The Transcendence of Memory: Luis Antonio Santos at MO_Space

In Luis Antonio Santos’ An Echo Made Tangible / (sun in an empty room), scenes of the countryside are presented in a way that is meant to peruse and probe one’s memory. The implication of these images allows people to experience these works in an absolute, curious manner. 

'post site No. 5', 2022. photograph, UV ink on plexiglass, 6 x 4 ft. (detail).

Entering the gallery through a slim space — as if going through a cave and finding a plethora of vegetation beyond it — one is faced with a single rectangle piece, seemingly afloat in the middle of the room.

The first work one encounters in the gallery is the plexiglass piece depicting lush banana trees, its image a stark white against its clear plexiglass frame. Titled post-site No.5 (sun in an empty room), the piece’s central placement invites the viewer to walk around it, seeing imprinted leaves floating in a somewhat familiar space. 

Here, the tropical sun is almost felt as light emphasises the artwork. The accustomed warmth of our climate leads one to question our very placement in the midst of it all. 

'post site No. 5', 2022. photograph, UV ink on plexiglass, 6 x 4 ft. (detail).

Turning the corner to the main gallery, there are several paintings that converse in the space as if situated in the middle of a field. Inside, one faces large-scale pieces that form faded images of trees assembled on a grid. 

Through details that densely populate the surface of each frame, one may fondly reminisce or imagine what it is like to be immersed in such wilderness. In darkness and in light, the jungle forms in clumps like a puzzle that is slowly being formed. 

Focusing on the environment depicted in these works is not only what makes this exhibition its own wonder. It is how each work was made that lets the viewer in even more — speculating introspectively on what is physically depicted, and what is cognitively implied. 

The creation of the pieces in this show is like the bricklaying process: Carina Santos muses how “each fragile and delicate layer informs the entire entity and builds towards it.” In dividing and rearranging, Luis Antonio Santos appropriates the original image to an almost unrecognisable landscape, while retaining its familiarity in form. Every composition is intentional, placed at points of reference by memory and choice. 

'Fragmentation (Fractured Jungle)', 2022. Acrylic on canvas, 4 x 6; 5 x7 ft (detail).

There is something peculiar in the wholeness of it all, the deliberate placement in a grid expertly spaced. Similar to the process of collecting and remembering moments, Santos creates pieces that make the audience question the act of forgetting. 

'Fragmentation / Sequence, Pattern, Method', 2022. Acrylic on plywood, wooden frame, 38 x 32 in (detail).

The inclusion of errors is integral in the artist’s works; with the attempt to form images, there are imperfections that nonetheless portray revisiting one’s memories. Through these ‘faults’, Santos captures the reality of what it is like to forget. 

The artworks in An Echo Made Tangible / (sun in an empty room) become an allusion, such as when one tries to recall memories that hold places and people we hold dear. Be it an idea of a comfortable, nostalgic memory or an unsettling setting that haunts us, we are encouraged to look deeper — to take a closer look at the works and find what they are trying to say. 

Surrounded by the grid pieces are two more plexiglass works, situated slightly across from one another. Transparent, the glass surface still casts shadows at parts to cascade into the walls and floor of the gallery. Quite similar to the act of remembering, only a few sections manage to appear. Mimicking the recall is the light filtering through these pieces, laid out and ready to look beyond and do with what is seen. 

Are fragments of memory key things a person so fondly recalls? On its own, memory is a striking thing. Part of remembering is digging deep into why we want to know certain places, people, and moments. This is the process that leads one to question the entire recollection. The context of what this image brings — how it makes a person feel and act becomes secondary. In portraying pieces of land, the environment then turns into a greater medium for understanding what lies within. 

In this space, there is a disquietude that lingers; revisiting the lone piece isolated from the main gallery stirs resounding recollection amidst the stillness that prevails. Walking back to (sun in an empty room) is memory recall; through retracing one’s steps and remembering what has passed, one sees what was previously experienced. Being surrounded by Santos’ works allows the viewer to look within, letting images and forms resonate through one’s consciousness — before, through the narrow gap once again, one exits back to the present.     

An Echo Made Tangible / (sun in an empty room), a solo exhibition by Luis Antonio Santos is on view at MO_Space until 21 August 2022.

Images courtesy of the writer.