The calm on this side of the border belies the scene on the other side

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Joseph Tecson’s diptych painting ‘Snow Business’ and Jason Tecson’s polyurethane sculpture, Burn-out site exhibited in The calm on this side of the border…” at West Gallery in Quezon City.

In “The calm on this Side of the Border Belies the Scene on the Other Side,” brothers Jason and Joseph Tecson exhibit sculptures and oil paintings which mark a highlight in their individual careers. The paintings were started during Joseph’s stint as a resident artist at Whitespace Blackbox in Neuchatel, Switzerland while the sculptures are part of a series started by Jason Tecson prior to his two-person exhibit with Syrian artist Thaer Maarouf for an exhibition at Sana Gallery in Singapore. The title is taken from a CNN investigative report by Scott Bronstein on the Islamic extremist group known as ISIS. The influence of aberrant psychologies, urban gangs and graffiti, hip-hop culture, terroristic violence, prisons, globalization, waste and consumption on the two artists has never been more keenly felt. Jason Tecson’s approach to form is crude and intuitive, suggesting violence and lending the work powerful emotional and political overtones. The artist draws freely upon the history of art, evoking primitive sculpture, ideological icons, and pre-Hispanic artifacts; indeed, the synthesis of myriad forms is evidenced in his uncanny choice of materials. These media appears aggressive and is a product of an abstract process, one concerned with the integration of structure and social aesthetics. Styrofoam, wood, polyurethane, fiberglass, metal, terra cotta and found objects are among the numerous ingredients Jason Tecson employs in his totems and fragmented figures. Archaeology is an important touchstone for the artist, referencing the raw landscapes of war zones and Manila ghettos. In harmony and contrast to his brother’s sculptures, Joseph Tecson, paints with a roughness obtained from a youth spent in jail, and softness, like the meditations of a troubled Siddhartha under the Bo tree. Joseph Tecson is lenient, even decadent, in his use of paint, and this attitude—in which manner, and ardor for the essential tactility of painting—defeats all other concerns. Channeling the incomparable personal evolution that struggling artists brought to painting, Joseph Tecson’s newest canvases are an extension of his previous series, triggering his series on Philippine and Swiss Landscapes, in which spray-painted pigment shines through gestural layers in the form of the alps and palms done in thick white oil paint. This time, delicate markings recalling handwriting or meandering scribbles à la Albert Oehlen appear on murky diptychs. There’s more direction in his gestures, and no brushstrokes, but every bit of the attitude of an artist who, after saying he experienced both “heaven and hell on earth” in the aftermath of his first solo show with Light and Space Contemporary in 2012, has a gnawing longing for long hours in his studio—with all the intention to break the medium of painting to its limits. Jason Tecson was born in 1982 in Quezon City, Philippines. He studied Fine Arts at the Ateneo De Manila University and Far Eastern University. Recent exhibitions include “Cool Memories” Gallery Planet, Seoul, South Korea (2014); “Radiation,” Chulalongkorn University Art Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand (2014); “Applied Savagery,” Now Gallery, Makati (2012); “Terror Decor,” West Gallery (2013); and “Jason Tecson: Eroded Myths,” Sana Gallery Singapore. Concurrent with this exhibition at West Gallery are sculptural installations at the De La Salle- College of St. Benilde and at the Ayala Museum for Fringe MNL. He will hold another solo exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines in October 2015. Tecson lives and works in Manila, Philippines. Joseph Tecson was born in 1985 in Quezon City, Philippines. In 2008 he was involved in a high profile drug case, which made it to the headlines of local and international media including CNN and Al Jazeera. Drawing from the horrific experiences of languishing in a Manila Jail, he worked on large canvasses in his tiny cell that would then be exhibited in Manila Galleries. His first solo exhibition was held at Magnet Gallery in Quezon City in 2010. In 2012 He was eventually acquitted of all charges and started to work with Light and Space Contemporary as a resident artist. With an exhibition of large canvasses entitled “Over and Out,” he was the last featured artist of the now defunct Manila Contemporary. In 2014, A Swiss gallery, Whitespace Blackbox, selected him as its first represented artist. This year he will embark on a residency, which would take him to different cities from Munich to Mexico to paint various portraits, colloquially called “Outmates series”. Jason Tecson and Joseph Tecson “The Calm on this Side of the Border Belies the Scene on the Other Side” opens with a reception for the artist on Wednesday, 18 February, and remains on view through 21 March 2015. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11AM to 6PM. West Gallery, 48 West Avenue, Quezon City For more information contact: +63 2 411 0336 or info@westgallery.org

