Written by: Fabrianne Morales, Chief Curator, Arts Talk PH
The arrival of a pandemic reminded us of our fragility and our need for human connection. We found ourselves in an era of great transformation, striving to endure the unknown. In hindsight, we were taking many things for granted, and isolation has given the chance we need to reflect.
Hindsight is 2020 is a collection of artwork pondering on the exhibiting artists’ actions in retrospect; glimpses into their realizations during the stricter quarantine period between March to May 2020, their thoughts concerning the turbulent present and their resolution on dealing with the uncertain future. Each of the artists experienced considerable changes in their day to day lives particularly in their artistic processes.
Overcoming self-doubt, reconnecting with oneself, embracing imperfections, and self-love.
When everyone is weathering their own emotional storms in this crisis, who are they almost always left with? Themselves, their oldest, truest friend. Artists Ian Inoy, 1111, Sunshine Teodoro, Analee Angeles, and Mariel Garcia went through self-analysis during their isolation.
“Creating this artwork inspired a realization during quarantine, that I am supported by the people who matter, that I should just stop doubting myself and let my drive to succeed flow. I will ride the momentum of life.”
As a major realization during quarantine, performance and visual artist Ian Inoy knew he had doubts about himself. In his piece Together We Swam, Ian illustrated a declaration to the world that he is set to plunge into life with vigor, overcoming that inner voice of self-doubt. The 14.5 x 18 inches acrylic on wood painting depicts vibrant underwater life painted in Ian’s signature style - vivid hues of lines and drops of paint applied meticulously layer after layer to form dreamlike imagery.
“This piece reminds me that I could let my wounds heal on its own, and with that sliver of light that passes through that broken part, things aren't so ugly at all. Wounds and scars are, after all, a reminder of our own journeys.” —1111
Multidisciplinary artist and self-professed polymath 1111 recognized the importance of reconnecting with oneself during isolation. In her 12 x 5-inch graphite piece Lick Thy Wound, 1111 created a representation of an existing scar and a recollection of a past experience. Using her signature method of harvesting shadows from nature and shading intuitively, 1111 created an abstract piece with light and shadows of monochromatic grey on layers of tatter-edged archival paper.
“At the end of the day, we only have ourselves. No matter what chaos and how problematic the world can be, we only have us. Self-love and awareness are fundamental.” —Sunshine Teodoro
Filipina visual artist and actress Sunshine Teodoro represented self-love and self-awareness drawing steady lines to portray a beautiful nude figure of a woman in her 6 x 4-inch charcoal on paper piece Self Isolation. Known to advocate for body positivity, Sunshine drew a woman who is proud of her own skin, a woman who would not neglect herself even through crises.
“Right when the world met a grinding halt, we spent more alone time with our thoughts. We felt guilt and worthlessness. It’s okay to feel. To be lonely, to be imperfect, and embrace fragility. It doesn’t make us less of a person, it’s what makes us humans. Acknowledge it, embrace it, and only then can we work on making things better.” —Analee Angeles
The realization of the importance of embracing one’s imperfections prompted Analee Angeles to create Selfie, an 8 x 10-inch oil on canvas painting, a perilous attempt to represent some of the young women of today; empowered, working to make their own choices but struggling to face their imperfections.
“Being grounded means having a solid foundation of who you are and what your values are. That no matter how high you’ve flown and how bad the fall, you’d be whole and unscathed. Don't let success, money, or chaos change you. Stay humble, humane, and civilized. The flower represents your solid foundation. Keep it blooming.” —Mariel Garcia
Visual artist Mariel Garcia applied her dark yet feminine signature style in painting Garden of Dreams, oil on a 20 x 20-inch canvas. Occupying the very center of this piece is an image of relaxed bare soles of feet and yet what draws attention is the true focal point––that flower.
Living in the moment, embracing uncertainty, and keeping the inspiration stash full.
