Hair Mask, charcoal on paper, 152.5 x 114.5 cm. 2011
HAIR MASK, CHARCOAL ON PAPER, 152.5 X 114.5 CM. 2011


Good Omens

Kiko Escora’s body of works seems to be largely positioned on a threshold of being one thing and another. Partly because the motions of his practice have always been two-fold: at some times his works are tableaux promising a narrative, while other times they are portraits operating between a loyal depiction of the subject and a superimposed ‘vision’ of Escora towards the characters he portrays. Meanwhile, we are unsure what to expect from the artist in an announcement of new works as we are familiar with his oscillation between paint and charcoal.

Besides attributing this undulation in medium as Escora’s dexterity towards the painterly and the precise, it also goes to show his investigative and ever evolving approaches to both formats. While many of his earlier works favored contours and flatness, light-and-dark contrasts, and the single iconic shape of figures, Escora continued to examine the other possibilities of each medium, grappling with their relationships to scale, layers and dimensionality to cast a strange sequence of distance and intimacy, the axis of social life and the scope of introspection.

Kiko Escora’s first charcoal exhibition was in 2001 and was presented by The Drawing Room. Before then he had never used charcoal formally in his works, even in sketches or studies. The main focus of his career circles around the figure and this inclination can be traced from his charchoal series – from mannequinesque archetypes of wily sophistication, flat silhouetters, anatomical synechoches and sarcoid subterraneans.

For the most part, his earlier portraits have been about the sitter. Escora succeeds in expressing the intangible gesture and vibe of his subjects in a posture of surveying the characters and situations that fed his inspiration for several series. He documented this sense of the kindred, attributing the subjects’ suspension a life equally charged as the real, volative ones they really have.

Escora inspected and illustrated the dynamo and vacillating energy of cosmopolitan life primarily in a sitter-subject format then. At the onset of Circa Circus, the artist has been turning inward. The closeness of the figures portrayed relies not on the sitter’s disposition being stripped bear. There is no distance of being a beholder. Escora eschews portraiture’s framework of intimacy with the subject by casting aside elements that would invite us to think about the figure’s individuality. We are no longer left with a mystique of nonchalance, an unselfconscious gesture. Instead we see less and less of a face that is overridden with the images’ tones and inversion as punctuated by Escora’s deftness of hand in charcoal.

Circa Circus brings together, for the first time, a series of Escora’s large-scale charcoal works. At the same time, we witness the artist’s definite trajectory towards exploring the mental event of accumulating content vis-a-vis the operations of intuition in relating to the influx of images and references that preoccupy our daily experiences. He construes the more immediate, personal state of acquiring, sieving out and distributing images. Unlike the visual ease of many of his portraits, the ones from this series are manipulated in tones, interweaving the play of contrasts and shadow. The process involved in Escora’s new charcoal works is about the deliberate mastery of the dominating medium of charcoal where the image needs to materialize before the execution. With such little space for change, these works encapsulates decisions driven by an exactness that can only be predetermined with gut feel.

Like the flurry of a circus, we are confronted with complex layers of reality in Circa Circus. Figures and images are bobbing in and out of consciousness crossing lines between memories and the imagined, situated beyond temporality. They are edited like good omens, throbbing into existence and into an image – which is an affirmation that some thing happened after all.

– Sidd Perez