"Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination."
It is said that one experiences perpetual ecstasy by being completely conscious of the things around them, yet their perspective, as well as their state of mind remain unaffected by these external forces. Yet upon surveying The Land of Eternal Bliss, the first solo exhibit of local graffiti artist Whoop, one cannot help but to ponder and comprehend the various emotions and stories that linger underneath that candy colored surface. A land inhabited by characters borne out of the artist’s constant pursuit of his own creative bliss.
Gazing through the series of paintings, gondolas and custom toys, one is reminded of Takashi Murakami and the Superflat movement, which took its cue from Japanese anime, manga and popular culture. What sets apart Whoop’s oeuvre on the other hand is his ability to inject his own visual language and symbolisms, grounded on his own personal history and social context, much different from its first world counterpart. Characterized by floating anthropomorphic objects and figures, these highly-detailed characters epitomize the various facets of the artist’s struggle and firsthand experience with the daily grind, as seen through the way he composed his diverse visual scenarios, most of which resemble the typical Manila street chaos. Though at first glance one sees visions of symbiosis, predation, and birth, the theme that actually resonates on all the pieces are those that subtly reveal itself underneath the bright colors and cartoon-like deities; love, loss, isolation and eventually, enlightenment.
The ominous eye that hovers above the terrain and in all of the artworks suggest a voyeuristic tendency, as a way to assimilate, digest and make meanings out of the images that continuously assault the artist’s senses. The mouth, despite its varying degrees of openness, evokes a sense of muteness, inviting the viewer to listen to secrets which they cannot hear; and to touch its lips, amidst the danger of being bitten. Underneath the cuteness that engulfs the image of a melted ice cream, with cross bones and cherry skulls, are embedded childhood memories of loss and wanting. Used as a form of coping mechanism, the image is stripped of its inherent fondness, only to be replaced by the bitter recollection it now conjures.
While The Land of Eternal Bliss is an exhibition that tends to draw its viewer to its inherent “eye candy” attributes, it cannot be overlooked that beyond the layers of exploding colors and free flowing forms are well spring of truths, memories and a new found sense of enlightenment, all waiting to be discovered. All of which are prerequisites in following your own bliss. (wes valenzuela)