Jigger Cruz Superstar

Erratum:

An earlier version of the article included a paragraph on the sale of a painting by Jigger allegedly stolen and sold via auction by Salcedo Auctions.

The paragraph reads:

“Two years ago, Salcedo Auctions, sold another stolen painting of JC against his advice. It was a painting he initially submitted for a book that never materialized. When JC met up with the collector who consigned the work, she said that it was part of the things she inherited when her father died and it was sold to them unaware that it was a stolen piece.”

The said paragraph has been deleted for the following reasons.

1. That the information provided is unsubstantiated, immaterial, and potentially libelous.

2. This writer failed to earlier consult with Salcedo Auctions regarding the events and agreements that transpired between the parties involved thus the information stated as fact in the previous article cannot be corroborated and proven. The Art Explainer holds no accusations against the auction house and the parties involved.

3. The phrasing of the paragraph may be taken wrongly to connote and opine about the business practices of the auction house. The writer does not aim to write a critique of the auction house and the art market, except only to illustrate the rise of Jigger Cruz’s career.

The writer, Geronimo Cristobal, Jr. wishes to formally apologize to Salcedo Auctions and Ms. Karen Lerma for the lapses itemized above.

I have pleaded with the auction house to repost the article on the condition that I will write a new entry clarifying the above statement.

May the readers and the subscribers of this blog be guided accordingly.

 

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Jigger Cruz - “Obnoxiously Beautiful,” Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches, 2010 grabbed from West Gallery website
Jigger Cruz – “Obnoxiously Beautiful,” Oil on canvas, 12 x 9 inches, 2010 grabbed from West Gallery website

Jigger Cruz was among the country’s under 30 superstars but can he live up to the hype?

There are a number of reasons attributed to the success of Jigger Cruz, the most recent darling du jour of Philippine painting. The easy one is that he did something differently but not dumbfounding. He created a middle ground in contemporary painting between the conservative and the avant garde ambitions and was accessible to the power players who lifted him up to prominence. His works seemed, at first, untamed and fresh but were also flattering in a living room.

It’s been a full two years now since I first saw his paintings and JC’s wings have yet to spread fully. A little bird told me, more shows in Europe, one in the famous Louvre museum (by direct selection of its curator), a solo feature in the Armory Show, and representation in a major gallery in the US is forthcoming before the year ends.

A long way definitely for the wunderkind from Malabon. If all of these falls through, he will be the most prominent name in Philippine Art.

For all the experimentations, expectations, and the gimmicks over what should define contemporary art, Jigger only took what was there, much as what other successful painters before him did. Emanating from the context of a broken art community with a strange artistic tradition, he set out turning the whole practice of painting on its head by focusing on chaos, with paintings that have a sort of an unformed and unstable nature, its violence, and making a saga out of that, a formula that has earmarked him for importance: the promise of a star.

Like many other painters JC started out in the underground. Born and raised, as he once joked, near the factory of Rufina Patis, and educated at the Far Eastern University, Cruz was in and out of many cheap studios until he took up an apprenticeship with Manuel Ocampo at the defunct Department of Avant Garde Cliches and a studio residency at Light and Space Contemporary.  Before that, while sharing an apartment with another painter, Jason Montinola, Jigger was not only living the classic drama of a struggling artist, he epitomized it. There were days when they would share a single viand of steamed kangkong or okra, which JC found dreadful but had grown to like eventually. As Montinola had put it in words, “Walang choice! You eat that or you go hungry!” The experience had so marked JC that even when he had already started selling paintings he would prefer the steamed veggie viand, perhaps as a reminder of humble beginnings.

