METHOD AND MADNESS : YOU ARE BORN MODERN, YOU DO NOT BECOME SO
That’s what artists Kelly Palaganas and Meling Abuga-a call their latest exhibit now moved to the Museum of Three Cultures at Capitol University from its initial month-long run at the Tourism Showhouse in Plaza Divisoria.
“You are born modern, you do not become so” is a quote from French sociologist and cultural thinker Jean Baudrillard.
“It was all random. We were each playing around with ideas for a title,” Kelly admits. “Na come across ni nako nga quote from my art prof Roberto Chabet, who always sends me cool quotes thru text. Akoang gi forward kang Meling..nag suggest ko nga “Born Modern” ang show. Ingon dayon siya nga why not the whole quote na lang, so there…”
“This, for me is very relevant to the concerns of local artists nowadays. If you talk to them in a group, pirmi lang na mogawas ang “what is contemporary art?” nga question. Mura lang ni ug dula namo ang quote ni Baudrillard. “We weren’t trying to be high art or anything.”
Meling Abuga-a and friends at the Tourism Showhouse Exhibit.
Modern art usually refers to artistic works produced during the period from the 1860s-1970s, and denotes the style and philosophy of the art produced during that era. It is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. Modern artists experimented with new ways of seeing and with fresh ideas about the nature of materials and functions of art. More recent artistic production is often called Contemporary art or Postmodern art.
Current interpretations of modernism vary. Some divide 20th century reaction into modernism and postmodernism, whereas others see them as two aspects of the same movement. This divide could also very well describe the two artists’ approaches to “modern art” in this particular exhibit.
Says Meling in the exhibit handout: “I like the idea of making things look brighter than what they are in a heartbreaking way. Constantly experimenting, trying to figure out what art, the process, and creation really means. The act of doing, merely doing, rather than conceptualizing then submitting to final decision that it is a good thing when it does not make any sense is the theme and timbre of my art.”
Thus, you have her “Boxes of Hope” consisting of mixed media made from enamel, matchboxes, oil and latex paints on board;
“Turn, Turn, Turn” oil on canvass (inspired by the 60s pop hit “Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season)”, a song adapted entirely from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible and put to music by Pete Seeger in 1959;
and “Hibiscus” (enamel, tie wire, latex on board) which describes a plant’s struggle for life as illustrated by the wire flower seemingly rising violently from the board. Nonoy Estarte, resident artist of Xavier University and president of the Oro Art Guild concurs with some fellow artists’ assessment of Meling’s works today as those of an ’emerging artist’. “Unlike Kelly’s works which many already consider as polished and with a certain distinct style, Meling is still experimenting with how she can best express herself hence her adventurism in techniques, color and materials. The passion for expression and creativity are there, it’s more like she’s looking for her artistic identity at this point in time.”
For her part, Kelly has focused on “nature, color, stains, flowers, petals, tea leaves, coffee, unconventional and yet practical native (indigenous? home grown?) and yet inherently modern…to take a walk around the nearby places, the fields and roadsides, and to come home with your pockets full of many colored flowers, picked fresh and all prepared to dance upon the paper…plumbagos leaves make green to fade and settle on a shade they fancy…”
Four works by Kelly Ramos-Palaganas.
Fellow artist Patrick Gabutina likens Kelly’s works to those of Lucian Freud’s impasto portraits and nudes which have made many regard him as the greatest figurative painter of our time.
“I don’t want any color to be noticeable… I don’t want it to operate in the modernist sense as color, something independent… Full, saturated colors have an emotional significance I want to avoid.”
Now that, is exactly opposite of what Patrick likes in Kelly’s works, which are “her vivid colors which convey her emotion in an aggressive manner.”
However, Kelly herself says her latest series of experimentations with natural colors made from plant leaves and flowers are closer to what Freud says he desires of colors in his works.
Kelly and friend take a break at the Tourism Showhouse Exhibit.
“I am constantly surprised at the colors I have discovered which are many times not the colors you see in the original leaves and blossoms,” she mused. “I still do the oil painting, sure, sabay ani nga series, and they are impastos, yes. And I love Lucian Freud as well, and although I do NOT try to copy him, I concede that yup there is a certain similarity in the brushwork or the “style.” But… these works on show can be seen as a totally different path in terms of style from my oils. It is more a progression of my concerns from the ballpen sketches that won me a finalist award from the Philippine Art Award.
You can see more of Kelly’s art from the following links:
Indeed, a consequence perhaps closer her colleagues experimentations than what the artist intended. But does that make her or Meling any less modern? Learned or embedded with the art gene?
Ultimately, like all works of art which matter, that would be something left for the beholder to find out himself.