It has been written and said that the popularization of social realism as a standard formula in some way suppressed aesthetic development. Although there was a continuous exploration regarding its form, audiences, generally regarded social realism as “standard form” where the usual beggars, “inang bayan”, grim faced men and women and squatters dominated the canvas….There have also been calls to identify the need for current social realists to move beyond old approaches and to develop and modify their methods to be concurrent with the period. Having said all that, the multi award winning artist Max Balatbat is not a social realist artist. He is an abstractionist with a social realist’s point of view.
If such stark titles such as “TRAPDOR” and “ANG PAG DAMPI NG BAHAGHARI SA AKING BUBUNGAN” were to be disregarded the composition would seem to explore bold architectural themes. (Max Balatbat’s father was an architect, whose floor plans led him to produce a fresh perspective in his art which he now calls “architectural abstraction.”) There is a dynamic beauty won from a tension existing between various elements: Balatbat creates a muscular aesthetic, what with their combinations of angular elements these works which hint of even a sculptural presence.
The barung barong (shanty) has always been a popular source of social commentary, thus Balatbat explores other architectural venues with the same implications. His early creative formation and works took inspiration from the “International Cabaret”, a childern’s playground by day and brothel by night where he spent an unusual childhoold. As a profoundly referential artist, this place reminds of every line every shape and every color which eventually came out in his works and everything about it has its own story beyond the glitzy images and the sale of women’s bodies. As the show’s title “IMPERYO” connotes, entertainment is seen in its present use as a vehicle for domination. Entertainment is also a victim of rabid comodification.
But poverty is a constant factor in this alarming trend in commodification, not only of products, culture, the professions, but humans as well who stake their own persons and bodies as well.Blinded by the lure of big monetary rewards and an easy escape from poverty, there are deluded women who make this risky choice, much to their regret.
Balatbat is not a member of nor associated with social realist collectives yet this does not exclude the presence of social commentary in their works.He is one of the movers and shakers behind the art collective Sininggang.
His art depicts his inventive interpretation of austere landscapes of torn buildings as modernist abstraction resonating with undoubtful plausibility. The canvases contain a series of geometric compositions which juggled color and pattern with equal temerity.
Given Balatbat’s architectural-sculptural feeling for his social malaise themes, be it top view or front view is always marked by a certain cragginess, a fragmentation. The buildings are almost ephemeral, and yet this is the same delicacy that holds the composition together.
Balatbat’s colors are always predominantly on the somber side of the spectrum by temperament and by Philippine Aevoking the torments of a world of struggle and uncertainty. Yet his angular forms are without expressionist angst…
His abstractions reveal a style that has not completely given up imagery.The artist uses fabric print patterns such as plaid and stripes(which allude to the dancers skimpy attire),rendered in acrylic, to build up the surface forms, as well as to bringing rhythm and balance to the overall compositions. The fabrics are a motif which can be made to carry various meanings with which he can continue to explore the forces underlying this form of entertainment. Balatbat's visual interpretation of life among prostitutes tend to universalize as much as particularize places
To the artist, his art is a registry of the daily events he encounters in the very place where he grew up. His works are personal statements inferred from experiences since childhood.
The seediness of the canvases is full of anonymity. The random fabrics represent the many parallel experiences occuring at any one moment in the same scenario
The narratives of “IMPERYO” are full of loneliness and the longing for unfulfilled desires. The states expressed in their work are not uncommon in contemporary
and it leads one to wonder where the dignity of the individual has gone to in
the face of such unleashing of human desire in the mind numbing humbug of our
consumerist world. Philippines