Drawing on media, contemporary culture and counter-culture, Dina Gadia and Pow Martinez examine issues of the everyday, today.
Art Radar takes a look at the two artists and their ongoing solo exhibitions at Silverlens Gallery in Manila this summer.
Bright, provocative, and unapologetically expressive, Dina Gadia and Pow Martinez’s works bring colour and verve to Silverlens Gallery in Manila. Billed as two separate solo exhibitions in the same space, Dina Gadia’s “Situation Amongst the Furnishings” and Pow Martinez’s “Techno-Utopian” run through 12 August 2017. The two artists find themselves in good company: Martinez is the recipient of the 2010 Ateneo Art Awards, whilst Gadia has mounted exhibitions in Brooklyn and Tokyo. The two artists make work focused on contemporary issues, laced with wit, sharpness and acerbity. For their respective solo exhibitions at Silverlens Gallery this summer, Art Radar takes a look back at their previous works and their accomplishments as the young artists they are.
Violent domesticity: Dina Gadia
“Situation Amongst the Furnishings” is Gadia’s sixth solo show with Silverlens, but her first foray into painting. Prior to this exhibition, the Far Eastern University (Manila) graduate had built an artistic practice mostly based on the medium of collage. Dina Gadia (b. 1986, Pangasinan, Philippines) selects an image from pop fiction, or pulp magazine art, and adds new images or text, recreating new narratives around her chosen images. The end results are often off-beat, humorous; sometimes they even cross into the surreal – Dina’s collaging sometimes finds similar echoes in the randomness of Magritte’s arrangements.
With a fixation on mainstream visual culture, perhaps it is not surprising to learn that Gadia’s major in Far Eastern University was advertising. Gadia, however, has been exhibiting since 2005, even before she graduated from her BFA programme. First exhibiting in Quezon City, Gadia began exhibiting in Manila soon after, landing both solo exhibitions and group shows. Gadia’s first solo exhibition with Silverlens Gallery was “Contra-Affair” (2010), featuring a mix of collage, sculpture and painted works. By combining images in an irreverent fashion, Gadia’s work explored the effect that two contrasting images had when placed with one another. Putting dancing children next to a large skeletal figure of a de-skinned human body, for example, hit jarring notes.
Gadia has refined her style slowly over the years – the works of “Contra-Affair” were more erratic, and the compositions more cluttered. Gadia’s more recent solo exhibitions, such as “Select the Right Bad Picture” (2015), held at the Clear Edition & Gallery in Tokyo, featured works that continued to combine images and text in different ways. Yet, the narratives surrounding those recreated and re-interpreted images are more compelling and more clear – almost as if they are able to tell their own stories rather than being composite random images. In the short years following “Contra-Affair”, Gadia has managed to land solo shows at Owen James Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, as well as Pon Ding, Taipei. She had also been included in group exhibitions at Ikkan Gallery, Singapore, and the Cultural Centre of the Philippines.
For her latest exhibition at Silverlens Gallery, Gadia is uncharacteristically showing oil on canvas works, but with the same wit and humour. Introducing overtures of domesticity into her work, Gadia takes a hard look at the home. As the accompanying notes to her exhibition remark, “Domestic ultraviolence is nothing new. Improve your house, and your life will improve.” Gadia’s paintings combine her pulp-magazine aesthetics with the mundane setting of domestic life. Yet, there is a tinge of ominous tension embedded within her paintings. The frantic snipping of flowers by sharp scissors, and the figure of a man slumped between two decorative vases, hint at something more dangerous belying the façade of normality in a suburban household.
One of her works read “Ornaments are easier to bear and pleasantly rewarding when efficient house management is done,” reminding the viewer of the often overwrought discipline that comes with living in a domesticated context. “Situations Amongst the Furnishings” marks another milestone in the development of Gadia’s art, melding her political, personal and aesthetic explorations into a riveting exhibition.
Technological Utopia: Pow Martinez
“Techno-Utopian” is, coincidentally, also Martinez’s sixth exhibition with Silverlens Gallery. Martinez’s practice is wide-ranging; he spans installation, sound, and painting. A graduate of Kayalaan College (Quezon City) and the University of the Philippines (Quezon City), Pow Martinez (b. 1983, Manila, Philippines) also began exhibiting in 2005. His first solo exhibition, “pathetic doggy paddle”, was held at Mag:Net Gallery, Manila in 2007, and he has since exhibited regularly in the Philippines and beyond.
Martinez’s works often offer a tongue-in-cheek view of Philippine history, art and culture. He shares certain commonalities with Gadia’s work: both of them draw heavily on popular visual culture, often espousing a cartoon-like aesthetic. Martinez, however, populates his works with a slew of characters: grim reapers, cannibals and skeletons, who lend themselves to commentaries about the state of society and Philippine culture. For all his darkly ironic subject matter, Martinez’s paintings are painted in cheerful, bright and blaring colours, applied thickly in an impasto-like finish.
In 2010, Martinez was the recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards, considered to be one of the most prominent art awards in the Philippines. Since then, Martinez keeps up an impressive rate of about two solo exhibitions per year; beyond Manila, he began exhibiting in Singapore and Japan. He has also exhibited in the artist-run gallery Random Parts in Oakland, California.
His oeuvre has also broadened; Martinez is one of the most prolific artists, continuing to produce new work consistently. His new exhibition at Silverlens Gallery features new paintings that were made in 2017, exploring the “failure of utopian ideals and its purported progress”. Relax, we came to party (2017) features three skeletons and a host of unnamable creatures sitting amidst a turbulent ocean, held aloft by a rickety boat. The paint drips down the canvas, lending a feeling of imprecision to the work that heightens the sense of floundering imperfection of his characters’ situation. The deep-rooted irony permeates through all of his work; Ass is the New Face (2017) is another case in point, a snide remark towards the social-media obsession sweeping society today.
Unconventional, witty, and constantly evolving, Dina Gadia and Pow Martinez are names to watch. Combining a strong personal voice with painterly qualities, along with an ability to not take themselves too seriously, they are two of the Philippine’s young artists to follow.
- Filipino artist Pio Abad explores political “Counternarratives” at Silverlens Gallery – April 2017 – artist Pio Abad brings up the archive of resistance to the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines following the recent burial of the dictator
- Wilting Forms, Capricious Appetites: Filipino artist Patricia Perez Eustaquio – in conversation – November 2016 – Art Radar chats with the Filipino artist about her latest series of paintings and her artistic pursuits
- “Manila: Beyond the Envelope”: 4 American Filipino artists on transnational identity – March 2016 – Manila’s political and economic past inspires Filipino artists to reconcile their present
- Filipino artist Maria Taniguchi wins Hugo Boss Asia Art Award 2015 – December 2015 – the 2nd edition of the Hugo Boss Asia Art Award announces winner
- Watchlist: Lian Ladia on 4 emerging Filipino artists & collectives – July 2015– Art Radar asks the up-and-coming curator to highlight 4 emerging artists and collectives
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