To friends and new acquaintances, JC remains the same, but his works have not. Since those days he took each painting more ambitiously so that without the monetary value pinned on them, it would’ve taken us so many years to come to terms with his vast but essentially very simple artistic practice.

But the shock value of Jigger Cruz’s practice, is actually late by at least a hundred years. The issues he confronts in his paintings are the very reasons that gave rise to modern painting. But only in his stark opposition of figure and abstraction, or better the classical/conservative against the modern/revolutionary in a single work did it become apparent. Coming out of a generation (my generation) strongly beholden to figurative painting, it was only a matter of time when his kind of works appeared.  His works are an occasion to observe the boring but deeply seated issues between vehemently opposed, albeit farcically, aesthetics of our time.

Jigger’s first forays into painting had already been met with favor. He triumphed in small painting contests in school, an occasion which he recalls with a certain nostalgia. Those days, JC knew what sort of paintings won contests but he was still uncertain if the career of an exhibiting artist was for him. After graduating from FEU, he took up a course in Multimedia Arts at the College of St. Benilde in La Salle. It was a career decision trumped by his love for painting. He couldn’t last doing things on a computer, I recall him saying. Even then he would still go back to painting, watching out for art contests and joining group exhibitions.

A curious thing happened last year when one of his entries to an art contest turned up on the black market. Apparently, one his professors sold a painting donated to the university. Jigger gave a go signal to a collector to purchase the painting rather than wonder where it would go. In his words, “Baka kung saan pa mapunta.”

From this event, we see the evidence of Jigger’s rise as a painter and also the unscrupulous behaviors of certain people in the art market.

I first met Jigger Cruz at the UP College of Fine Arts where he was visiting an ex-girlfriend. A beauteous freshman.  I have heard of him before, and thought the guy must be smug. What with a name like ‘Jigger’ can you expect a humble and congenial guy with a good taste in music and art.  I eventually made the acquaintance of JC while working as a curator at the defunct City School, where we held the very last exhibition entitled “Impending Doom.”  Out of 20 works on view, only JC’s work was sold. It was a collage with oil paint, a torn canvas, and potato chips, which my girlfriend back then absolutely hated but I staunchly defended. It was the first among his abstractions but no one knew its significance and was sold for a fraction of its estimated worth now.

The reason being, that the contradictions implicated in the work of JC stems from an audience with unrefined tastes or an audience still smitten by the esoteric, cultivating mystery ever more than technique. Bound by notions of what contemporary painting should be like, and what attitudes it should foreground, rather than merely being in dialogue with a tradition. It is in this same extent that JC confines the meaning of his works to the precise appeal of the colorful surface.

Lets backtrack a bit to JC’s exhibition in West Gallery in September 2011. The very first time his works were featured in a cohesive exhibition. What intrigued me was, when I saw the paintings, it looked like something that crossed my mind. This is and will always be the quality of a good painting for me, when it pushes the viewer to empathize with the painting enough to assume that he could have done it himself.

Only a few months before that, a collector had turned down a Jigger Cruz painting when it was offered at the booth of West Gallery in Manila Art 2012 because he had already ‘bought something else.’ Contrast this to his Blanc exhibition in 2014 where collectors put a reserve on his paintings they have not even seen.

My conclusion is that nobody really bothered what was there to like in Jigger Cruz except that the economy behind it had swept the art world like a storm surge. No one knew what it was like until it happened.

Jigger did not break a tradition of painting, in fact he signaled the successful return of painting in the mainstream. It turned out, painting was only dead…in the Philippines. Those who came before him, Rodel Tapaya, Ronald Ventura, and John Santos were just heralding the return as spin offs of the 80s social realist painters, when the medium thrived in the hands of first and second quarter storm painters.

In the waning years of Chabet-era conceptualism and the subsequent, albeit misguided return to figurative painting ushered in by poor mentorship in our art academies, along came Jigger Cruz, who braved the murky history of painting, the loaded instruments of oil painting and the weight of all the wrong done in the name of art. His entrance is the prophecy and the mocking to the generations of painters before him.

