ELEMENTAL EQUILIBRIUM [Reuben Ramas Cañete, PhD]
Reflections on the often uneasy relationship between humanity and nature are nothing new to Modern Philippine Art. Most memorably, in the 1950s, Hernando Ruiz Ocampo depicted the consequences of humanity’s urge to transform nature into a horrifying image of its own modern power through his Mutants series. Then there is Galo Ocampo’s Catholic reflections of humanity’s fall via atomic annihilation in his 1982 painting Nuclear Ecce Homo.
However, the predominant trend has been to harness this realization of environmental and human existential interdependence to reiterate a strategy of redemption and promise, refusing the air of alienated despondency that oftentimes afflicts Western Modernism with a determination to both right wrongs, as well as hope for a more positive future where progress and preservation are measured in both environmental as well as human terms. We can see this in Jose Joya’s lyrical abstracts of Asian landscapes; or Jerry Navarro’s chromatic paeans to the beauty of a tropical Eden; or even Lao Lianben’s assertion of kaon-like riddles in black and white that emphasizes the process of enlightenment rather than the fatalistic acceptance of the Void.
Part of the reason is the cultural dimension of Asian thought that traditionally accepts nature as part of the human condition and not separate from it, a space where spiritual forces are configured to assist humanity in the goal to the total realization of its potentials. Grafted with the modern abstract ethos introduced through Western cultural imperialism in the mid-20th Century, this has resulted in what is called Asian Modernism, where the aesthetic emphasis is towards social and cultural integration of the artwork to society rather than alienation resulting from the split between conservative communities and self-appointed prophets of the avant-garde.
It is in this spirit of social and aesthetic integration using Abstraction as a poetic visual device that Karl Roque follows in his Elements series. Developing from his previous Quintessence series, the works of Elements explores the dynamic of hope from despair in addressing environmental and human catastrophes. Implicit within its mental construction is the motific exploitation of painted forms as palimpsests that register one’s experiential reflections on the condition of human life on earth not as an a priori condition that cannot be changed, but as a tapestry half-woven, and to be completed in the way that its collective of weavers best desire to preserve themselves.
A significant part of this strategy is to show the sometimes-seamless boundaries that exist between modern art and science. Indeed, most of Roque’s Elements paintings, especially those painted in a circular canvas like Crimson Morning, Homeward Bound, Rain of Tears and Rainbow Land, evoke poetic comparisons with micrograph slides filled with fluoroscopic dyes, illuminating crystals, fungi-like growth and fully articulated bacteria swimming in a miniature universe. Other works, split into four square panels like Lomograph shots such as The Womb of Dawn, and Flaming Fountain; or single panels like Manna and Summer Breeze, the opposite scale is suggested: of telescopic photographs of vast galactic cores in ferment, quasars emitting incredible columns of super-heated gas equivalent to millions of stellar masses; and roiling surfaces of suns with coronas blooming stellar flares.
To those intimate with the latest developments of contemporary art, it is a welcome Asiatic reply to the scientific installations of Damien Hirst and Odra Noel. To the layman, they serve as reminders that art can still cast a spell of beauty in a time when beauty is either seen as a bad word, or that there is so little left of it. In its heart, Karl Roque’s Elements talks of the human propensity to alleviate the emotions to a point of rebuttal against the oppression hurled against it, or to inspire one to imitate the middle way, reconciling one’s consumptive desires with the long-term goal of material preservation to assure the continuity of the species.
- Reuben Ramas Cañete, PhD
REPOSITIONING THE ELEMENTS [D. E. Montera, MFA]
Nature soothes as well as nature wrath's. These and some are effervescent features that define Karl Roque’s new works as he opens his latest exhibition titled “Elements” on October 15 at the Renaissance Gallery in SM Megamall. The artist continues his voyage into the realm of contemporary Filipino abstraction after taking the big leap from the footholds of clean cut-figuration amidst a surrealist inspired background that characterized his early works. Roque has since channeled his energies into the gesture-motion process of painting and what are revealed in his canvas surface are often distinctive and ubiquitous merger of color, texture, and contours with suggestive reference to the Rorschach and marbling techniques but only more definite and clean. The artist has admittedly retained the environmental concerns and life optimism that articulates much of the content of his previous collections. These are now freshly depicted in such works as Summer Breeze, Flaming Mountains, Lullabies of Aquarius, and Manna. The artist also pays tribute to the shape of the sphere, employed here as an accent to the composition or the shape of his canvas. Consistently utilized by the artist in a variety of ways throughout his career, the motif is also celebrated in the works of the late Jose Joya with whom the artist had affiliations with. In essence, the artist wants to evoke a feel-good experience and attain a certain degree of tranquility, security, and belonging or its equivalent aesthetic response from the viewer. He wishes to involve the viewer by allowing them to interpret his works based on their reaction to it, eliciting from their own memories or experiences, thus completing the cycle of his process. This latest exhibit re-affirms Karl Roque’s commitment to discovering new forms and processes that also characterize both the artist's life and art. As the saying goes “what nature ends, nature also begins”.
- D. E. Montera, MFA
an exclusive preview of what you’ll see…
“Manna” (Mixed Media, 122cm X 122cm)
“Summer Breeze” (Mixed Media, 122cm x 152 cm)
“Flaming Fountain” (Mixed Media, 4 panels 60.96 cm/panel)
J. Karl P. Roque is a graduate of the Fine Arts Program at the University of the Philippines Visayas Cebu College, earning his Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts in 1987.
The artist has had a number of one man shows and numerous group exhibits in Cebu and in other parts of the Philippines. He has been a recipient of several awards and accolades both as a student and as a professional artist. As a student, Roque was a consistent awardee of the National Artist Jose Joya Awards, and as an academician, is a multiple recipient of the Jose and Asuncion Joya Professional Chair Grant.
J. Karl P. Roque joined the University of the Philippines as a faculty member a year after his graduation, and is now an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts Program of the Humanities Division where he also served as the Division Chairperson from 1998-2001, and from 2004-2007.
ELEMENTS will run from October 15 to 24, 2010
at the Renaissance Gallery, 4/F SM Megamall, Bldg. A
For further details, please contact Renaissance Gallery at 02-637-3101