Altromondo

Luminescence

  • Start

    09 November 2019
  • End

    02 December 2019
  • Artist

    Meneline Wong

  • Venue

    1159 Chino Roces Avenue, San Antonio Village, Makati City

MENELINE WONG and “LUMINESCENCE”:  PLAYING WITH LIGHT

By Cid Reyes

 

In contemporary art, there have been landmark books that have challenged and changed the way we look – and think- about art. Among these are Clement Greenberg’s The Age of the Avant Garde, Linda Nochlin’s Why Are There No Great Woman Artists? and more recently, WJT Mitchell’s What Do Pictures Want?, which queries: “The question to ask of pictures from the standpoint of a poetics is not just what they mean or do, what claim they make upon us, and how are we to respond. Obviously, this question also requires us to ask what it is that we want from pictures.”

Another book, this time focused on abstract art, is Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art Since Pollock by Kirk Varnedo, the former chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art MOMA. AZs well, Varnedo starts with a question: “What is abstract art good for? What’s the use – for us as individuals, or for any society – of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures, or drawings that do not seem to show anything, except themselves.”

State of Flux

There were the thoughts that rose in the mind upon viewing the abstract works of Meneline Wong in her first solo exhibition at Altro Mondo Creative Space. The show is billed as Luminescence. The title clearly directs the audience’s attention – not to line, shape, form, color, gestural marks or texture – but to something transcending all these: light. Though the aforementioned plastic elements are the visible agents for Meneline’s art making, they are all put in the service of creating the illusion of light. It is a light, however, that is not atmospheric or enveloping, but a light in constant motion, spreading, expanding in its spatial domination  -in a state of flux, as it were. The source of its animation, its visually thrilling ripples and waves, stems from the very technique and manner of execution, its physicality, that impelled these works into existence.

      Fluid Art

Meneline refers to her works as “Fluid Art.” The term connotes the activity of water in its ever flowing direction, affected by and yielding to factors such as gravity when the canvas is tilted, or blown by blasts of highly compressed air expelled from a machine, raked by some tool or instrument, infused with some chemical to induce those bubbling cellular and lace-like shapes, globules like luminous nebula. Meneline’s light is not fixed, in the sense that something is rooted to a spot; neither is it settled, for the quality of its phosphorescence is intentionally unresolved by the relentlessly shifting of the artist’s chromatic and achromatic colors.

Set against a pitch black field, the large scale works such as Dancing in the Moonlight, Thousand Shades of Bliss, and the multi-paneled Rainbow in the Dark emit a spectral range of light. Has one just witnessed the aurora borealis or northern lights, arcing across the night sky?

In contrast, Meneline’s Oro Series is a foray into a golden vision, with a late afternoon light, a melange of mustards and yellows, glowing upon a mountainous scape. As an optical experience, it is a light in transit.

 

Shapelessness as Form

In a gallery exhibition, one may overhear some curious guests wondering how the artist achieved a certain or particular effect. While the curiosity is understandable, so much “magic” is lost whenever a work of art is reduced to the mere calisthenics of technique, trivializing its spirit. It’s like watching a theatrical play or musical and insisting on knowing how a huge chandelier crashed down on stage, or how an entire helicopter fitted through the backstage door. Remember: Curiosity killed the cat.

How are we judge these works by their form? Ironically, it is their very “shapelessness” that impose a body on the passages of coagulating paint tending to orchestrate themselves into something cohesive, induced by Wong’s guiding aesthetic intelligence, interrupting their natural course only when they begin to meander aimlessly, coaxing them back into submission. The process is much like shepherding an errant flock of sheep; in this case of course, quaking pigments in a symphonic assembly of colors. Meneline keeps them from wandering, as when tend to advance towards the ornamental. Or, in Truman Capote’s descriptive term, when such occurs in prose:  orchidaceous.

Gestalt Principle

In painting there are forms, or configuration of forms, that may look “dysfunctional” because they could be not be reduced to a formula. So: are Meneline’s forms aberrant in their determined shapelessness?

Perhaps the best way to approach – and appreciate -Meneline’s works is through the application of the gestalt principles of design. Gestalt is: “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.” This assumption is easily proven when we apply the five principles governing gestalt: Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, and Connectedness. Meneline’s adherence to the Gestalt Principle, consciously or unconsciously, allusively or not, is in accord with her own instinctive sense of form.

Meneline Ascending

Indeed, it does come as a surprise to many gallery-goers and collectors to know that Meneline Wong is not just an artist, but in fact holds a medical degree in Obstetrics and Gynecology, a diplomate from the University of Santo Tomas. She holds clinic at the Chinese General Hospital. As an artist ascending, Meneline seems to be on the right track, along a trajectory guided by her own internal light. So far she has scored as the first woman to win a major award, as second placer in the 2018 GSIS National Art Competition, Non-Representational category. As well, Meneline landed first in the 2018 Robinsons Land National Art Competition, also in the Non-Representational Category.

For Meneline Wong, light-ning had struck twice in the same year!

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Cid Reyes is the author of choice for National Artists Arturo Luz, BenCab, J. Elizalde Navarro, and Napoleon V. Abueva. A prolific writer, he is the author of over forty art books and numerous art reviews and exhibition notes. Reyes received a Best in Art Criticism Award from the AAP, as well as recipient of the “Most Outstanding Kapampangan in the Arts” in 2015.