Figures in Extremis


Two artists, one in painting, Mark Andy Garcia, the other in terracotta, Neil Pasilan, may be quite different in their choice of medium, but in spirit share a deep affinity. Both draw their material from the very stuff of their lives and from the real temper of our times, beyond media, theater, and the hysteria of mass desperation. Possessing a rare gravitas, their works are both intensely solitary and profoundly communal at the same time. The consciousness of the individual, family, and society converge in their works in a way that is both Filipino and contemporary.

"Seated Figure and The Burning Heart"  |  oil on canvas   |  48" x 24"   |  2009

Mark Andy Garcia who has garnered many important awards—such as the Grand Prize for Art Petron, National Student Art Competition, Watercolor Category, has had an unusually wide experience in art and life. His first show, “ so near and yet so far” drew from his experience as an Overseas Filipino Worker in Saudi Arabia. Later, stalked by tragedies in his family life, he has harnessed these into the subject of his art in his second show. “Under the Watchful Eyes.” In his shows, he has consistently worked in a painterly style with vigorous brushwork which serves him well in bringing out his various figures, clear and emphatic but going beyond the strictures of verisimilitude. It is also a style which gives him wider latitude for expressionism, although in some works, he seemed to allow himself to be overcome by emotions of rage and despair.

This third show continues the themes of his two earlier shows, as a journal of his personal experiences and emotional ordeals. The difference is that he is more focused now, his lines being more rhythmic and his hues more in harmony. One painting shows the male curled up in a cave with only flames for warmth in a solitary existence. The other male subjects, people with whom he has had a relationship of love or hate, bear themselves well in stances of confidence or defiance, seemingly outside social norms. Another painting shows a man divided unto himself, the bright half in a setting of plants and flowers, the dark half against mounds of debris. A single landscape of fields and huts has a road in the center with a perspectival movement to the distant future, but leaves no clue of its ultimate meaning.

The sculptor counterpart of this exhibit, Neil Pasilan, brother of installation artist Diokno Pasilan, used to hang out with the Pinipikan artist-musicians, many of whom traveled from Bacolod to Baguio. His present work is in terracotta in which he trained with a group of artists in Bacolod who held a yearly exhibition of their own in the medium.

Neil Pasilan. "Prayer for All Families". Terracotta | 14 x 12 x 7 inches | 2009

Neil Pasilan’s sculptural work displays surprising affinities with the painting of Mark Andy Garcia in at least two counts: in figures of humans in extremis and in the role of prayer in their lives. The sculpture of a man curled up on the ground in an expression of utter desperation is the counterpart of Andy’s image of a solitary man crouched in a deep cave to flee persecution by his enemies. A striking figure in terracotta is the kneeling man in vivid ecru with his face a shock of white pigment that spontaneously continues to run down his praying hands and body. With a dramatic effect, this particular feature suggests the sudden flash of divine insight. There, too, is the figure, somewhat simian in expression because of acute suffering, its body pierced by long nails all over. It has likewise a suggestion of birthing in the face emerging from the region of the womb. Adding to the expressionistic effect are the words written around the base in repeated supplications. The figures are not always solitary, they may be grouped in twos or threes. In particular, there is a sculptural group of many faces looking up and seeking for mercy with an intensity rare in today’s sculpture.

Art Verite made a wise choice in exhibiting these two artists and pairing them together, because they are among the most acute and intense of today’s new crop.