The usual avenues of nostalgia are visual, aesthetic — the sight of your lola’s home in the province, a box of toys, teenage fashions, a collage of old idols. It yearns for and romanticizes the past, imagining a simpler time. Miguel Puyat’s show, ‘Same Shapes, Different Each Time’, does not operate through these. It takes us back, or along, by creating the space where it is possible to relive creative innocence.
Two adjacent walls hold Eventually and Peace, large circular boards with grids of slots. Between them is an expanse of hooks holding various pieces of painted shaped wood. A little shelf contains wooden dowels. Each shaped piece can be slotted into a board’s grid using the dowels, to be assembled as one pleases. Much like a kindergartener, eyeing a bin of wooden blocks, enticed by the clean slate or inspired by the other children’s half-fallen forts, the viewer is invited to play. The pieces lend themselves as slips of paper for a life-sized collage, to be glued together into whatever shape.
Free play then progresses beyond the initial “Mama, look what I’ve made!”. Upon closer look, another memory resurfaces. The pastel colors, the scuffed paint, now situates itself in a grade school classroom. Like shifting backdrops, these abstract shapes can now be imagined as once part of a chair desk, a blackboard, a bookshelf. From toys, they are transformed into objects vandalized, remixed. The urge to create something turns into an appetite to create something unique. Out of raw creativity burgeons self, self-assertion, experimentation, a coming-of-age.
The shapes then take another shift in perception, into retaso - leftover wood. Craft comes to the forefront. The space transforms into a workshop. Suddenly, the intentionality in the construction becomes apparent. Play becomes measurement and design. The precision of the grid, the sawing and woodworking, become part and parcel of play - not just to create, but to create well.
Focus on Sanity 1-12, hang on the two walls opposite. Each of these small collages consists of paper and cardboard cutouts, pinned onto the center of a board. This screw becomes a dial, the cutouts the hands of a clock, an apt mirror to all this time-traveling. The cutouts are reminiscent of making toys out of cardboard boxes, perhaps sitting in the kitchen, snipping away at whatever is available. As such, it builds on the idea that anything that passes through creative intent and the work of hands can be ‘creation.’
Now afforded the space, Puyat’s dexterity in building and remixing urges the viewer not to move under dictation, but to make their own riffs. The works themselves reflect an aversion to the static. It maintains a frame of mind that is open to play and possibility - it urges not just to revisit or reminisce, but to relearn and retain the attitude of play - like the numberless clocks, boundless.
Miguel Puyat's Same Shapes, Different Each Time ran from May 13 to June 8, at the Finale Art File Gallery Video Room.
Shireen Co is an artist, experimental cook (of leftovers), and a mid-range chess nerd. Tap the button below to buy her a coffee.