Rhapsody in Abstraction

  • Start

    07 August 2014
  • End

    29 August 2014
  • Artists

    Gary Custodio, Gianluca Capozzi, Justin Nuyda, Marc Gaba, Nino Hernandez, Patrizia Novello, Ramon Orlina

  • Venue

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

by Cid Reyes

As early as 1878, the American expatriate painter in London proclaimed:

“As music is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry of sight, and subject matter has nothing to do with harmony of sound or color.”

Even the pioneer of abstract painting, the Russian Wassily Kandinsky attributed musical qualities to the different colors.

This exhibition of works prove that music and painting are impelled by harmonies and rhythms, each one inspiring the other.


With titles derived from lyrics of famous Italian arias, the sculptures of Daniel dela Cruz soar into space with brio and bravura, indeed soliciting applause. Perched on a narrow, elongated pedestal, looking like a long sustained note, they are a surrealistic merging of the female body and a musical instrument such as a cello or a guitar. Each echoes the other’s voluptuous grace and sinuous line, almost approaching an erotic caress. Indeed, to quote the Great Bard, Shakespeare, “Music hath charm to soothe the savage beast.”


Invoking a sense of the apocalyptic and the sublime, Benjie Cabangis opens up vistas of upheaval, tempest, drought, illumination, all contained with geometric structures. In “Shelter”, a blinding radiance envelops what look like towering edifices, straddling both the physical and the spiritual. “There was land before and after time”, dominated by shades of blues, greys, and pale reddish tints, evoke the aftermath, even the prelude, of nature’s wrath. In a vertical diptych, “Until the water runs dry”, two circular shapes, suggestive of the globe, are awash with a flood of water-drenched acrylics, evaporating inexorably from a basin-like vessel.


A dense field, choking and littered with a spangle of blotches and marks, whirling restlessly around, as if sucked into a vortex, seduces the viewers into celebration of slivers of multifarious colors— reds, oranges, mustard, yellows, turquoise, aquamarines, lavender, deep purples— all animated by intersecting and gyrating lines. They may initially look like slung pigments, with no preconceived or prior design but the final assembly of elements amounts to an exhilarating and sumptuous visual experience.


By virtue alone of the uniqueness of his material, the glass sculptures of Orlina seem to have been destined to become modern classics. Indeed, it is not so much the glass as basic material that is responsible for the sculpture’s eminence and appeal. It is of course the radiance of light which is evoked and created through the transparency— thus luminescence— of glass. Brass or bronze, stone or marble, iron or wood is simply incapable of producing its own internal light.


Sombre and moody, gently distancing themselves from the viewer as if possessed by a sullen temperament, the abstract works of Niño Hernandez, when compared to a musical instrument, is definitely a cello. Indeed, one could hear the strains of Elgar’s monumentally sonorous cello concerto, as performed by the likes of Jacqueline Du Pra or Yo Yo Ma. While seemingly placid, these abstractions seem to stare at the viewer with an ominous look, like gathering dark clouds or landscapes evanescing into a void.


A consistent prize-winner, Gary Custodio first caught the attention of a discriminating jury with his canvases that hovered between shadow and darkness, where indeterminate shapes seem to struggle to break into light, but stifled back into its shadowy form. In his works, Custodio conjures a grid-like structure, a geometric configuration of greys and celadon-greens.


The artist dredges a vision from the seemingly subterranean depths, with its vibrations summoned from layers and layers of filtered forms and light. The composition is landscape oriented, with the lower section heavily nuanced and calibrated with amorphous shapes, while the upper section opens up to a quiet, lyrical space. The controlling coloration is a faint and bleached sky blues, really almost just a glimpse at the edge of visibility. One is tempted to regard the work as an allusion to a fragile ecosystem.


Landscapes of the mind – thus, “mindscapes” – sustained through the past decades by the artist – are meditative scenes as metaphors for nature, land and skies, at once still and moving. Nuyda’s innovative technique of several paint brushes affixed together allowed for a luxuriant spread of trailing pigments looking like wisps of smoke. In total control of the process, the artist conjures the wavy undulations fanning out across the pictorial space. A surprising presence of an early 1988 work, the figurative “Year of the Gold-breasted Dragon” is incontrovertible proof of Nuyda’s skilled craftsmanship. Like the mythical beast, the artist spews out brilliant fires of visual pyrotechnics.


Metalinguistics rivets the attention of Patrizia Novello, in a performance of signs, text, and surface that are “de-void” of their apparent visual references. In “Again”, the endless, mindless repetition of X’s, threatening to proceed ad infinitum with every surface willing to host the sign, is instantly barred, terminated, with a word that in fact commands its continuation. In “In the Manner of Old Masters”, the pompous and extravagant self-aggrandizement of the work, vicariously sharing in the glories of, say, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, Turner, Monet et al, only to present the expectant audience with a formless field of aimlessly brushed pigments with their undifferentiated chromatics, is a brilliant, witty stroke of one-upmanship.


“Pure Relation” is a series of works that combine both the severity and sumptuousness of geometric forms. While geometry may demand a hard-edge, machine-tooled, delineation, these works bear the gentle imprint of the artist’s hand. Growing organically like a cellular structure, ever shifting, each form is determined by the surrounding shapes, like a puzzle assembled through a constant repositioning of the missing part. Done on paper, and in modest size, implying their potential for large scale execution, Gaba then nails down their final, grounded, locked-in relationship. The teasing tonalities of colors and their varying degrees of saturation create an illusory three-dimensional impression.