Imaging faith: A look at Lyndon Maglalang's Preparatory Measures

Into the dense forest of my soul, I start to walk

Seeing the overgrowth

Of past hurts and promising futures

I pick my axe and start culling

I see my eyes turn white

Or am I blinded by the light?

I follow

And a greater hand leads me

At Galerie Stephanie, a woodsman’s goods and chattels are splayed out before a monumental piece of work from which they seem to have been lifted directly. ‘Untitled: For Tomorrow’, is the largest of Lyndon Maglalang’s latest series of tableaux entitled Preparatory Measures. Following his Everything is in Parables, the gallery’s presentation at this year’s Art Busan, the collection of acrylic and dry paint compositions continues the documentation of the artist’s journey toward self-realization. Featureless landscapes navigated by featureless figures, Maglalang’s works detail the terrain of one’s inner world. Now, as he prepares this mise-en-scène in the gallery’s space, he brings these landscapes from within with a greater degree of verisimilitude, to be faced by all. A poem, of the same title, by Jerome Destacamento, also accompanies the works: eight stanzas for eight works. 

I feel the pain of cut wood, as if I myself am being cut

It is not far from the truth

I am shedding off what needs to be shed

In order to make room for fruitful growth

As I carry the weight of these excesses

I prepare them

To be used as fuel, or as foundations for what I will build

Both will keep me warm

Two diptychs, each ‘Untitled’ as ‘Until it’s Gone’ and ‘The Light within You’, recall the artist’s previous collection. This visual cue to the past points to the artist’s progression as an individual as well as an artist, guided, in particular, by his studies of the Scriptures. Two figures look out to desolate landscapes, an axe, and a bow and arrow at the ready; there is stillness as the woodsman reflects on what he has just done, and the hunter braces himself for what is to come. It is in Maglalang’s solemn and deliberate scenography that this deeply contemplative atmosphere becomes palpable. 

Using dried-up paint from previous projects, Maglalang’s painted surfaces are never free from the past. They are, however, not bound to it either. As each piece finds renewal, a new story, a new path emerges. What may have been relics of past mistakes or discarded ideas, become essential for the artist’s work, guiding each composition toward pictorial completion. A continued practice distinct to his expanding body of work, Maglalang’s technique is a mark of his faith; from one work to the next, pieces will have accumulated only to find purpose once again. Like the woodsman looking out at the overgrowth, he culls from the past, with only the future in mind. 

 Into the dense forest of my soul, I start to walk

Seeing the multitude of monstrous beasts

Of the darkness that lurks within me

I pick my bow, my arrows and begin my hunt

I strike, with the intent to purge

The uncertainties of being

A guiding light points me to a place

Where my shots won’t miss

Throughout the series, a beam of light makes a recurring appearance, coming in when the figures are in most need, whether in their struggle against the waning light, or their own shadows. The guiding tractor beam of ‘The Light within You’ pierces through the near-total darkness that shrouds yet another ‘Untitled’ piece: ‘Certainty I’, a portrait of a figure whose outline, faint, traces an existence that has all but disappeared, lost or at a loss.

Just as both are oxymoronically titled, the correspondence between the two is uncertain. It is only upon a closer and longer look at the black portrait, that the silhouette emerges — literally — from the surface, as Maglalang’s dried-up patches of paint cast their own shadows to suggest a presence, like silver linings.

I feel the pain of felled beasts, as if I myself am being felled

It is not far from the truth

I am quelling the beast inside

To give birth to the transfigured

As I exalt the One above

I see the landscape changing 

From one of fear to one of love

It will keep me warm

An anomaly among the 'Untitled' works, and hanging opposite the monolithic 'For Tomorrow', is 'Home'. The culmination of the artist's preparatory measures, the work presents its viewers with the familiarity of shelter and rest. The light that had guided the lone hunter, the lone woodsman, the artist, now finds its place within another interior, glowing a welcoming warmth out of the woods. 

The poem ends as it begins:

Into the dense forest of my soul, I start to walk

Preparatory Measures is on view at Galerie Stephanie from September 15 through September 29.