During crises, it is necessary to keep the spirits high and the negative vibes down at a minimum. But how is this done? Cherishing the moments, thinking of positive thoughts, and keeping inspired might be a challenge for some. Painter, Alfonso Recto believes in maintaining the inspiration stash full, even in isolation. Writer Janroe Cabiles explore living in the moment, while visual artists Bea Policarpio and Jane Cuevas talk about what it takes to move forward.
“I think in a time of crisis, whenever possible, immersing oneself in what makes one more optimistic is vital. It can be anything – music, poetry, Netflix, cold beer, or time with family.” —Alfonso Recto
Alfonso Recto’s 48 x 48-inch acrylic on canvas piece Jungle Jazz is a rhythmical interplay of colors and shapes and in this case, music. At the time of painting, Alfonso applied a much looser style allowing his impulse to lead. The result lends to a more gestural, energetic look to his signature abstract style. It’s as if the beat can be felt just by looking at the way the patterns are in harmony with each other, accented by tones of blues and browns.
A vice-bearing behavior or at my worst behavior,
we’ll walk and talk aimlessly,
and when I’m high enough I’ll tell you,
I’m scared of falling,
And instead of saying you’ll catch me,
You’ll laugh and say, “who cares?”
And I’ll smile, and we’ll both just fall anyway.
”During the lockdown, I thought about my past travels, I thought about those happy places, about how I could have cherished those moments more. ‘No.’ is a reworked piece. It’s about just being, living in the now. ‘No.’ is both memory and reality.” —Janroe Cabiles
To illustrate “living in the moment,” for No., writer Janroe Cabiles merged two of her passions: travel, and the language that she knows best — poetry. Pieced together in a span of five years, Janroe rearranged and updated the artwork to include preserved flowers she collected from around the world.
“They say a painting is never truly finished, it simply stops at interesting places. This is the case with ‘Into The Unknown,’ which I started in December 2019 and continued to add layers into as we entered into the new decade. At first, I hesitated to cover the precious reflective surface. But holding back ultimately did not serve the final expression of this idea, which is to embrace uncertainty as it is the only way to truly move forward.” —Bea Policarpio
Painting on a mirror has always been an introspective experience for visual artist Bea Policarpio. In Into the Unknown, Bea used her signature deftly-applied impasto strokes on a 24 x 36 inch framed mirror to create a creating mesmerizing ocean waves-like textures on the reflective surface.
“This piece can be described as the sum of my isolation experience. The countless lines forming the jungle which is like the crisis we’re in, despite the dark jungle and the storm of emotions, I picked myself up, and I move forward.” —Jane Cuevas
In Hear Thy Roar, a 30 x 30-inch acrylic on canvas piece, Jane Cuevas painted delicate lines in pink, purple, blue and green to form a jungle enveloping the lone subject — a woman. The whole image represents the range of her emotions over quarantine - fear, uncertainty, confusion, anger amongst many others.
Recognizing what’s truly important.
We all have everyday social interactions, people, and activities that we took for granted before the pandemic struck. Visual artists Isabel Barredo-Del Mundo, Mara Fabella, Summer De Guia, and Ireland Jill explore this theme.
“Now that we know how it feels like for the world to stop, appreciate all the simple things, the little successes, the experiences, however small. A little development each day adds up to big results and significant progress.” —Isabel Barredo-Del Mundo
Isabel Barredo -Del Mundo’s 23 x 26-inch acrylic on canvas piece Even the Small Fish are Fish speaks of appreciation. The artwork which she completed in 2019 tells us exactly that; slow down and enjoy the little things in life. Applying her signature style illustration-like mid-century modern, Isabel painted three women on an adventure, along with stars to guide them.
“The pandemic created a centripetal force that drew people together figuratively amidst the social distancing protocols. During isolation, we humans learned the real value of our relationships, and it’s become stronger than ever.” —Mara Fabella
In Centripetal – a collage and acrylic on a 24 x 24-inch canvas, visual artist Mara Fabella used varying hues of blue both paint and image cut-outs creating rich textures with radiating orange accents to emphasize the centripetal pull, a representation of how relationships grew stronger during isolation.
