This second and last installment of Bionote reveals to us the living room where I grew up and the garage that contained some discarded old works as well as an image of a seascape in Bataan and cloud formations somewhere above Malaysia on my way home from Australia. These are places and time zoomed in from the bigger picture that is my ongoing Biography work, hence the title, Bionote – a shorter profile or a summary in reference to a longer version of one’s Biography.
This images attempt to summarize, if not over-simplify the route where I tackle my religious and philosophical struggles as I have outlined in the Vanishing Point diagram. With shifting perspectives made possible by these ideological positions to further define my artistic strategies, the images and texts in the paintings translate historicized realities being rewritten everytime where past, present and future can only happen all at once. The accompanying books integral to the work serves as footnotes that shaped this consciousness.
Ultimately, this exhibition prepares us for the nearly complete chapter of my Biography work that will be exhibited in 2015 at the Ateneo Art Gallery. This will feature the result of my 8-week performative Art Therapy, a visit to Mount Banahaw and parts of Idiot Knows No Country exhibition where I problematize my work in reference to the larger narratives of aesthetic histories in the Philippines.
Buen Calubayan depicts his “blasphemous phase” — where the viewer is given a glimpse of his faith continuum — in “Bionotes,” which runs until Oct. 26 at Liongoren Gallery, 111 New York St., Cubao, QC.
Calubayan’s (Auto)Bio project — with himself as subject — started in his breakthrough exhibition “Fressie Capulong,” grand prize winner of the Ateneo Art Awards 2013, an exhibit where he starts digging the past with his mother as subject. He has since made a steady string of shows that explored himself: “Spoliarium” (shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards 2014), “Biography” (a prelude of sorts to Bionotes) and the group show “Articles of Disagreement” currently on view at the Lopez Museum. This steady build-up will culminate in “Biowork,” his first solo show at the Ateneo Art Gallery sometime early next year.
Now, there’s “Bionotes.”
Calubayan’s style is reminiscent of the late works of the English Romantic landscape artist J.M.W. Turner. There are texts superimposed on each painting that serves as leitmotif to the show.
Two paintings showing interiors of a house (“A Short History of Nearly Everything”) and a facade of an old garage (“Icons is God, Only Mass Produced”) depict home for the artist where faith was taught and nurtured; but so was, albeit unwittingly, dogma that bred doubt, subversiveness and disbelief. This is juxtaposed with a pile of books that made a significant influence at key points in Calubayan’s life, as well as a pamphlet with one of his most controversial works as cover that caused him his job and a three-year legal battle with the pontifical university where he once served as art instructor.
This convergence of the artist’s experiencing self and his remembering self sees pictorial manifestation in the landscape and seascape paintings that complete his oeuvre. Naming these works after such seminal works as “The Brothers Karamazov” (Dostoyevsky) and “God is Not Great” (Hitchens), with quotes about God and Christ devised by the artist in the vernacular: “Ang takot sa Diyos ay takot sa sariling multo (The fear of God is fear of your own ghost)” and “Ang kamay ni Hesus ay pinalandi’ng gatilyo ng baril (The hand of Christ is like a beautified trigger of a gun),” is an acknowledgement of an existence of a god — something he completely negated in his youth but maybe because of how life has dealt with him, it’s loops and bounds, quirks and glitches, may have given him a change of heart and a renewed spirit — a coming into terms with one’s own spirituality. And Calubayan is now looking at the horizon with a fresh perspective to see what’s beyond it — resolution of one’s inner demons, maybe restoration of one’s faith in things or perhaps reconciliation with one’s personal God.