and sensibilities vomit a variety of pictography of a crisis-ridden society. As issues are scrutinized so does the art and artform analyzed and are bundled in its socio-political contextualization where restrained sarcasm and paradoxes flourish. The imagery assembled is that of a society and people gasping for breath while attempting to free themselves from the savage web of appalling oppressing power and poverty.

Two Filipino visual artists Pol “Indigo” Narra and Vonn “Wayan” Narra, in their first two-person exhibit, collected these meanings and identities and created a visual reinterpretation of these realities on canvases, burlaps and acrylics. It is an exhibition of paintings showing their individual unique styles as they communicate in the present-day language that defines the sense of true identities and centers their perspective as Filipinos. Thus, “Esquinita” is born and continues to be reborn.

“Esquinita,” that cramped alleyway found in every nook and cranny of this archipelago, becomes the focused locale. Confined in nature and restrictive in essence, “Esquinita” presents its people, in its time and in its setting. The diverse characters of and in an “esquinita” distilled in the artists’ thoughts amalgamates into both the typical and the individual characteristics. (Pol Narra is a practicing architect and interior designer while Vonn Narra is a graduate of Optometry and is likewise a practicing interior designer.) In “Esquinita,” both artists infused a rich complexity in their paintings blending such components as physical appearance, expression of behavior, apparel, and surroundings. The nature and creation of their figures recount the plight of a people.

Expressing the human condition is at one end of this exhibit while on the other is the patronage for pictorial art. The attempt is to speak out consistently and eloquently in their powerful canvases from this alleyway mirroring its people’s daily grind. Such comes in placing premiere importance to portraiture. In executing this, each artist’s work reflects their professional background: the clear cut definition of perspectives of Pol Narra’s paintings almost like an architectural draft as opposed to the subdued hues and moods in the paintings of Vonn Narra who reflects much on character execution much like in interior design. However both artists’ works/portraiture rendering reject the self-conscious poses of the prettified and the beautified.

Potent emotions rendered into images and symbols invite a reflective moment to ponder. For as real as their circumstances so does the projection of real-life drama of the “esquinita” portrayed on canvases and burlaps mirror the undeniable – that anywhere in this place we call home, the archipelago we embrace as homeland lies these images of a people; that everywhere lies this typical alleyway.

So we encounter the characters: men lined up in various roles like those engaged in the typical drinking spree in Von Narra’s “Tagay” ironically ready to sacrifice his well-loved pet for “pulutan” in “Best Fried.” Pol Narra’s stark contrast between the dominant alpha male whose number of kids is inversely proportional to his daily income comes to life in “Tatay Sipag” as opposed to a dutiful father with no other means to earn a living cooks up some broth in “Gotohan.” The eyes of the hopeful glimmer in Pol Narra’s “Mang Tubig,” that street vendor peddling bottled water. Yet the same sparkle shine in the eyes of a “parlorista” in “Gusto Ko Sya.”

We stumble upon “Damaso,” a priest in a nearby chapel executed by Vonn Narra who vehemently preaches the choice for life yet for fear of procreation uses a prophylactic which is anti-life. This is opposed to “Yosi,” with the young boy’s striking glance as he continues to try to fight for life. Yet perhaps the starkest contrasting artworks by Vonn Narra would be his women: “Sarsa,” the unthinking lady willing to surrender her body and spread her legs to answer any call of lust suddenly impregnated by who-knows-who and the woman who contemplates first before surrendering her body in “Pain.”

Yet every Filipino is hopeful. “Balikbayan Box.” Pol Narra’s painting of a family whose kin painstakingly trying to earn a living by working on third-rate jobs overseas then sends a box of First World goodies so her family could get a taste of the “imported,” comes as a “split-second enjoyment of redemption.” And the hope of the future is likewise hopeful. “Bulaklak” and “Barong-barong” by Pol Narra and “Yosi” by Vonn Narra portrayed the youth all lustfully hopeful for a future to come perhaps much different from the alleyway they inhabit at the present.

“Esquinita” after all remains to be a hopeful locale. With its populace and circumstances the daily grind revolves and evolves. Despite hard-times those characters in an “esquinita” continue to embrace the karaoke and the videoke if only to shriek out their frustrations. Much like the Filipino visual artist: that despite the hard times, we continue to strive and make our art sing.

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