Jigger once told me his least favorite works are those that are framed because he only made them to destroy the very identity of the painting as painting and in effect to demolish the very definition of what a painting ought to look like and how it should be treated (not your grandmother’s heirloom)

The unmixed chemical color sometimes squeezed straight out of a tube or through an icing pipe entails the process of freely, joyously, and bravely painting works that give flavor of life, as one would have on a piece of cake. The play is on the opposition of such colors (greens vs. reds, reds vs. oranges greens vs. yelllows, etc.) He draws from modernist techniques, including but not limited to those used by artists of L’ art brut, Arte Povera, German Neo-expressionism, the Spatialism, and combines them.

The motivation

Jigger Cruz works without an underlying discipline, though, he is always hard at work. What I mean is that, he does not work with a system but essentially against it. He does not have the hidden geometrics of minimalists, no special techniques you can’t learn on your own, and though he has worked on pieces of old masters, he expresses disregard for them by sometimes hiring assistants (and more often repeating their work when he is not satisfied). While he has trained formally in the fine arts and apprenticed with his seniors, he has not sought the traces of older painters and placed them on their canvas. Whatever he has painted, he has discovered on his own.

But JC of recent, who has had to deal with rising auction prices and international representations has doubts, gropes, and hesitations, instead of deepening his discovery. His later works in ARNDT Berlin booth at the Singapore Art Stage have been a bit of disappointment to many of his followers. For me, it appeared a bit fragmented, and without direction. What manifested was no longer the enthusiasm of the West Gallery exhibition but the exhaustion of the i-can-never-go-wrong-because-i’m-young. The shows in ARNDT reek of the causes for early retirement from the wretched occupation of being an artist.

For a while i thought, his paintings no longer bear the delight of genius that was the aura of his earlier paintings until I visited his studio and was absolutely stunned by an original painting done in 1943 by a student of Amorsolo which he had painted on. This he did only to be shown in his house and I concluded, that the commerce will kill him and will derail his work from its objective to be difficult and disgusting to the very audiences that view them. I remember the time when Jigger would laugh every time someone said sorry for touching the oil paint and find out that it was still wet or when his frames get accidentally damaged.  It’s all part of his work’s character that wishes to downplay all the ‘non-sense of painting display’ and preservation in order to highlight the collapsible and often ephemeral investment of soul and spirit onto the canvas.

How Jigger got his international break

I recall a story how JC got his break. Interior decorator and art manager Miguel Rosales had scheduled a show in Italy for the painter, Pow Martinez. Due to conflicts in schedule or contracts Martinez, informed Rosales that he couldn’t make it. While visiting Martinez in his studio, he chanced on JC’s works which were kept downstairs and so he offered the show to him instead.

But his show in Italy did not confirm him as an artist nor did it reinforce him. At best it indicated that the strength of his works was too big for the pond of the Manila art scene. In a few months he would exhibit internationally again, this time in a solo feature with Primo Noctis in Lugano, Switzerland a subsidiary of Primo Marella in Milan. But even the strength of the Milan-based gallery cannot contain him. In less than a year, the Berlin-based Matthias Arndt would eventually pick him up, after signing on Rodel Tapaya and Geraldine Javier a few months earlier. The difference? Unlike Tapaya or Javier, JC at 28 then, has no museum shows, is not a 13 Artists Awardee or was ever nominated for an Ateneo Art Award. His rise in the art scene says screw you to all the institutions that portend or pretend to legitimize the kind of art that deserves to be seen.

Some sources have denied this, but my favorite story of Jigger was how he was repeatedly rejected when submitting portfolios to certain galleries along Pasong Tamo. After his international debut, these same galleries would offer him solo exhibitions. Instead he showed in Light and Space, then based in Fairview where I was starting out as an assisting curator to the generous Jason Tecson. It was a show of 22 works on paper and three oil on canvasses, all were snatched on the first day of installation. It was the first sold out exhibition of the gallery.

