2 emerging Filipino artists to know: Corinne de San Jose and Rafael T. Napay

Manila-based Silverlens gallery hosts simultaneous solo exhibitions by two emerging Filipino artists.

The shows by Corinne de San Jose and Rafael T. Napay are on display until 10 February 2018. Art Radar takes a look at the artists’ work.

Corinne de San Jose, 'Slide 9,'2017, photograph. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Corinne de San Jose, ‘Slide 9’, 2017, photograph. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

Art and mortality in self-representation: Corinne de San Jose

Corinne de San Jose’s exhibition entitled “I’ve Been Hiding in the Smallest Places” departs from reflections on how her relationship to mortality have changed since she recently turned forty years old. The resulting work, a series of self-portraits, seeks to probe how, while a young artist’s relationship to death may be one characterised by philosophical and existential enquiry, for the aging artist the question of death transforms into a matter of care and bodily health. The exhibition project attempts to pull out the literality of self-representation by approaching the self-portrait as a document of the body as it grows, ages and eventually dies. The artist states in the press release that “the body withering away through time is not poetic. It is what it is.”

Installation view at "I've been hiding in the smallest places", 2018, Silverlens Manila.

Corinne de San Jose, “I’ve been hiding in the smallest places”, 13 January – 10 February 2018, installation at Silverlens gallery, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

De San Jose’s exhibition project consists of a series of self-portraits. However these are more indexical than expressive – literal documents of the artist’s changing body. In her images the artist focuses on abstract overlappings, folds, corners. Hair and skin become landscapes of changing texture and surface. The curator calls this the artist’s “archive for posterity”, containing “macroscopically abstracted and faux-gilded as to be unrecognizable even to herself”.

de San Jose’s approach to photography, by which she sees the camera as a tool for the creation of archives that might say or even whisper something, is perhaps informed by her work as a sound designer for film. In this sense, while the abstract landscapes of her body presented in “I’ve been hiding in the smallest places” are seemingly silent in their muted grey tones, as a collection they make a loud and clear statement on her approach to visuality, self-representation and the body.

Corinne de San Jose, "I've been hiding in the smallest places", 13 January - 10 February 2018, installation at Silverlens gallery, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

Corinne de San Jose, “I’ve been hiding in the smallest places”, 13 January – 10 February 2018, installation at Silverlens gallery, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

Corinne de San Jose, 'Slide 9,'2017, photograph. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Corinne de San Jose, ‘Slide 9’, 2017, photograph. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

From the very first self-portrait in photography, Self-portrait of the Photographer as a Drowing Man (1840) taken by Monsiere Bayard as an ironic protest against his lack of recognition in France as the co-inventor of the camera, to the multiple artistic experiments throughout the 20th and 21st century (from Claude Cahun to Tommy Kha), artists and photographers have sought to capture the body in arrangements that express a particular emotional or spiritual state. de San Jose’s decision to experiment with the genre of the self-portrait as a means of documenting, perhaps even scientifically, the decaying body is a radical inversion of the form.

Installation view at Rafael T Napay, "Ugat", Silverlens Gallery Manilla, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Rafael T Napay, “Ugat”, 13 January – 10 February 2018, installation view at Silverlens gallery, Manila. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

Interweaving communities in multimedia art: Rafael T. Napay

The colourful palette and rich texture of Rafel T. Napay’s textile-based works stands in stark contrast to the documentary and clinical aesthetic of Corinne de San Jose’s project. Perhaps this contrast is among the motivations for showing the artists together. Rafael T. Napay forms natural landscapes comprising of foliage, roots, water and flora imageries, mixing paint, thread and textiles in multimedia assemblages.

The exhibition’s title is “Ugat” – a Tagalog word for “root” and “vein” – which the artist uses as a metaphor for human interconnectedness. The titular work is an enormous tapestry – measuring 8 by 42 feet – of diverse materials woven together. This piece operates as the point of departure and anchor piece for other works that together transform the gallery space into a spatialised network – a forest of texture and colour. Nappy’s process takes much from craft traditions as well as the DIY punk movements: he makes his own spools for weaving.

Rafael T. Napay, 'Ground', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Rafael T. Napay, ‘Buhay’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

The press release describes his process in more detail as follows:

Originally a painter, Napay engages in a tedious process, using threads that are combined and twisted together to express foliage, roots and flora, just as a painter employs brush strokes on a canvas. He breaks away from the dictated patterns of his chosen textiles by cutting each piece that will be part of his work, committing them to canvas by running them through a sewing machine, part of his process that is akin to collage. He then pierces his canvas with thread and needle, sometimes punctuating these marks in tassel-like “knots,” creating a confluence of texture and color. Ultimately, he renders a forest that is symbolic of all people, the experiences, joys, set backs and blessings that come their way.

Rafael T. Napay, 'Sewing Machine and I (Sea)', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Rafael T. Napay, ‘Sewing Machine and I (Sea)’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

The exercise of weaving allows the artist to probe the presence of weaving-like processes in other less likely realms – identity forming, belonging and homeliness. During a 2014 residency at Liverpool University, Napay spent time with Filipino families in Liverpool and Manchester, travelled to different local sites with several staff from the university, and explored the art scene in Liverpool with some local artists. Having felt welcomed by diverse communities and the Liverpool art scene, the artist began to explore notions of temporary abode, homeliness and the creation of shared spaces for mutual growth.

Installation view at Rafael T Napay, "Ugat", Silverlens Gallery Manilla, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and SILVERLENS.

Rafael T Napay, “Ugat”, 13 January – 10 February 2018, installation view at Silverlens gallery, Manila. Image courtesy the artist and Silverlens.

It was here that the artist developed an understanding and interest in “interwovenness” as a condition of possibility for community forming. His woven forests thus take on a greater social significance considering they are a kind of materialisation of the often invisible accumulation of transmission of knowledge and strategies for survival that is constant in migrant and artistic communities, often (but not only) characterised by economic precarity and a certain vulnerability that comes from being excluded from mainstream national mediatic space.

Each woven nest in his projects become a material marker; a means of visibilising and commemorating the stories shared, people encountered and places visited by the artist. In his work Napay explores the potential of art to make sanctuaries, and the potential of the networks of transmission between communities to act as a nest – a home – in itself.

Rebecca Close

2059

“I’ve been in the smallest places” by Corinne de San Jose and “Ugat” by Rafael T. Napay are on view from 13 January to 10 February 2018 at Silverlens, 2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City 1231, Metro Manila, Philippines.

Related Topics: Filipino artists, emerging artists, identity art, human body, body, landscapeinstallationphotographygallery shows, events in Manila

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