Altromondo

Flow

  • Start

    21 July 2015
  • End

    21 July 2015
  • Artist

    Niccolo Jose

  • Venue

    Altro Mondo · Arte Contemporanea
    3rd Level, Greenbelt 5,
    Ayala Center, Makati City
    1228 Philippines

Niccolo Jose: A “Flow” of Breathing Stillness

 

Currently on view at the Altro Mondo Art Gallery is Niccolo Jose’s breathtaking exhibition of recent sculptures. To start with, the most tantalizing aspect of the show is the sculptor’s dazzling decision to take on a subject that has heretofore never been attempted, so far as one knows. (Please refer to attached article.) The theme of the show is Yoga, a subject seemingly shrouded in mystery and fascination, at least to  many of us who are uninitiated into its practice. Jose, a young sculptor still in his twenties, who has in recent years already impressed us with his works, yet once again produces a tour-de-force show.

To be sure, most other sculptors have celebrated the female nude in almost every conceivable medium. The image of the yogini, as the female practitioner of yoga is called, is however not a too familiar subject. In Jose’s renditions of the subject, the sculptures are not strictly a study in nudity. The yogini wears skin-tight outfit in stretchable fabric. Indeed, the subject straddles both symbolic images of dance and acrobatics. For this reason, his works inadvertently bring back images of Degas’s ballet dancers and circus acrobats, even if only in misty allusions. Of course, Degas’s sculpture of a young ballerina is as upright and still, in a manner that hardly resembles Jose’s yogini. But the delectation for the female form is riveting for  both Degas and Jose.

In choosing the yogini as a subject, Jose has bequeathed to himself, as it were, a gift and a challenge. The gift comes in the historicity and richness of the subject, while the challenge resides in the unconventional poses of the female figure, which can be described as, by turns, balletic and acrobatic. Unlike ballet, however, where after images of movement are retained by the retina, the yoga poses are a heightened consciousness of stillness. Ballet is animated motion while a yoga pose is inseparable from the yogini’s mental and spiritual state of mind. But both are eloquent aesthetic evocations of the flexibility of the human body.

As sculptural subject, the yogini affords the sculptor with a wealth of realistic as well as expressionist stances, as conveyed by the sheer elongation of neck, arms, hands, torso, and extremities. Her slender torso arched backwards oddly forming a bridge-like curvature, her legs elegantly splayed wide open like a fan knife, her entire body gracefully swooning with her face skywards, the yogini, in Jose sculptures, are marvels in wood, polished to a sheen, and exuding a warmth unattainable in bronze or marble. Wood, in the hands of Jose, surrenders its own pliability, as though it were a willing medium eager to be shaped, and be taken by surprise, by its own possibilities. Indeed, the variety of wood species that Jose has used for his works are a litany of familiar as well as strange-sounding words: narra, akle, tangile, kamagong, dao, toog, alupag, sampaloc, manggis, mahogany, makaasim, mangkono, palo de china, and palo ropa.These are pieces of wood that Jose’s father, an engineer, had been gathering since his progeny Niccolo was mere toddler. It was he who opened up Niccolo’s eyes to the artistry of carpentry, design and construction. With this wealth of materials, he has created a plenitude functional furniture pieces marked by artistry, humor and delight. Indeed, they can be appreciated as pure sculptural works.

Niccolo himself has been so moved by his caressable wood that he has, in various interviews, expressed what can only be described as a passion, an obsession, a conviction. Thus: “ I want every piece to have soul so that the persons sitting on it or using it would feel a connection with my creation.” Innovation, too, is what characterizes his sculptural imagination. In his “Remnants”  show, he created portraits made out of carved and polished small pieces of wood assembled like a puzzle, bearing the likeness of a human visage. In a show inspired by the book “Alice in Wonderland”, the furniture works were mirthful resemblances of a frog, a calesa, a butterfly, an open book, and a set of gleaming teeth.

A graduate of Studio Art and Environmental Studies at the Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA, Niccolo Jose has returned to his home country for good and without regrets. At the Washington Square Park, his larger-than-life  human figures,  created and woven from a multitude of dried twigs and branches, are lolling in the grassy park, basking in the sun, perhaps wishing they were with their creator in beautiful Philippines. Chosen by the city of Portland, they were ample proof of the talent of a promising young sculptor, now creating a name for himself in the local art scene.

In life, as in work, Niccolo Jose just goes with the “Flow.”

 

— Cid Reyes