Around this time, the work of Ventura went unsold in the Christies Auction and activities of suspicious entities like the “art mafia” had circulated. Suddenly, contracts became de rigueur among art galleries who wanted to keep their most prized artists.  Case in point was when Rodel Tapaya bolted out of the formidable Drawing Room Gallery after a major exhibition at the Vargas Museum. New aggressive spaces had been put up. It was an exciting time, which became more apparent in the explosive debut of Art Fair Philippines in February 2013.

It was almost natural and even imminent that a supernova was occurring. The fertile skies had it written and a superstar was born.

How did the art market suddenly single out one young painter? My explanation is rather sentimental because in the years I have worked with Jigger Cruz as a writer and curator, I have always responded to his creations in the same way. Anyone who has ever been young and in love and besotted with idealism can’t help but respond to Jigger’s expression of so much freedom and recklessness. He has the natural painter’s gift–but more important, he has the power to lend an extraordinary vitality and glamour to the activities that make the art.

Many of the most successfully daring postwar painters committed to the establishment of an art tradition and the translation of styles. Zobel abruptly shifted to abstraction after seeing a Mark Rothko as a student in Rhode Island. Lee Aguinaldo patterned his abstractions after the painters of East 10th Street, New York where he had briefly resided. Abueva and Joya in the 50s came back from schooling in the US where they refined their modernist tendencies, shedding their more traditional works to set-up a more up-to-date curriculum at the UP Fine Arts. Rod Paras-Perez was a Harvard-educated critic who espoused a certain look and feel, kept the tempo of the art scene to the tune of those heard in the West. In all these events, Filipino artists have not actually pioneered anything. Merely growing art by grafting from developments elsewhere. This trend continues until today.

Jigger is in the company of those artists, along with a few more senior painters. Well-trained in the sensibilities of western contemporary art, his visual control has become impeccable. One is struck by his ability to nudge on his long, deliberate, graceful stroke – like one would sketch a line- squeeze by squeeze: the abstract painting supplants the laboriously painted figure beneath.

The importance of criticism

Jigger has suffered a fate worse than being unjustly neglected by criticism: he’s been unjustly praised in all the wrong forums.

Without serious analysis, his paintings will become at best, moot and academic experiments, and most audiences, looking in his life for the revolutionary painter that his devotees claim to have discovered, will be disappointed. Nothing much has been written of him even in the papers and while his works grace the pages of glamorous magazines, I doubt if opinions by fashionistas actually amount to anything in the long-term.

It is also not clear to many even in write-ups even by international galleries which currently represent him, what his actual motivations are for painting and how it is significant in the current milieu.

JC is among the few painters who painted for a future time, and we, especially we, in the art world, have only begun to appreciate him. Considering his early rise, one suspects a glum shadow over his work. The question of, will it fail, or will it endure?

I remember the socialite painter Oscar Zalameda was once the most expensive Filipino artist but last I checked, his paintings have no takers yet on Ebay.

My assessment can only be tendentious and biased because as his friend, I have a stake in his success and I sincerely wish JC all the best.  But let me explain it this way: the information revolution and greater access for independent research by artists has created what I call a ‘permanent now,’ something originally conceptualized in music history. This notion pertains to the elimination of our sense of artistic eras. If you took the long view, Jigger Cruz is only among the first wave of artists who have worked with no particular clique, movement, coterie, or school. He has established the style almost independently. In other words, he either stands out as a genius or a fluke.  His success will be determined not by how hard his agents are working or how many paintings can be sold in his lifetime, it will ultimately be defined by those who follow in his footsteps.

In comparison to the nuclear explosion of superstars elsewhere, Jigger Cruz arrived for the Philippine Art world like a time-bomb, seeming completely opportune and revelatory at once – his importance being the culmination of many struggles in painting and also the beginning of an exploration towards an infinite possibility in art making unrestrained by many baggages.  How could we not view Amorsolo or Luna or Zobel or Aguinaldo without Jigger Cruz in mind, the offspring of decades of wandering in the desert without fulfilling the promise land of a true national art form. In this Exodus, Cruz works instantly insisted themselves as an anchor of possibilities. It certainly proved what was possible for a Filipino painter who only worked locally to sail away towards the horizon of the international art scene.

