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Thursday, November 5, 2009

GRANDIER: POINTS OF CONTENTION


Grandier: Points of Contention
Artis Corpus Gallery, 7 November till 30 November 2009


Background

Being born a Piscean, I didn’t believe in the horoscope. I was just aware that my zodiac shows two fishes swimming in opposite directions, going around in a circle. It looks similar to the yin yang symbol. I didn’t have any inkling that it will have anything to do with my art, but gradually… this notion of duality in my works crept in.

My thesis in college, grounded in the traditional manner of painting, was very technical, “ordinary”, but made me stay awake for hours at night. It dealt with my interest with warm and cold light and how it affects the subject matter, or at the very least, how the subject is depicted in a work. It was chiaroscuro with two opposing light sources. I guess I was impressed with the dramatic lighting we see in Hollywood movies, and how an actor/actress looks better with warm and cold light.

When I do an artwork, whether it’s in pastel, acrylic or oil, I prefer a dark ground -- a mid-gray or sienna shade. I start off with getting the big, basic forms right, and gradually work from dark to light. I work from the general to the specific, all at once, from front to back. I don’t just work on a particular area and finish it, then move to the next. But I work out the whole space, building from the base, all the way up to the finishing touches. I cannot work on single spots, without reference to the whole. All areas must be done gradually, layer by layer until all bases are covered.

In order to do realistic works that “look” like a photograph, I had to study the layering techniques of Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. The method of Impressionists such as Amorsolo was too rough for my taste. I unconsciously preferred a painting with the least amount of brushworks visible. It also perhaps jived in with my pacing, since I didn’t produce works “on-the-fly”. Upon learning the process, I now work from massing out the whole picture plane with paint all at once. I start with a monochrome underpainting, and when this layer is dry, I build up the next layer with the basic colors, and so on. I eventually adapted this process even with my pastel works.

Recently, my still life works reflected my interest with two-source lighting. It was a “retreat” on my part to get back to where I started, and getting things done correctly. It was a real challenge to consider both warm and cold light in a painting, as the opposite complementary color clashes at the edges of the subject. It took a great deal of patience and courage on my part to really get the shades right.

After having done traditional subjects like landscapes, still lifes, portraits and nudes, I thought that I had to go beyond the obvious, beyond the technical. I believed there was more to this than just merely producing “pretty” pictures. Something lacked. I have developed the skills to produce highly-realistic works, but something else was amiss. I eventually got disillusioned with painting and had to take a self-imposed break.

In relation to my art, I realized that I was afraid before to express what I felt or thought because I disliked criticism. I was more diplomatic and was getting along with the flow. My art, as a result, became “safe”. I regarded art as something unattached to what was going on within and without me. I “idealized” art by detaching it from me, and thereby showing something else that wasn’t me. What I therefore lacked was conviction, my identity, my mark as an artist. I wasn’t my work because it was an image that has nothing to do with me. This doesn’t mean that I’m not proud of my works. I am. I consider all my works before this solo exhibit as foundation to something more in tune with what I have to “say” or contribute as a painter. I wish not to over-analyze the whole process of art-making, but I simply cannot just paint “pretty” pictures because it was the easiest path to follow.


About the Paintings

First of all, this solo exhibit, my fourth if I’m counting the two solos I did abroad, is about my symbolic gesture of breaking from my past subjects, and at the same time is a means to also pose a question about what it is to be human. The realities of and realization in life just comes to us… it only takes a matter of time. Conditions one was accustomed to, change. Relationships become more complicated. Matters seem to be in a continuous state of restlessness. There is a point in one’s life when questions are thrown at you, at significant junctures in your life, and you still don’t have the “right” answer. Unresolved issues in the past still disturb us in the present, which eventually affects our future. We all, in the long run, reach a fork in the road, and must choose a path.

My works explore these states of reflection or points of contention where one is confronted with significant matters in one’s life. The works show or express the state when one stops and reflects prior to arriving at a conclusion. It therefore attempts to convey the feeling of being “lost” or “burdened” with thought. Human duality kicks in when faced with this situation, and we have to continuously deal with our inner nature, and weigh our decisions carefully.

The series of paintings starts off with “The Blank Slate”. This work shows pieces of torn, creased paper that is scattered about on a clear white background. The crumpled paper, which appears in all the works, is symbolic of the experiences one encounters in life, whether they are good or bad. I chose this title for this piece to point out the fact that the notion of a “blank” slate is not necessarily true. The slate, our consciousness, is a product of the past, and it develops from there, with all of its imperfections and baggage. We, as humans, therefore are inherently possessing positive as well as negative traits that interact in various ways in our lives. “Inadvertent Prologue” refers to one’s realization that life experiences have to be sorted out to derive meaning from them. Random things happen, and it is necessary to reflect on these things even if they are not good experiences. The globe the figure is on refers to one’s vulnerable condition. The globe is unsteady and shaky and one has to balance his thoughts and actions in order to remain on top.

Also of significance to the works is the use of warm and cold light to support the notion of human duality. It suggests that one is confronted by good and bad thoughts, by strength and weakness, simultaneously day by day. No one is exempted from this, and degrees of noble and immoral behavior emanate from us, consciously or unconsciously.

The works also show a contrast between an organic human with flawless attributes, swamped with imperfect, degradable man-made paper. It means that we’re always bombarded with external noise that continuously tests our resolve. That we always encounter a lot of “trash”, and it’s up to us how we filter them out.

My works serve as a testament to human struggle and inner conflict. It recognizes the presence of our flaws and more importantly our strengths as well. It is a statement that after all the gray and cloudy events in our lives, remaining steadfast in one’s principles and convictions will enable one to surpass all these challenges.

Note: I guess even if I speak in the third person, the works in some way also reflect my inner personal conflict. I can relate to my works heavily, as if they are anecdotes to my present situation.

Grandier Bella

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