PASSAGE OF TIME. May 20, 2014 - Cultural Center of the Philippines

Mark Andy Garcia has always painted actual events and personalities from his life. He would paint actual scenes as they were or as he remembers them, days or weeks after they’ve happened. For a long time, Garcia created sad paintings, artworks done as a reaction to bad experiences in his life. His anger and sorrow would come out in his paintings. His emotion would get the better of him. In 2009 he made a conscious effort to change this. Nowadays, one will not be able to see the angst from his past works or the heavy emotions in his past paintings. Perhaps Garcia is slowly mastering how to separate his feelings from his art. Or perhaps his feelings are not as radical as when he was younger. 

For his first solo exhibition at the CCP, Garcia looks towards more philosophical subjects. The title Passage of Time refers to the time that goes by while he paints. It is during this time that the artist comes to terms with all that he has gone through in his life, both personally and professionally. It is also at this time that he is able to take a deeper look at the way he thinks and feels, and how this relates to the type of work he makes, and even how he makes them. 

The Watering Place was the first painting made for the exhibit Passage of Time. It depicts Garcia swimming with friends in the waters of Daranak Falls in Taytay, Rizal. He explains that he was filled with inspiration upon getting home from the swimming trip that he immediately began painting when he reached his studio. Garcia looks to nature for his colors. The bright colors, even those applied straight from the tube, are manipulated to be as close to life as possible. This painting was one of the hardest to make in the series because of its bright blue hue, which is the most difficult color for the artist.

In The Painter, Garcia creates a double self-portrait, conveying the two phases of his creative process. The black figure on his back reading shows how an artist must continue to learn about the world and about himself. The figure on the right, shown comically with a paintbrush in his mouth and painting a vase of flowers, is the artist at work. A normal day for Garcia would be for him to head to his studio in the morning and try to paint. He stares at his blank canvas for some amount of time and next thing he knows its noon and the ideas are still cooking in his head. 

In The Wide Open Window, another scene in the artist’s studio, the window on the left is supposed to express what can be seen and experienced, but in reality, for Garcia, the true window is his canvas. In it he sees all sorts of things; in it his imagination is able to run wild. Garcia normally does not plan specific concepts for his shows. A lot can still change within his six-month work period, depending on where his blank canvas will take him. Garcia does not make use of references or photographs, but has only recently taken to making studies for his large works. 

A Long Straight Road is based on another trip with friends. The lack of detail is due to the ambiguity of memory. It’s about the journey that Garcia is in. He incorporates a large leaf used for shade by one of the figures, an element taken from memories of his childhood in Novaliches when there were still fields and trees. A big part of Garcia’s life now, and what influences his work, is his childhood, and the world he was in then. It’s a recent realization for the artist. In spite of all this, he does not like looking at the past. He only glances back to learn, but is also always conscious of moving forward, hence the title A Long Straight Road

Open Field is an expression of the artist’s exhaustion. It was made after teaching a workshop for high school kids in Paracale, Bicol. The field in front expresses how hot and tired Garcia felt after the experience. The bizarre choice of color was not intentional, but he made sure to darken the classroom windows, Garcia’s way of speeding up the unpleasant experience and making the day finally end for him. 

Existence is the most personal work of the series, according to Garcia. He explains that for him, as the plants grow, so does he. As nature flourishes, so does man. It is once again about the time the artist spends painting, and how his mind wanders, how memories are unearthed, all while the rest of the world goes on outside.

The last work made for the series was The Only Time I feel Alive.  It is a painting with little realistic detail. Garcia made use of the back of the paintbrush and sometimes even spread paint directly from the tube. The work is feeling-driven, not subject-driven. It is because of his new sense of calm that Garcia tends to limit the components of his paintings. 

Both Existence and The Only Time I feel Alive are paintings that depict or express feeling more than realism or actual occurrences. Almost bordering the abstract, one cannot help but feel the simple joy of the paintings in the series. There is that feeling of mundane life, but without its melancholy. There is almost the feeling of contentment and being comfortable with oneself and the world you are in, with occasional jolts of glee by way of the bright colors and jarring strokes. 

In Passage of Time, Garcia stays true to his method of depicting past events as paintings, but there is also the bigger concept of his development as a person and the changes he has gone through. He also explicitly makes use of nature in his paintings to signify the concept of growth. After eight solo shows and over twenty-five group exhibits, progress is the main goal of the artist. Improvement is important for Garcia, both in his painting and in his quest for self-control. Garcia says that the sole purpose of his art is for himself, and how he wants to focus on making his art better. It is a selfish goal, but one the artist feels is important for society in the long run because he believes that it is important to work on himself before being able to help others. He is constantly striving to become his version of a good man. 

Text by: M. R. Estrada. April 2014

"The Long Straight Road", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014 
"The Long Straight Road" detail

"Existence", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014

"Existence" detail 
"Open Field", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014

"Open Field" detail 

"The Only Time I Feel Alive", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014

"The Only Time I Feel Alive" detail 
"The Painter", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014

"The Painter" detail 
"The Watering Place", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014 

"The Watering Place" detail
"Wide Open Window", oil on canvas, 60x60 inches - 2014

"Wide Open Window" detail