To be continued…

The Shift of Desires

Review of ‘It’s about the end that keeps on coming’ by Jay Ticar at West Gallery

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One of the works in Mr. Ticar’s latest exhibition at West

It’s a distressing and shattered world, if you read into the paintings of Jay Ticar, but one that is not without hope or room for contemplation. In his paintings and drawings the Manila-born, Toronto-based artist unravels a surreal world of a falling dream sequence in which liquid forms are melded with the domestic mess of medicinal pills, plates, shoes, and magazines. The objects appear in detail, and figures both deciphered and fantastic complement with each other. The paintings resemble a haunt; the menacing side of an otherwise mundane life that we try to file away at the back of our minds.

Hung bare inside the confined middle room, this exhibition at West Gallery takes in a selection of Ticar’s drawings in blue acrylic which harmoniously coalesce with graphite and ink to create a tangled tableau. The crudeness, in both the execution of the works and his persistent themes: depiction of his material possessions and reconfiguration of his environment runs through all of the works.

The pencil drawings come across as earlier works by a Malaysian artist I once adored, Jalaini Abu Hassan, whose real as well as imagined memories are mixed in the immediate present of his canvas. While Ticar’s works largely explore themes in Filipino diaspora, Hassan’s works reference elements of traditional Malay and modern global culture.

Mr. Ticar has sustained an artistic career as a painter, lecturer, and researcher being awarded prestigious fellowships, most notably as an Asian Public Intellectual, which allowed him to travel and live in different territories. I’ve always seen him as a cut above the rest in his batch at the UP College of Fine Arts but the opinion of those who followed his work is that, he has been out of sight and out mind in his mid-career. It’s a surprise since, Mr. Ticar has always been a formidable painter, albeit one who has kept a tangential participation in the Manila Art Scene. The Japanese Gallery, OTA Fine Arts and the Singapore-based Richard Koh currently represent him.

Like Jailani Abu Hassan, His semiabstract pictures are often based on home interiors, and domestic spaces, but in Ticar, the human figure rarely appears. Mr. Ticar has written that he’s “had problems with his painting,” finding it “ponderously operatic in its imagery though oddly indeterminate and unresolved in tone.” He says he is not interested in figures but don’t mind if they come out naturally in the process of painting. His recent work at West Gallery seem to have this problem all figured out and makes a stronger impact, partly because it takes vacillation as its premise (the end of something that keeps on coming could very well be the process of painting) and builds on it, as if castles forged and washed away on sand.

We can see this in the way he repurposed his painting’s idea. Earlier this year, Mr. Ticar began to work on images of houses that he had come across while visiting parts of the Philippines. He began to add to it, bit by bit, ruminating on the nature of migrant dreams and the shifting of desires that determine the final outcome of the design of Filipino houses. Its work of this sort— convalescent, tentative, derivative— that we see in this exhibition at West Gallery. When his paintings were exhibited last February at Art Fair Philippines at the booth of Richard Koh Fine Arts, everyone took notice of his painting’s resemblance to the ruin left by Typhoon Haiyan. While Mr. Ticar has accepted this as premonitory since he had began painting the series after the Ondoy Flood, the paintings are actually depictions of unfinished houses, which reflect the Filipino aspiration of having the ideal house for the family. These were also done at a time when Mr. Ticar was migrating, giving his work a slightly sentimental tone. According to the exhibition curator, the works are not about destruction, but rather about “reconstructing things as life happens.”

I have observed thus, that drawing falls into the very heart of Mr. Ticar’s practice, although, the pencil drawings in this set have become inscrutable, acting chiefly as compositional elements. When he takes up a black marker, it’s more with a sense of urgency (to fill up the space more rapidly) than intention, and within the swipes and sprinkle of acrylic there’s a pulse of movement and force. They appear as sketches in their lack of detail and the opacity of the ink seem bold and quickly executed like graffiti. Each of the show’s seven pieces, has been treated as a kind of giant sketch pad, which the artist covered with scribbled names and notes to self, and marginalia, preserving the everyday refuse that has passed through his mind and through his house throughout time. The drawing has become like an inventory of objects one keeps in the periphery of memory. The amassing isn’t wholly unfettered. Traces of the original sketch are still visible and to some degree determine what it was he wanted to make in the beginning, and what added objects went where. But over all the new mixed-media pieces come across as open-ended exercises in improvisation, with the process concluding almost arbitrarily. I have commented how his pieces don’t have a single look, to which he retorts, “Iba-iba naman talaga works ko e, walang isang look” (My works are always different, there’s no single look). Mr. Ticar does not aim to pursue a uniform approach to painting or drawing.”

