Within Curfew Hours with Wipo

The threat of a global pandemic spells: “your days are numbered,” as if a timer in countdown looms over each of our heads, the daily count growing more like lottery number combinations each day. In this case, the real oxymoron is how, as we anticipate the day, the sickness becomes a personal matter, and we suffer fugue states – what psychologists call “temporal disintegration.” This disruption in memory and time perception is Wipo’s subject for his recently concluded third solo exhibition, entitled ‘Sulok ng Araw.’

On this occasion, the artist has endeared to pull the memories, compounded as they may seem, and dedicate each rigorous stroke to commemorate each remembrance of his days within, looking out.

Upon arriving at the quiet gallery, the twelve-part series Buong Araw Abot Tanaw greeted you. It evokes a primitive clock of linear orientation: the details of the ascent and descent of the sun, as well as the darkness that blankets after it, even frames it, marking every hour. This series makes use of obliquely-shaped canvases and broad strokes of deep blues and reds of differentiating directions to make the transition sensorial.

Buong Araw Abot Tanaw (Series). Acrylic, pigments, gel on canvas. 12 x 8 inches each. 2021.
Buong Araw Abot Tanaw. Exhibition view (detail).
Aninag. Acrylic on canvas. 60 x 72 inches. 2021.

Light has always been the primordial time-teller, and from the artist’s window, this became the compass of his collection. Aninag, the centerpiece of the exhibition, was born from this thought process. The artist asks: “Paano ko makikita at ipapakita ang mga bagay na nakikita ko habang nakapikit ako?” (How can I show something that I can see when my eyes are closed?)

Wipo has always pulled from memory and, contiguously, imagination. As Frances Yates said, “the manipulation of images in memory must always to some extent involve the psyche as a whole.” That is to say, this sensation of having sunlight in your eyes, as executed with powerful crimson and veined shadows marked by the bold, dark strokes’ chaotic nature, makes the piece not just a practice of sensation but also of reflexiveness.

Abot ng Tanaw (four-part series). Exhibition view of Abot ng Tanaw 1, 2, & 3 (L-R). Acrylic on canvas. 48 x 40 inches each. 2021.

Abot ng Tanaw, a series of four paintings, are Wipo’s most vibrant and characteristic pieces. Of the four, one painting hung by the side of the entrance as if to beckon you to probe further.

The paintings’ stream of lights with grotesque and slithering strokes all have a center from which they pursue movement, to mangle within then connect to without. The visual rhythms that jump from one painting onto the next, while being wrapped by a dark blue depth, draw you to stay with the paintings’ outflux but not linger on just one. It presents the experience of time as minutiae, a fleeting series of events that no longer take linear form, quickly running its course.

Abot ng Tanaw 4. Acrylic on canvas. 48 x 40 inches. 2021.

Lastly, his ten-photo series, entitled ABOT-TANAW, taken in 2019, is not just an ode to past freedoms. The clarity and reality of the first row of a seascape to the long exposure distortions of a skyline (TANAW) evokes the haziness of memory, then finally, the digitally manipulated outcomes of both (PINAGSAMANG TANAW), as imagination encapsulates and overlaps the former images. The three-part piece spans the wall and holds the same philosophy of Aninag, in showing what the artist sees as he closes his eyes, but this time to remember something further down the archives of memory, even dipping his feet into the imaginary.

ABOT-TANAW, TANAW, and PINAGSAMANG TANAW. Exhibition view (top to bottom) and Aninag (right).
ABOT-TANAW, TANAW, and PINAGSAMANG TANAW. Exhibition view (detail, top to bottom). Digital print on an old mill acid-free paper. 8 x 12 inches each. 2021.
ABOT-TANAW, TANAW, and PINAGSAMANG TANAW. Exhibition view (detail, top to bottom). Digital print on an old mill acid-free paper. 8 x 12 inches each. 2021.

What the lockdown has pronounced as strictures, Wipo has turned into framework. In a literal sense, his windows became the edges of his canvas, making use of the imaginative power from being confined in his studio. More in-depth, he scrutinized, with light – the sun, in particular, and the experience of memory and time when it is the most valuable and, nowadays, at its most vulnerable.

Sulok ng Araw ran from April 3 - 24 at Blanc Gallery, Quezon City.

All images courtesy of the gallery and the artist.

Belle Cabal is a writer with no life insurance.

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