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Friday, December 11, 2009

APOKALYPSIS


Anthony PANUGAO APOKALYPSIS
First One Man Exhibition
Works in Oil on Canvas and Sculpture in Mixed Media
Opens 6pm Saturday 12 December 2009. Runs till Monday 11 January 2010.

When an artist comes straight to you and declares that he is ready for an exhibition, you better believe him. He is. That is what Anthony Panugao did to me a month ago when he sent a battery of text messages to me claiming that he has prepared a series of works in oil on canvas on the topic “The Militant Christ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” At first, it sounded like an emanation from another devoutly religious man, full of fervor compounded by a slight fanaticism. So I asked him to bring samples of his works. He brought in a couple. At first glance, I mentioned to him that they were half-cooked. Needless to say, I was not impressed. I then asked him to bring some more. On the night of 16 November 2009, he brought fourteen works on canvas and five sculpture pieces which he did in late 2008 and the whole of 2009. I was impressed and I immediately wondered why he did not present his works to other galleries for possible exhibition. He said he had actually done that, but was either ignored or totally joked upon and taken lightly.

I had already booked Camille De La Rosa to exhibit in the front and middle rooms of Artis Corpus Gallery from 5 till 28 December 2009, and I mentioned to Anthony that the backroom was available. I immediately mounted the show, removing what may be labeled as remnants of the recently held Art Manila. I scheduled Anthony Panugao from 12 December 2009 till 11 January 2010.

Here now is an exhibition of an artist whose intention is simply to express whatever it is he would like to express. Here is an artist who just produced a body of works on his own and in his own time without any inkling whether these works will eventually end up shown in a gallery. Here is an artist who is true to his intention: to present the nature of what Christ’s essential teachings were all about and how society in general responded to them. Here is an artist who presents the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelations by John the Evangelist, in a different light. Anthony does not literally interpret the Book in its originally prophetic stance based possibly on a language that had been extinct and retranslated and possibly manipulated and reedited to satisfy contemporary needs and to address contemporary minds. He does so in a manner hinting that those bimillenium-old prophecies are already occurring here and now in various ways and manners that may never be ignored.




I do not believe in putting all my thoughts in one title. So I suggested that his proposed exhibition be truncated to “Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” That was before I bought a bible, an edition possibly a thousand times removed from the original scripture. The role of the four horsemen was really four verses long, yet the messages of the works of Anthony Panugao covered more than those of these horseback riders. “Apocalypse” which simply means “unveiling” sounded short and sweet. Yet, since I am a fundamentalist, I prefer the Greek “Apokalypsis” which means “to disclose.” In Filipino context, “to unravel” is to reveal. In street parlance, it is simply called: “bukohin!” (“expose!”)

Here is an exhibition that exposes realities hidden from our daily eyes, yet are happening in these current times. Here is an exhibition that talks about social concerns which we are facing now but blinding ourselves from. Although such, it is the artist’s intention to reveal these revelations in the hope that they be reversed and something positive may come out of the lessons thus learned.

Allow me to quote the artist: “As it was written in the Book of Revelations as prophetic, the works I did, now shown in this exhibition, are marked by symbolic imagery. It may not be the end of the world, though John the Evangelist mentioned that his book was all about the ultimate triumph of good over evil, but these things are continually happening right here and now. These struggles and strife are as visible as these horsemen are in the book.”

The artist further obliged by submitting his statements for the works he did. The first horseman, in white, crowned and carrying a bow, rode as a “conqueror bent on conquest.” Anthony interprets him as symbol of authority, possibly the government. The second horseman, in red, with a sword, was “given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.” Anthony interprets him as symbol of war. The third horseman, in black, “holding a pair of scales in his hand,” is what Anthony labeled as business. The fourth horseman, on a pale horse, was death. Anthony concurred.


Anthony as an artist substituted his own ideas for the original symbolisms. The red horse of war and military operation became the prehistoric beast (the largest ever land walking carnivorous mammal that ever existed on Earth) of destruction in his Operation Red Andrewsarchus in Basilan Sulu. The black horse of business reveals itself in Black Market, which talks about illicit trade. It talks of kidney sales, endangered species trading, prostitution, dog slaughtering, piracy, and outright monkeying. The white horse appears in Call for Renewal, surrounded by the blackmailing extortionist, the rear room abortionist, the document fakers, and the street hold-upper.

The artist continues: “I used prehistoric animals. It is like changing the images without changing the ideas. I made diligent effort and extensive research about these animals. I carefully picked and included these fascinating extinct creatures to add color to the topic of war.” The fact that these creatures are extinct, I must now say that the artist subconsciously implied that extinction is the only way out of hostility and violence.

The idea of these horsemen reappears in other works in the exhibition. Enter the Phorusrhacos Idealist features the terror bird which feeds on meat, preying primarily on large mammals. Its rider advocates and wreaks terror all around him. In Southeast Asian Brontotherium Tank, it is the thunder beast which is used as powerful weapon for mass destruction. In The Kangaroo King in his Kangaroo Court, the oversized animal bearing the authority in his pouch presides over the total disregard and perversion of law and justice. Two other paintings depict corruption: Death Penalty by Poverty and Into the Deep Dark Water both of two ways to go: by sheer starvation and by the locally accepted “salvaging.”

Back to the body of the Apocalypse, the blacksmith in Ang Panday ng mga Salita fashions the double-edged sword of the word of God. As the seven deadly sins are portrayed in seven small canvasses, so is the role of the savior in this drama called existence. Christ as the Blessed Child and as the man on the cross in Redemption is but a reminder that the wages of sin have all been paid for and that the debts incurred had been fully settled by this noble act of a character sent by the God of all creation himself.

The artist Anthony Panugao may not have the gift of prophecy nor revelation. He may not even have the accuracy of the great doctors and scholars of the Church, but he indeed has a keen understanding that we are all on our way to extinction, as all the evidences of John’s treatise are occurring in our midst. True or not, let us heed his call.


Exhibition Notes by Enrico J. L. Manlapaz, curator

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