ART FAIRS / ART BASEL HONG KONG 2015

ABOUT THE ART FAIR

Gaston Damag

Gaston Damag calls the bulul that remains focal in his practice as a colonial readymade – inversing the cult ideal of this Western representation of this rice god figure within art historical tradition. After all, he hails from the very community in which the rituals surrounding the bulul are performed. Taking from the material culture of the Ifugao, Damag puts to the fore the ambiguity that surrounds the reading of this figure: as it traverses inquiries of its artifact-ness vis-a-vis commercial distribution as a tourist souvenir and as an artistic strategy from which elements in art tradition configure themselves.

As Damag is first and foremost an Ifugao, the ethnographic symbols that he makes use of are in authentic proximity of their usage. However he is trained in a Western academy that did not only gather criticality towards their lineage of semiotics but also of formalistic devices.  In a sense, the bulul is the cornerstone from which is works shape around in. While the idol grounds the culture he participates in, it also functions as a visual method of focus and deconstruction to open up the field of materiality. Often he uses industrial materials such as glass, neon and steel in modernist arrangements in space. While they are often sculptural, Damag’s works refer to painting through materials attached to this format, as in the case of “Painting” where the figures mounted on crate-like structures are made from canvas and attached by paint. In the truest sense of modernistic inclinations, he calls attention to art making through such inversions of a plane in a practice moved by the principle of emphasizing compositional elements. The grid has resonated largely in his previous series. For Resemblances, it also bears that angular property in “Painting” but departs to the spherical in “Shadow of Civilization”.  The globular structure of the Sputnik – now identified as a Mid-Century design – impales these copies of an indigene’s deity, casting the inquiry whether the bulul is as good a historical event as this Cold War relic.

Surrounding Damag’s general predisposition towards constructivist aesthetics is still the mystique of the idol sliced up and restacked, pounded or lanced in the sacrifice to Form. Or, perhaps, it is the Western mode of re/presentation that called for a blessing from this anthromorphic silhouette. In the case of Resemblance, this postcolonial extraction for an authentic anesthetic from common tropes of exoticising continues to overarch Damag’s general practice. No longer framed within vitrine-like structures, the monolith is now an immobile satellite turned “design” style as this inquiry moves between notions of artifact as a ethnographic display and as merchandise. “Painting” and “Shadow of a Civilization” are not really sculpture projects. Rather they are prototypes for cultural production, proposals for the fabrication of a subject deemed as cultural souvenirs.

More than anything Resemblances, like the artist’s other projects, endeavors for the inquiry into the cultural lens of interpretation. As with the photographic series “Apprehension”, the spectator inhabits exhibition spaces and becomes part of the display. The masks break the exhibition devices that divide object and viewer, suspending the act of looking at to being looked at.

 

Mark Justiniani

Lathe of Light

Tessa Maria Guazon

Day and night

Beam, ray, shaft

Flaring orb

Stark flame

An inert world of unmoving time

Place without shadows

Gossamer sphere

Pale light

A velvet shrouded earth of languid rhythms

Objects without edges

Communion and solitude

A conjoined piece fuses structure and machine, a cathedral of windows, a collider to diffuse atom. Both entrap and emit light as they speak to existence. Sanguine twins, Janus, a clock’s ticking face, alternately grand and monstrous, these constructions attempt to decipher the complex structure of existence.

Mortal, earth bound, corporeal or rather ethereal, adrift on wings, thus transcendent.

Myriad complexity or simple unity, coherent and confounding all the same.  For indeed, how is one before these grandiose embodiments of human aspiration and ambition? A cathedral to cradle the soul, where spirits soar to sublime heights and the body is pierced with light: transformations in a theatre of faith. Moving at light’s speed, a machine to break particles down into basic mass, a field where particles collide: an arena of creation and destruction.

Two infinities imagined: the vast and the minutiae contain questions we can only begin to answer.

Life and death

Light

Beckoning, calling

Refracting, diffusing

Enlarging and diminishing

Life sprouting, shrivelling

Budding and decaying

An ending and beginning

Death and life

One awakens to life with flickering light and a cry, one leaves it by blinding light and a quivering breath.

Temple captures the myriad mysteries of existence, plagued as we are by the eternal question of being and purpose. Do we truly reside here or elsewhere? We may leave without knowing or perhaps it is beyond knowing. Or if begin to believe we are close to understanding, our knowledge is aborted by sudden leavings. A paradox we attempt to untangle.

Art embodies this striving, in its bid to forge enigma in material form. The most voluble of them speak to great mystery through the calibration of the senses. We are by turns perplexed and amused, drawn into a miniscule version of the universe then thrown back into a vast world. Then we begin to grasp the mystery of creation that buttresses art, a form of solace that assuages our fears: of leaving without mark and trace.

Solitude and communion

Constellations

Within and beyond

A galaxy of stars

In gut

Universes in fusion

In minds

Night and day

Chaos rule as we persist in the numbing grind of days folding and time falling in unrelenting haste.

We fear the loss of tomorrow, we quaver at the passing of an hour or a precious minute.

We invent solace, manufacture escapes to multiply our joys: little versions of transcendence where we become effervescent and fleetingly immortal.

 

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