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Sunday, January 17, 2010

R/EBOLUSYON


R/ebolusyon
Recent works by Renato Habulan and Guerrero Habulan
19 January – 2 February 2010
PASEO GALLERY-MEGAMALL

It is a study of comparison as much as of contrast--two artists who share their names also share the realism that led them to divergent paths. In rEbolusyon, father and son Renato and Renato Guerrero Habulan mark the spheres they inhabit, not by sounding a call to arms or presenting work radically different from what they are known for. Instead, they describe the evolution of the Filipino while occupying creative spaces consistent with their other recent works. The revolution stemming from widespread discontent, it appears, is imminent.

For the younger Habulan, spaghetti has become symbolic of the changes in the Filipino brought about by technology and consumption. The taste of the average Juan is less attuned to native kakanin , more to noodles coated by sweet sauce, the hybrid mainstay of celebrations. The use of gadgets and skin whitening products has altered the physical makeup of the Filipino masses considerably. However, many of these changes remain superficial. The man in the street is likely to have the same parochial thinking internalized by his colonized ancestors. The feudal mindset has stuck, keeping him from becoming as cosmopolitan in his thoughts as in his outside appearance. It becomes clear that sophistication is not just skin-deep. Only education can effect genuine change.

Guerrero sets out to prove that it is possible to be contemporary by painting what is in one's backyard. His compositions are neither formulaic copies nor an aimless jumble of elements. Rather, they are reflections on the Disneyfication of society and the continuing obsession with the American dream. In his canvases, the aspirations for happiness and a better life are often linked to a hunger for the bright lights of the urban landscape and the irresistible taunts of flashy advertising. Although not everyone is ready for commercialism, the essentials take a backseat. Survival becomes more tragic for the poorest in the community.

The artist does not consider himself anti-Western, only aware of the quirks and anomalies of the environment he grew up in. With humorous wordplay in carabao English, he shines a light on these, scratching the scabs we prefer to ignore. Like the jokes so common on the radio, the punchlines are half-meant punches. The wisecracks hurt because the pain and bitterness are real.

Mang Ato brings together an intriguing figure, industrial machinery and a religious icon in a three-cornered relationship. Nothing is staged or made up. The tattoos and punk outfit are authentic, as are the images of the Virgin and the Sto. Nino; the grime and underlying glint of metal are brought to life from fading vintage photographs. The effects of the relationship between the three incongruous features are messages left up to the viewer to decipher. The moral of the story is open to interpretation.

Religion, when it devolves into fatalism, is far from liberating. Mang Ato believes that religion is not just about preparing for the second life and saving one's soul but also about putting yourself in the service of humanity. This includes care for the lumpenproletariat, the worker-outcast, whose anarchist influence is strong even in the abyss of despair. When labor is treated as a factor of production like machinery, something is lost. Industry is valued over the person. The background and the stripe of color running along the painting is a pulsating red, militant and ready to strike. The revolution, though imminent, is yet to come.

But the assimilation is almost complete. In his smaller pieces, Guerrero paints a daydreaming child not wishing to take away the right to fantasize, but lamenting that the desired are borrowed creations from foreign toy industries. Mang Ato's small paintings are in a more austere palette, underscoring his draftsmanship in the palette knife etchings.

The Habulans' works, though not directly in dialogue, are frank in their worldviews. There are no deliberate patterns or parallels. But there is honesty about our faults as a people that encourages contemplation. It appears that this truthfulness, like the fine brushwork and strength in figuration of the two artists, is a family tradition.

R/ebolusyon opens 19 January 2010 at Paseo Gallery – Megamall, and will be on view until 2 February 2010. For enquiries please contact Paseo Gallery at Tel.Number (632) 7065514; Mobile Number: +639228872736 or email us at paseogallery@yahoo.com or visit our website at www.paseogallery.com

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