NEWS: SPOT.PH - Mark Andy Garcia on Finding Unanswered Questions in His Art. 02/14/23

Text by Gwen Bautista | photos by Je Malazarte

February 14, 2023

( The somber mood of Mark Andy Garcia’s large-scale paintings unsheathes inner feelings resting between contentment and melancholia. Viewers may find themselves absorbed by his unflinching approach to painting: spontaneous and yet controlled. These works are part of Countless Tries, a special exhibition of the artist’s works in the forthcoming edition of Art Fair Philippines at The Link in Makati City from February 17 to 19.

Mark Andy Garcia: From the Depths of His Being 

Filled with child-like marks and bewildering application of paint onto the canvas, Garcia’s paintings were once described by the late art critic Alice Guillermo as "coming from the depths of his being" and continued to declare that, "perhaps he is among the most personal of artists as he draws from his life experiences the material of his paintings and reflects on them to gather what meanings they may reveal of his existence."

Assessing his more than a decade-long career, Garcia says in an interview with, "Ako kasi dati, pag nagpipinta ako laging may tanong. Tapos habang nagpipinta, pinipilit kong sagutin." He believes that art is a form of open communication, a way to express oneself. The symbolic landscapes, bodies of water, and allusions to figuration in his paintings depict a realm inhabited by thoughts, doubts, and resolutions.

His early works flourished on elaborate stories about his experiences and those around him. However, as his practice evolves, the narratives and stories found in his works become more subtle and indistinct. He thinks of this as "hindi paglilimita. Pag-kokontrol lang." The importance of control in Garcia’s recent works is apparent in the artist’s deliberate way of obscuring a central subject and the techniques and methods developed through time.

As he looked back on his years as an advertising student at the Technological University of the Philippines, he recounts forcing himself to graduate even when financial circumstances were dire. There, he learned the principles of design but decided to liberate his practice by breaking some rules. "Dati kasi gusto ko magpinta na parang gawa lang ng bata," the artist shares. He adds that there is an inexplicable level of honesty and sincerity in the strokes and gestures when children make art. Attracted to the candor of abstraction, Garcia decided to follow this direction.

Unknown Paths 

Decades ago, only a few galleries and art spaces existed in Manila. Opportunities to present works in exhibitions were scarce. After graduating from the university, Garcia worked at an advertising agency and then moved to the Middle East as a contract worker, where he painted houses in construction jobs. His experiences abroad and spiritual renewal while living in a foreign land were recurring themes in his previous exhibitions.

While his future was uncertain as an artist, he committed to his practice and worked tirelessly to develop skills and understand himself more through painting. Eventually, his works gained enough traction, and following that, he built a sustainable career away from the distractions of cut-throat competitions, rivalries, and greed.

"I live a simple life. I’m okay painting in my studio and tending to my plants." Apart from the tubes of paint, his studio is filled with books, mostly about poetry. Garcia relishes reading when not painting and, with a sheepish smile says that he sometimes writes prose, too, but unlike his paintings, his writings would never see the light of day.

A Hundred Questions

As one moves closer to the details of Garcia’s paintings, an intense wave of emotions might come rushing through. The eyes can get lost in the bold streaks of paint dabbling to create forest-like settings. It is like hovering inside a mind of an overthinker, and as one quickly steps away from the canvas, a reconciliation in composition to see the "bigger picture" awaits.

The artist notes, "Ngayon, hindi na kailangan may tanong. Hinahayaan ko lang yung proseso. Sa paintings ko parang sinasabi na sa dami ng gulo at nangyayari, lumalaban pa rin ang tao."

These days, he is no longer conscious of the questions that run through his mind while working and rather relinquishes these uncertainties to his confidence in the process. He believes that our wisdom makes us resilient and endure the struggle. Similarly, the way that his paintings continuously reflect these wild and yet tamed movements adhere to this realization. Amid the chaos and precariousness in the images produced through abstraction, there is the artist's presence and hand—a life that commands the movement, action, and sweeping gestural marks inside the scenes portrayed. All from the hands of a man who had attempted countless times to find answers to life’s mysteries and finally be at peace with simply trying a few times more.