Unlike the bleak and sleek opaqueness of his paintings in Art Fair Philippines, Ticar’s drawings are mistily transparent with forms prowling within a glum palette. But still working on a similar subject, these paintings offer a narrative of confusion, introspection, and ambiguity set in a world suffused by pallid blue with sinuous unreadable forms.

In his artist statement for his exhibition with Richard Koh, Mr. Ticar has said that the objects he has drawn are a “reflection of the socio economic situation” of his subjects. The underlying travails of characters behind the objects are the real subjects of Mr. Ticar.  The drawings act as a personal archaeology; a list of the remnants of his identity that have washed up along with the floods and typhoons and shifts of desires and ambitions. The objects seem like they had been with him in the gulf of lost time, and survived less altered than he is. In my observation of his works, I deduce that they ought to mean something, laden and grave as they were with the mystery of the artists’ own transient existence.

Jay Ticar’s exhibition at West Gallery will run until  24 May. 48 West Avenue, Quezon City . Contact +63 2 411 0336 or info@westgallery.org

Jason Tecson, Terror Decor at West Gallery

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Against the unwieldy physical stature associated with monumental sculptures, Tecson’s creatures appear almost farcically feeble, void of the ostentatious tradition of his artistic precedents and behave more like loaded figurines.  He effectively and a bit roguishly, undermines the canons of sculpture. The superficially solid body is overstated but becomes a flimsy vessel for unworldly appearances. His masks plays upon the devices of function: they are not wearable, unless by one of his elaborate monsters that serves to give a face to a hollow shell of a figure posed in an act of ruin. Drawing reference to a host of styles across sculptural movements, his intentionally gawky forms trade the high and enduring qualities of monumental bronze or marble for the humble aesthetic and manipulability of fiberglass. His sculptures appear physically imposing and powerful in their size and positioning yet fragmented and vulnerable in their construction. To build these works, he begins with a formation of clay and then replicates this as a styrofoam maquette before making the mold and then adds layers of fiberglass. When he settles with the texture, he finishes the work with coats of automotive paint. Some of his works incorporate the burns created by the resin solution on the styrofoam. Intended deformation is turned into decoration as if trying to wrestle a shape from a conceptual form. That each object, whether more human or more beast, stands on a pedestal, posing for the viewers, emphasizes their edified thingness and the tension between what they call into mind and what they actually appear to be.

His subjects lean to the mythological; the rough assemble and haphazard forms both disclose his process and a sense of reserve. Apex, a semblance of a sandman made from Fiberglass resin-soaked styrofoam wrapped over a skeletal support stands as a abject tribute to Jean Dubuffet; while Pipe, literally a blown-up pipe, almost mockingly harks back to Rene Magritte. His works are loaded with things like that and throughout Jason Tecson’s work is ingrained a reinvention of art historical considerations and their connotations, challenging these preconceptions by morphing them together. He creates his own alternative characters, pointing to a more intimate and esoteric source suggestive of our primal fears.

Monstrous yet unthreatening, Apex— part-human, part-beast—is in a midway pose between walking and crumbling, a Goliath weighted on the bulk of its hands and feet. Tecson’s sculpting investigates conventional aesthetic boundaries and artlessness.  The exhibition, Terror Decor, represents both a hopeful addition and a stark reminder of non-ambitious ventures in the sculptor’s production, one that nods affectionately to the contemporary riddles and enduring archetypes chosen from the margins of seemingly familiar monsters and their myths. – Geronimo F. Cristobal, Jr.