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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SKYSCAPES



Clouds have always been momentary, fleeting creatures: suspended in the atmosphere while swiftly morphing from dim, ominous masses to islands almost ethereal and divine. Populating the vast expanse between sea and sky, where the earth recedes into the distance, their presence is tangible evidence of ephemerality. One really never sees the same thing twice.

In Skyscapes, photographer and graphic designer Jay Yao (Jose Campos III) presents six images of clouds all caught in flight, taken in transit over the past five years. Alternately based in New York and in Manila, Yao shares these photographs as fragments from his frequent journeys: back and forth between different countries, homes and destinations. In these photographs, specific locations and places far below are forgotten and obscured: what is visible is an unfolding, changing and anonymous terrain of clouds.

Yao’s photographs are taken at different years and different times of the day: attesting to the changing climate and shifting atmosphere from dawn to dusk. Together, this suite of works captures varied movements of shadow and mist, form and light. In these images, physical processes are simultaneously a source of formal beauty: crisp skies and jet streams merge with dense atmospheric haze; clouds float on top of each other, like atolls on a restive ocean; sunlight breaks through sky, like water permeating through crevices. Through such imagery, it is possible to be reminded of how abstraction can be evoked in nature, and (conversely) how nature can be perceived in abstraction.

Yao started exploring the medium of photography in 1997 and has produced work in different formats (such as black and white photography) over the past 15 years. For this show, however, Yao focuses on maximizing and drawing out the emotive impact of color photography. He leaves behind the monochromatic starkness of black and white in favor of the more impressionistic and emotional power that color can convey. This is evident in how the works show white surfaces of clouds illuminated by vivid hues such as azure, purple, coral, gold: forms bathed with a muted yet jewel-like luminescence.

The show can also be seen as Yao’s response to the genre of aerial photography, which has been in practice since the invention of the camera and the first foray of humans into mechanical flight. As works of art, cloudscapes have been produced by other photographers and painters in order to help convey abstract experiences and thoughts. The same spirit of symbolism is present in Yao’s works, which are concerned with how to document and express the fleeting turns of emotion.

For instance, the implied position of the photographer behind the image reveals that these skyscapes are interconnected with Yao’s own personal sojourns: there are no specially chartered helicopters and no elaborate set-ups for capturing aerial shots in this case. Yao takes these photographs in his capacity as a frequent passenger aboard routine commercial flights, relying on his familiarity with digital photography techniques to come up with these transitory images of the world above.

Yao’s process for capturing images of the sky is one that others can relate to. Produced through such a familiar practice – surely many who have flown have been mesmerized by the sky and have also tried to capture it for posterity – these works can also be considered as an extension of Yao’s personal journey through time, space and memory.

Yao’s photographs revisit the act of looking out of windows, to be fascinated by a world beyond. The images capture those transitory and short moments of reverie in mid-flight: at an altitude way beyond the nervous and upward rush of takeoff, the rumble of turbulence and the fickle shifts in weather. Suspended in mid-air, moving from one place and memory to the other, it becomes momentarily possible for the viewer to again remember, dream and wonder.

These are moments too easily lost as one is eventually transported back to terra firma and to the mad bustle of daily life back on the ground. The beauty of Yao’s images of these floating worlds lies in their sharing of the personal: how they make it possible for one to relive these temporary spaces of solace and silence.

SKYSCAPES by Jay Yao (Jose Campos III) opens on June 28, 2012 simultaneously with SKINSKIN by Chati Coronel and RED FIGHTS BACK by Geraldine Javier. All shows run until July 21, 2012 at Silverlens at 2/F YMC Bldg., II, 2320 Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati. For inquiries call 816-0044, 0917-587-4011 or email manage@silverlensgalleries.com

Gallery hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 7pm and Saturdays from 1 to 6pm.
www.silverlensgalleries.com / facebook.com/slgalleries

Words by Lisa Ito; Image: Jay Yao (Jose Campos III), Los Angeles to Manila, 2012

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