Egress is a closing of an art exhibition and it usually comes in a quiet contemplative mood. Unexpectedly, the opposite was the case of Alex Española’s Personiforms at the upscale Mamusa Art Gallery and Bistro at the Megaworld in Iloilo City.
The conclusion was momentous! A rare occurrence in the local art scene after Española treated the egress as an opportunity to organize a closing program that would funnel the overflowing political energy of the times through a social discourse called Hambalanay, a talk or conversation in Hiligaynon.
Española was awe-inspired by the outcome of Hambalanay and he expressed in a Facebook post that the forum allowed him to witness a “rare phenomenon where five planets, namely: Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn aligned themselves like a cosmic parade showing the order of their distance from the sun.”
He was referring to the alignment and convergence of progressive thinkers from different sectors: the academe, visual arts, music, literature, and the youth who articulated perspectives and shared insights regarding disinformation and how it impacted their sectors or demonstrated in their vocation.
See Photos of Hambalay
The significance of Hambalanay is in how it facilitated the search for a sense of what is happening in our society; it offered a passageway to understand the political realities; the stasis that gripped us. Offline conversation received re-appreciation. It inhaled new air and the convenors and stakeholders who attended the session have realized that there is life outside the deafening chamber of the digital space.
Personiforms and Hambalanay became a complementary event similar to a life-saving device that prevented many from intellectual and emotional drowning. It revived dormant idealism and progressive thinking and it revitalized activism. Hence, the momentous egress of Personiforms will endure in the memory of the art community and more town hall forums are set to follow.
Personiforms in retrospect
Personiforms is a portmanteau of persona and cuneiforms formulated by now Antique-based artist Alexander Moscoso Española to depict, not only the overall theme of the show but to facilitate a deeper appreciation of the creative process that stimulated the heart and mind of the artist.
This is Española’s sixth solo yet his first in Iloilo City since coming back to Panay in 2014. Together with the love of his life, they set up Mayad Likha Eco-Cultural Space in a picturesque hometown farm of Tibiao in Antique Province.
“I used the online platform as part of my creative process. The subject was also generated through desktop internet-based research in order to come up with paintings that convey my political views,” he introed in the talk during the opening.
The six-piece 48.6 x 52” to 57” Acrylic on Canvas is considered by Española as his contribution to the current political discourse; a courageous political commentary on the burning socio-political, economic, and cultural debate; issues that are jamming the digital space, too crowded, too noisy, it is gasping air to appear on phone screens to connect to an audience.
The collection shows his “fascination with codes, stone tablets, and ancient texts”; dominant elements for this series, he underscored, with one hand gesturing to the displayed works while the other steadily holding a glass of wine.
Texts or words and phrases overlaid as symbols or codes in the canvasses were actually keywords that he typed in on the search engines to know what words or issues will pop-up about the top presidential and vice-presidential candidates.
The internet being a repository of narratives, directed him to more data through hyperlinks that offered internet users both significant and trivial infos that either reveal forgotten issues that matter to voters; offering a realization of the role of the cyberspace to historicize or demonize persons through virality.
The internet has made it possible for persons to develop multiple personas or create different characters of self in the virtual space using apps or avatars, he pondered, and his works internalized this phenomenon by playing up keywords as a subject in the canvas, words that function as codes to remind the memory of a passerby issue or a key to search engines that can bring into the open latent fingerprints to show issues that inform, annoy or disturb senses.
The agelessness of codes and symbols
The title of each of the pieces mimics codes formed from the initials of their names: Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo as MLGR and running mate FPNP for Francis Pancratius Nepomuceno Pangilinan, two pieces among the six. Personiforms serve as Española’s chronicles of the candidates by merging silhouettes of faces visible from a safe distance and with words or phrases emergent upon closer scrutiny.
The collection implored political discussion with each canvas having the dominant color of the campaign – green, blue, red, and pink – hues that were played upon in the public sphere as substitute symbols to encapsulate the personality, assign an identity, and equate the ideology of the candidates. Accordingly, the use of color summoned biases and confirms one’s political inclination and choice and it effectively sets off conversations of the like-minded while generating intense debate among people of opposing colors.
The totality of the collection propounds discernment of the influential role that codes and symbols play in our political life. Española emphasized that his application of codes and symbols in Personiforms is grounded in the context that “human civilization is marked by a language system based on signs, symbols, and codes where information is stored and passed on to the next generation.”
“Throughout the course of history,” he expounded, “a system of writing has been part of every unique culture for societies to make sense of the world. These observations about human phenomena are recorded and stored through various forms such as the Laguna Copperplate, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, stone tablets, and Sumerian cuneiforms.”
“Artists like us,” he continued, “are absorbers of phenomena both old and new, and we show this in our works. Thus, Personiforms.”
The works of Española bring the audience to the realization that old contexts endure to this day. Its concepts manifest in our everyday life allowing us to thrive online and offline; reminding us that we need not look far to comprehend new phenomena but to accept that somehow it never abandoned us. From ancient times to modernity, it stayed with us, it flourished in our systems, and it will survive by defining our personas and by shaping a society reflective of our age.