Rising from the Darkness

November 17, 2009

I knew I was at the right place standing across the street from the building, “Tabi Tabi Po” snaking across the side of the gallery. Right off the bat being hit with artistic expression. Walking past the bouncer I felt a sigh of relief, no longer having to worry about being underage! But I wasn’t there for the wine, I was there to witness Filipino art- straight from the people. At a first glance, I loved the feeling of the place. There was a sense of ownership. Like the graffiti on the outside of the building, the interior had been dominated. You were surrounded by people’s art and all available space was put to use. Instantly I noticed all of the paintings of the aswangs. I remembered the folktales from class and felt surrounded by a flock of them. It was already dark outside, was I in danger of attack? My favorite aswang was simple, just sketched on a piece of paper. But you could feel her emotion. The tears were about to start rolling, on the brink waiting to fall. Her mouth in a sad pout, like a little child. Her clawed fingers grasped a sad flower… she seemed so alone, searching for a companion. She almost floated out of the picture towards you, asking you to join her and whisk her out of her sadness. And yet she was trapped, forever paralyzed behind the glass.  

There were many other more aswang depictions. Some more violent than others. Overall, I was hit by an overwhelming feeling of darkness. The art more somber and depressing than I was expecting. It brought me back to the classroom, wondering why this was. How all of these artists had been creating all around and yet there was still this common thread. Bound together by the same history, the same past. I wondered about the oppression of the Filipino people, how this seemed to be represented in their art- hopefully acting as a release of emotion.

Another piece that I was particularly drawn to was on the same wall as my favored aswang. Within this picture were many mysteries. At first glance you might just see a forest, a few trees swaying in the breeze. But when you take a second, deeper look you can see the hidden treasures. A man appears within the trees, emerging from the darkness. An eye attached to a brain with a tree trunk spine and sprawling root feet. Pondering, staring at you. Questioning you. In the distance another eye appears, spying on you and watching. At first it seemed so simple, just black and white. But out of the grey grew another world.

Finally, I enjoyed the use of texture and material depth in much of the other art. Some of the artists would add a third dimension to their pieces by attaching material to their paintings. It was interesting to see the transformation from a 2D picture into a 3D world with the addition of

a basket

 a mirror

 straw

 whatever…

 It drew your eye’s attention and gave a much different feel to the art.

Overall, I very much enjoyed the experience. One of my other favorite parts was reading the names of the artists. I forgot to take exact note of the titles and artists names but I loved their traditional Filipino names. I wasn’t sure if these were just artist “pen name” or something to that effect but it gave the art a much more authentic and traditional feel, for me at least. Art is a very beautiful thing, a skill that I envy and admire. And during this visit, I was intrigued by the Filipino aspect- curious about how the culture and history played into the artists’ works.

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