This article I wrote in anticipation of Jason Tecson’s two man show with Syrian artist Thaer Maarouf at Sana Gallery – Singapore.
The sculptures of Jason Tecson speaks about reality in the same way nightmares do: through concrete manifestation of symbols found in them. His works are not images but fabrications, which in an analogous manner become the prop of a nightmare: a poetic collaboration with nature unloaded by its creator. In spite of this, the sculptures can be said to be stand-alone, solitary, and though ironically, familiar.
Victor Shklovsky once wrote that “the purpose of art is to lead us to a knowledge of a thing through the sense of sight instead of mere recognition.” By “ostranenie” of objects and complicating the form, the device of art makes perception long and “laborious.” The perceptual process in art has a purpose all its own and ought to be extended to its fulfillment. Art is a means of experiencing the process of creativity. The artifact itself, as Shklovksy deemed, is quite unimportant.
Upon seeing the works one would feel both the estrangement and subsequent return to familiarity. The subject calls for feelings and thoughts but never seem to define them clearly. They never get uncovered of their drapes. As if their very character seeks to normalize the darkness, so we are left only with an impression, a mysterious face that shows itself obliquely. The eye seeks for any legible image on the texture. We find a few on the surface, perhaps the texture of fossils or hardened lava, but then they are clearly not these.
Tecson’s sculptures sometimes work to preserve the detritus of everyday life, such as a beer can, a cigarette butt or any tiny recognizable element so as the viewer takes his walk around the sculpture, he can have a moment of feeling autonomous from these objects. First, the image would have nothing to do with you, but then you suddenly recognize the shape of a person or imagine the face of a monster. You’re with it. But the image seems to elude you. So it is in real life: we walk from point to point, we think that our life is coherent, but as current events to do not seem to have a logical structure or reason, we know there is no clear trend.
Tecson has often told me he wants to make things we do not understand, things that you cannot address, name or display in your home. With his sculptures, he tries to break our obvious sense of security. The intention is not to make people upset, but the reverse: they allow unpredictability and complexity, by making the very nature of the sculptures, confrontational.
The sculptor, experiences the world around as an apparently shapeless melting pot. His works act as monuments to monstrosities, and our make-believe mythologies that have lost their mystery over time. They no longer threaten but are horrible enough reminders of our dark pasts and dark sides.
The parts of these monsters: a mask, a foot, a hand reaching from beneath the ground, are cropped parts of a reptilian humanoid. After close observation, one will know that these are Frankensteinian parts, forged without a secret preconceived or predictable plan. There is plenty of room for our imagination and instincts and then one just makes up excuses for the actions afterwards. There is no coherent picture of what was actually intended, what remains is the feeling of unpleasantness of the experience. It’s like our way of protecting our children by instilling in them a fear of the stranger. As discussed with the sculptor once, Joseph Conrad says in Heart of Darkness that “our survival instinct makes us efficient. The logic comes afterwards.”
Tecson is absorbed in producing in the large scale. In his last solo exhibition, he lodged a 15-foot monster in one of the small rooms of West Gallery in Manila. Tecson’s studio is a huge factory in Quezon City where stage and movie sets are fabricated. It reminded me of Adrian Villar Rojas’s Paris studio, with an army of assistants surrounding the cool-headed and reticent artist. As a student, Tecson has copied and learned a lot from the Spanish abstract painter, Antoni Tapies but as soon as he shifted to sculpture, he was immediately arrested by work of the German artist, Anselm Kiefer, whose sculptures in La Ribaute, we would pore upon endlessly. Kiefer has talked about being in a state of paradise, which according to him vanishes as soon as you become aware of your own being. It seems to me, that the works for Eroded Myths have a lot to do with the divide or the desire to forget and assimilate into a callous identity, perhaps in the will to survive outside the mythical Garden of Eden. I have also recognized in the pieces of Tecson the instinct of the primitive, whose medium of understanding the world was through making distorted images of the self. This is what he saw in the altars in Asia and Africa, covered with feathers, clay, offerings, sprinkled, or sprayed with blood. They tell a story of violence and heroism, and faded ideologies. The sculptures have found their altar in the gallery space, recouping an ancient shrine where they used to belong.
Between 2010 and 2014, he has looked for other forms of so-called pagan idols. What intrigued him was the idea that they reflected more the image of the maker rather than the projection of a deity. Even then, Tecson has explored this distortion and went looking for shapes that you cannot appoint or memorize. He says that in his preliminary drawing, he does “not know how it eventually will look like, but I do know that I want to make things that speak of something, and I know what actions I need to call some forms to emerge.” In the case of sculptures for Eroded Myths, under layers of spray painted colors are more pronounced than in previous works, hence the purple or lime here and there. In general you can sense that the effect is to make it look colder.
Thomas Pynchon once wrote a beautiful poem about nightmares. “Skeletons with poison teeth/ Risen from the world beneath, Ogre, troll, and loup-garou/ Bloody wraith who looks like you. While growing up, humans tend to learn by mimicry, to make new things, but through many detours eventually end up turning to yourself again and again. It seems that the suppression of the self is necessary to make the creative process authentic and the sculptor is measured by striving not to get bogged down in reductions or clichés. The distance between who you are and what you fear maybe just an illusion. – Geronimo F. Cristobal, Jr.