Raul Jorolan’s KaBloom! at Altro Mondo

written by Cid Reyes

Purple Haze (2020), 4 x 4 feet, Oil on canvas

This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but with a whimper.” So intoned the great poet T S Eliot. That’s as apocalyptic as one can get to the Biblical end times. As indeed, which of us now has not entertained the grim thought that we are not now – in the tight grip of this nightmare, a global pandemic – in the beginning of The End?

Currently on view at Altro Mondo Gallery is Raul Jorolan’s solo exhibition titled “KaBloom.” Alluding to the onomatopoeic sound of an explosion, the works, in fact, originated from the artist’s unsettling fascination with the subject of nuclear holocaust, as triggered by that Crazy Boy Dictator from North Korea, whose fat little finger is just itching to push the button on the Bomb to End all Bombs to End Humanity.

“KaBloom” was supposed to have opened way back in April – just about the time when the country was put on lockdown, and the vicious Covid-19 was fast decimating the citizenry of Europe, worst-hit being Italy, Spain, and England. Even if the show had opened during the scheduled month, “KaBloom” had already been overtaken by events. But a terribly delayed opening in July running through August – when the global consciousness is now so steeped with the crippling fear of the vicious virus from China – has, it seems to me, cast a pall on “KaBloom.”


Flower Power (2020), 4 x 3 feet, Oil on canvas

And then, so unexpectedly, the world is jolted one morning by news of the Beirut Blast, caused by tonnes of a long stored chemical, whose impact, as described, by the survivors and witnesses, felt like an Atomic Bomb. The incident might just provoke the insane leader of North Korea, that rogue state – who has been side-lined by the pandemic, and who seems addicted to the limelight – to get into another of his saber-rattling acts.

Against that essential background, the viewer can now approach Raul Jorolan’s “KaBloom” as a reminder that the threat of a nuclear annihilation indeed remains to be a very clear and present danger. Jorolan had grasped onto that iconic mushroom-shaped explosion that we all associate with the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing. Using it as the sustained visual metaphor throughout the series, Jorolan – who if it may not be known to some – was bred in the art of advertising, first as an art director, and later on, as a commercial director – really went to town. After all, advertising people are in their element when exploring concepts and functioning in the comfort zone of memorable verbal play and surrealist juxtapositions of seemingly contradictory images, conjoined in another context.

This is precisely the sensibility that has stimulated and impelled these works, where the atomic mushroom cloud has been released to embody images of joy, freedom, liberation, exaltation. Jorolan proposes an alternative narrative that replaces the horror of death and destruction. In these works, we behold Jorolan’s atomic explosion transformed into a perfumed bouquet of flowers, annihilating the nihilist notion of man’s existence, meaningless and therefore signifying the worthlessness of mankind. Being erased from the face of the earth, it seems, is its own just reward.

Bikini Atoll (2020), 48 x 60 inches, Oil on canvas

One particular work, titled “Bikini Atoll,” references the place used by the United States for nuclear testing between 1946 and 1958 . It is situated In the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean, where the United States had tested its largest weapon. History notes that “at 15 megaton, the blast vaporized 3 islands and was 1,000 times the magnitude of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear weapon dropped on Japan in World War II. The fallout from this weapon has forever devastated the loves and the lands of the Northern Marshall Islands.”

For all the seriousness of the subject, however, Jorolan, in wanting to replace destruction with jubilation and extreme delight, has inflected his work with megadoses of Pop and Camp, a crossbreed that inescapably courts and embraces a degree of flamboyance, flair, and stylishness. That immortal Hollywood Sex Goddess, Marilyn Monroe – even more famous in death than in life – thanks largely to Andy Warhol’s interminable silkscreen series – permeates these works, both in her resurrected image so instantly recognizable and in the eternal springtime of her imperishable fame. In works like “Atomic Blonde” and “Blooming Marilyns,” Jorolan participates in the Marilyn Mania instigated by Warhol. We could say that in these works, Jorolan brings to bear his keen directorial eye – and to his credit, unlike Warhol’s industrial execution that totally erases the hand print of the artist – all of Jorolan’s Marilyns were limned by the artist’s own hand. I might add that Jorolan is a formally schooled artist with a degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas.

Blooming Marilyns (2020), 64 x 50 inches, Oil on canvas

One work that may trigger an unexpected giggle from the viewer, however, is the fact that the name Bikini has been appropriated by a French swimsuit designer, named Louis Reard. For there, in Jorolan’s work, the lovely nubile lasses of the island are all in their skimpy bikinis, in adoration of a seeming atomic explosion, not one of a black mushroom cloud, however, but of a colourful burst of a multitude of flowers.

Ground Zero (2020), 50 x 27 3/8 inches, Oil on canvas

To be sure, all art – aside from aspiring to the condition of music – trains its sight towards the ideal of timelessness. But in so delving on a subject that is attached to topicality, the irresistible urge to allude to one’s personal time frame asserts itself. Regard the works “Flower Power” with the upheld two-fingers, “Great Blooms of Fire” erupting into memories of Jerry Lee Lewis, rock and roll’s first great wild man, “Purple Haze” in monochromatic purples naturally, surreptitiously slips into the mind with the psychedelic pyrotechnics of Jimmy Hendrix, and then there’s “Ground Zero” of the September 11 attacks. To do so is of course every artist’s prerogative, one that cannot be arrogated by the viewer, the critic, or the dealer.
The way to transcend mere topicality is to ascend to the higher realm of the universal, freed from the anchor of the dailies’ headlines and television newscast. No doubt this was always in the consciousness of Raul Jorolan. “KaBloom” is Raul Jorolan’s colourful and vibrant peace offering to whatever malevolent forces in the Universe may be threatening mankind’s final extinction.





Great Blossoms of Fire (2020), 36 x 44 inches, Oil on canvas

Atomic Blonde (2020), 38 x 48 inches, Oil on Canvas