“The College Guys” exhibition opens
with a party at 371 art space
For the College Guys, a loose artistic group composed of Francis Bejar, Francis Commeyne, Geronimo Cristobal, Jr. and Chalk Zaldivar, artworks need not be alienated from their everyday reality. Conceived to present a series of new works forged under a fresh behaviour towards exhibitions, the recent works on paper, assemblages, installations and paintings to be presented at the 371 art space in Mandaluyong City are certainly pieces that the artists did with the prime emphasis of enjoying.
Bejar, Commeyne, Cristobal and Zaldivar all share an interest in exploring the breadth and depth of contemporary artistic expression by utilizing traditionally non-artistic tropes in urban living linked to their artistic practice. Cristobal says the exhibition is an “intuitive and conceptual process, rooted in the everyday reality of the common college guy who is immersed in intellectual as well as leisurely activities that shape his outlook.” Commeyne and Cristobal just came out of college while Bejar and Zaldivar will finish next year.
While anchoring themselves on conceptual premises, the exhibition nonetheless manifests a traditional behaviour or of being consciously “traditional”. The group sought to share a passion for found images, travel, word-play and the belief that the best ideas are generated around the dining table, drinking Patron Tequila or while yelling at each other amidst techno music. “We just want to have a good time,” says Bejar and he adds “We would like every young artist like us to remember why they pursued art in the first place.”
Bejar’s works comment on the barrage of mass media in one’s daily visual landscape and its inconsequential nature. He also indicates one’s relationship to popular culture as reciprocal, restructuring imagery to produce a meaning of his own; a sort of personal visual puzzle. Bejar’s surrealists representations in his paintings are often translations of verbal puns. He renders faces and figures minutely but boldly, embellishing the composition with dark lines. Playful detailing is layered over seemingly quotidian imagery, rendering the works visually confounding through their nifty additions.
The artists move effortlessly between formats: on one side of the gallery, Zaldivar’s installation work reference characters in his paintings with whom he shared fond childhood memories of. These enigmatic portraits are delicately executed, from the deformed, vaguely suggestive noses, stiff nostrils, pointed ears, and disproportionate eyes, to the meticulous cross hatching and fine patterning of the clothes and hair. Zaldivar’s refined use of the drawn line is highlighted in these works where the image is flattened and the negative space of the wood stain becomes part of the drawn image through seamlessly subtle markings.
Commeyne’s box assemblages, affixed or simply leaning against the walls reflect his somewhat nomadic background, growing up in different cultures and never having one place he safely calls home. As Cristobal’s works are a visible transcription of the passing of time and movement, so are Commeyne’s boxes that represent a material translation of an idea of transience, something both artists have also explored in numerous works, where images serve as transcriptions intermittently appearing in correspondence to actions or experiences that the artists have undergone while surviving the ordeals of college education and young adulthood. Thus, for both artists their works are evaluating the substance of the painting and assemblage as a thought record.
Whether in junctures or individual persuasions, Bejar, Commeyne, Cristobal and Zaldivar allude to examining of their subject’s appearance, layering imagery with geometrical forms and patterning. As seen throughout the exhibition, the artists’ amplification of repeated details and the prominence of linear execution break down orthodox spatial rudiments and symbolic standards to create a dynamic fusion of representation and abstraction.
For the opening night, 371 art space will host a temporary bar in the gallery, sharing their favourite drinks and music with the visitors to the show. Show runs from November 12 – November 23, 2011at 371 art space, P. Guevarra cor Montessori lane, San Juan, Metro Manila.
About the artists:
Francis Bejar is at this time fascinated by collection and miniature renderings in his paintings by using custom stencils to weave a pattern of signs and images seen in urban public spaces. His preoccupation is in the almost compulsive urge to collect and contain symbols for appropriation in his artworks. In previous exhibitions, he takes to using coffee stains, ball point, India ink and acrylic paint to produce signature pieces that captivate the viewer’s eyes to look askance: What do these symbols mean? Francis Bejar was president of his college fraternity, the UP Artists Circle in 2007. He has won the Shell National Student’s Art Competition for sculpture twice in 2007 and 2011. Aside from this his works have been shortlisted in many other art competitions most notably in the MADE by Metrobank Foundation.
Geronimo Cristobal, Jr’s works are sign and symbol concurrences with abstracts meddling with figures. For texture, he layers poured paint, allowing gravity, precision and chance to work simultaneously. A similar practice is used in his figurative works where the paint on the canvas is distributed unevenly depending on the tone of a corresponding image on the surface. The figures are painted flatly with a dry brush and are sometimes controlled, transferred or smudged with Plexiglas. He employs found material, transfers, print, and collage. His painting process relates to a concept of tradition and translation–a space where identities and appearances are redrawn between tense oppositions and ambiguities inherent in historicising the legacy of cultural forms. His paintings have been shortlisted to the MADE by Metrobank Foundation and at the Shell National Student’s Art Competition. He currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.
Francis Commeyne was born in Kandy, Sri Lanka to a Belgian Father and Filipina mother. He received his B.F.A. magna cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Fine Arts this year where he was also the class valedictorian. He was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society on his senior year. Living in different cities for most of his life, his works deal with the condition of being a Third culture Kid growing up mainly in Guatemala, Zimbabwe, and Philippines. He started out painting with a rigorous formal style that he developed as he was growing up to either deflect or absorb the blanket influence of cultures that surround his art through the application of the traditions of surrealist painting and its synthesis with aspects of academic training. While undergoing the International Baccalaureate program at the International School Manila, Commeyne participated in cultural forum exhibitions in Jakarta, Indonesia and Taiwan. In college, Commeyne presented prominently in the West Gallery show Ethereal Contingencies. His works embody the inherent rational hunt for identity as a prime concern; that confusion could be reckoned and constrained within the arbitrary structure of a set canvas or a wooden box combined with the more subjective and fixational implications of the collection of objects which distinguish his works. In a show at the Manila Contemporary for the Amorsolo retrospective, he turned to using rice sacks as an allegory of Amorsolo being a consumer good, in his FA Rice series. At Paseo Gallery, Commeyne portrayed an assertive unification in meaning of his realistic painting of an old photograph of the Cultural Center of the Philippines entitled Forgotten Processes and Meanings to timeless products of imagination that withstand the changes brought by modernity.
Chalk Zaldivar is the youngest in the group and is currently pursuing his BFA in Visual Communication from the University of the Philippines-Diliman. His acrylic paintings on wood panel link art and childhood in powerfully imaginative manner. At once cool and miserable, his illustrations of men and women in patterned robes or suits suggest a profound doubt into commonly held belief that viewers get to know artists through their works. Zaldivar’s brand of pop-culture imagery eludes the stiffening action that fuels Japanese Manga comics, or even the stills chosen by the likes of Yoshitomo Nara, Warhol and Lichtenstein. His works in this exhibition for instance are spare drawings done with a palette of pale colors. One may read his works as harmless kindergarten decors or as slightly monstrous and disturbing. The cartoony figures and confining dumbness of his imagery are aimed at producing a subtle destabilizing effect of anxiety. Zaldivar’s works have been finalists at the Shell National Student’s Art Competition.
The four artists met four years ago in college and previously showed together in the exhibition Ultramarine in 2010 at the lobby of the New Eastwood Mall. They have remained good friends since then.