“My subject in the painting found comfort in all the wrong places with all the wrong companions. This is a familiar scenario with people my age. Life has a funny way of reminding us of what we should truly value and of what we must assess, like relationships.” —Summer De Guia
Summer De Guia’s Fake Solace, a 24 x 36-inch acrylic and oil on canvas piece depicts a woman in a beautiful Filipiniana holding a lit cigarette. What’s unusual in this European modern classic piece is the presence of death. His dark and gloomy appearance contrasts that of the woman. Fake Solace tells us that like in all other segments of our lives, not everything enriches us.
Safe Space is an imagined sanctuary created by Ireland Jill to symbolize what kept her safe and sane over the quarantine period: a secure harbor with family. The oil painting on the 20 x 20 inches canvas presents a brightly illuminated pink room with her usual subjects, doll-like children juxtaposed in an unusual manner.
Art as a medium to effect change.
Art has the power to change opinions, instill values, give voice to the unheard, and affect social change. And though the pandemic brought about a tidal wave of chaos that we are all still clamoring to endure on a personal level, some artists still push for their advocacy, like visual artist Ina Jardiolin, feminist art studio Woman, Create and multidisciplinary artist Chino Carlo.
“If we are to change the language we use to talk about the Earth we have moved beyond labels of feminine and masculine, we need to change how we speak of our survival. When we act, we do not act to save the Earth because the Earth will move on without us. When we act, we act to save humanity and the environment that sustains us.”
"In a world uninhabitable to humans and most other creatures, the tardigrades have taken over everything. Even social media! Enjoy their post-apocalyptic paradise shenanigans. #tardicool”
In Shining bright like a diamond #strongerthanyesterday #brighterthanthedarkness #travel, acrylic paint on a 5x5.5-inch acrylic CD case, Ina Jardiolin created a discolored world of polluted waters and skies. This piece is part of a collection of small paintings featuring the tardigrades, a micro-animal known to withstand the harshest of environments; the only survivors in this post-apocalyptic-human-extinction narrative.
“During the quarantine, some got excited to spend the vast open time available to them, others felt depleted from the new normal work arrangements. And some dreaded the long hours at home, possibly of rumination, anxiety, depression, and domestic violence. Shards of My Anxiety is a nudge that in these times, there’s beauty in being open to understanding instead of spreading hate.” —Woman, Create.
Woman, Create sheds light to affect consciousness and open-mindedness – quarantines meant different things for people. As an attempt to remind the viewers that, the 8 x 10-inch collage Shards of My Anxiety was created of domestic items – broken plates, mirrors, and glass transformed into a candy-colored mixed media piece.
“The current environment we have does not make people feel good about themselves and about the future. One has to be strong enough to say that if the culture doesn't work, don't buy it.”
Waiting in Vain 1 is multidisciplinary artist Chino Carlo’s simple response to the general cultural toxicity and political fatigue that unfolded during the lockdown. The 9 x 12-inch watercolor and ink on paper piece depicts a bright and colorful image of a man in the usual style Chino renders his subjects - disappointment evident in its face and body placement.
However irreparably flawed we humans are, history suggests that cataclysmic events have prompted our humanist values to resurface. And this would drive us all to thrive once again in this crisis. This is what visual artist Nasser Lubay believes in as evidenced in his work for Hindsight is 20/20.
“While troubles in our society are rising in these times and people are losing cool between each other's differences, we need to be reminded of love, faith, understanding, and respect.” —Nasser Lubay
Nasser Lubay’s XOXO is a drawing made using sepia and graphite, lead, charcoal, and ink on archival paper. The four-piece 16.5 x 22 inches artwork features a code of endearment in digital messaging that means hugs and kisses —the letters X and O (Kiss 1, Hug 1, Kiss 2, Hug 2) rendered in detailed patterns, textures, and tones of black. Using a style that is in contrast to his signature bright-colored paintings, Nasser strives to emphasize the gravity of reminding everyone about our finest human traits.