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Ryan Villamael’s “A Paradise Lost” — Silverlens Galleries

I meant to write about this beautiful show by Ryan back when a) I was still in Manila, and b) you could still catch the show in person. However, we all know that I have issues with time and timing, so I suppose this is just a way of looking back at something that I have encountered that is also something that I have yet to let go of.

Anyway—

Ryan Villamael’s A Paradise Lost is quiet and desolate, and in that desolation, it is also deceptively sparse. Most of the gallery’s massive space is occupied by the makeshift horizon his scrolls of white paper (marked with incisions that recall his more flora-oriented work) make — which according to the notes spans almost 20 meters — and tapers off into a stretch of sand, a man-made island held together by desire and longing. Called “Terrain, After,” the central piece of the show filled me with a very quiet and disconsolate feeling; almost as though there is a desperate attempt at creating a space, a paradise, though not quite being able to. It’s not eerie or unsettling, just kind of a resigned sadness that thrives on relentless dedication in the face of what could be a pointless, infinite pursuit.

With a careful selection of work, Villamael plays with subtlety, relying on the inherent meaning and power of each work to speak volumes, rather than showing off technical skill (which, of course he has in spades) or colour or complexity or quantity and scale. Instead, he falls into the comfort of the shapes and figures that he’s used before and revisits them to say something new.

There are hand-cut images of foliage — made from blueprints of dream houses — contained in houses made of glass and wood, and within these cases, they are delicately preserved, dreams held in stasis and kept as totems. Titled “K.S.A.” and “Hoya” — named after places quite far apart from each other — they hint at distance, and even more so, how intimately tied we can be to the places we inhabit and occupy.

“10°81°75” is a stainless steel piece of die cut maps which, layered over one another, create a new location — a triangulation of a place in which the occupants of all three maps exist together. It is a manifestation of a dream, made real and tangible, and in a way, they become present to the touch, but in another more meaningful manner, the dream is declared even further away.

Still in line with his preoccupations with geography and Philippine history, particularly the elements that constitute these aspects of our lives as we know it, Villamael through A Paradise Lost draws attention to the importance of location to a body and vice versa. Our personal roots and identities, the very way in which our beings come to be, can be shaped in part by what we grow up surrounded by, or sometimes more importantly, by the absence that we learn to live with.

Three Things No. 2

AKA, stuff I’ve enjoyed immensely, being back home.

I have a lite™ ~content schedule~ in place, just like the old days, but I also have a poor grasp of time… just like the old days. Suffice to say that I am trying and am under a lot of pressure, from real life stuff, and it probably doesn’t seem like it, but that’s because I have built a house of tweets and Instagram photos, and it has become a cave in which my true hag self has chosen to hide.

I mean, in a nutshell.

Obviously, my family is a given. Obviously! (Hi, mama.)

It feels like a crime not to mention my dogs first, so: Noah & Benny

A few days ago, we took them to the beach. It was mainly horrific (I exaggerate), but we had a nice time overall. As my sister put it in an Instagram post—anywhere they’re allowed to be, that’s where we’ll go! Even if, operationally, the resort sucked balls. (More on that later, because I’m feeling petty, and it was literally saved by the cutest babies… by which, I mean our dogs.)

At least the pictures look nice? LOL.

For the uninitiated, Noah is our six-going on-seven-year-old Bichon/Yorkie mix (gifted by Nona when he was eight months old) and Benny is our baby Jack/Lhasa Apso-Shih Tzu mix (going on two, gifted by Robert when he was about two and a half months). They are both Arieses and they both love Beng the most.

I think I underestimated how much STRESS RELIEF they provide. Dogs are amazing… I know there are people who feel like pet-owning is subjugation, and I see why that’s the case, but I do honestly think that they feel loved and cared for, and maybe that’s enough for now.

(Did not mean to bring that whole nugget of contention in; I just missed my dogs, and I just wanted to say that.)

My house

Look, I used to show my house to my friends via Google Maps’ satellite view, so I basically… really missed my house. I didn’t really get to live in it very long between when it was done and when I had to leave for uni, but being back home made it feel like home, in some weird way.

I think it might have something to do with my current precarious living situation which, lol, I feel like I will have the capacity to talk about when I get it sorted out, but yes. My house. Amazing. (Again, hi ma!) Shall I do a house tour? Probably not. Maybe more photos.

I think I forget sometimes how nice the light here can be.

SLEEPING WITHOUT GUILT

Or, rather, a miniscule amount of guilt. Basically I have deadlines and a dissertation draft due, and the aforementioned house problem (I have solutions, don’t worry), buuuuuut I’m having the best sleeps of my life? Am I catching up? Has my body clock righted itself, once and for all? We will never know, but look how nice a time I’m having:

Special mention: mangoes

Duh.

Amy Sillman’s Landline — Camden Arts Centre

Before flying back to Manila for my strangely-timed “holiday”¹, I scrambled to see as many of the shows that would be closed by the time I’d be back. Because the rest of my life is also strangely-timed. By which I mean, I’m bad at timing and also scheduling and also at not being lazy. By which I mean that I didn’t get to as many shows as I wanted, which, not a big surprise.

I did manage to make it to Amy Sillman’s Landline, which was on when Zaxx and I coincidentally booked places at a talk at Camden Arts Centre. I took a peek and some pictures (which, to be honest, are a bit lacking, just in terms of how extensive the body of work shown is) and here are some thoughts, which may or may not be valuable, but who reads blogs these days anyway?

My first inclination is to pick which series of work is my favourite, since Sillman experiments with a lot of mediums, but I found that I enjoyed most of them, which is a funny thing to kind of come to realise. First I encountered a video and a few small paintings that dotted the entry space connecting all the rooms in which Sillman’s work are displayed.

I quite like this series as an installation and the way it was displayed reminded me of a much smaller work I made two years ago (lol I know, I should shut up), and I can’t help but be attracted to a sort of fragmentary collection of work like this one. I think it’s really difficult to make abstract art, so I’m always in awe of people who (to my eyes) make abstraction compelling and even appear new.

The larger paintings, for example, were captivating, and I’m a bit sorry that I don’t have more photos of them. And I’m backtracking on what I said before: I think these might be my favourite.

In my mind, it’s really, really difficult to compose and create a multi-layered, seemingly simple composition that makes sense visually, unless you’re a natural, which I think Sillman is. (Let the record show that I have come to this very founded conclusion based on experience, by which I mean, I am not a natural.) Twombly, for example, I think is a natural. Sure, his work, and perhaps Sillman’s work, looks like it could be done by children—a common contention of figurative/realist/etc. snobs—but, it’s actually quite hard to make abstract work that is a) ACTUALLY INTERESTING, and b) immediately looks like yours.

But maybe I’m just exposing myself as a dumbfuck who can’t make abstract art for shit! Who knows!

In my favourite room is an installation that kind of “flattens” her moving image work into one continuous image. The different moments are distilled into one two-sided image and reworked with different types of printing processes, which in a way imitates her process for the fragments and paintings. CAC’s notes on her exhibition mentioned the “gestation” period of her paintings, which apparently take between a few months and years to make, with Sillman returning to the pieces, bit by bit, before she deems them finished.

What possibly interests me a great deal when it comes to this body of work is the implication that time is an element that factors in quite majorly into the work, and not simply in a narrative or linear sense, which obviously is clear in her moving image work. That you can see traces of time and her process in the way she works and the actual finished pieces is certainly a point of interest for me, especially in that these layers each form some sort of foundational aspect of the work, whether or not they are immediately visible to us as spectators.

———
¹ My holiday is going great, especially if like me, “holiday” to you means “exorbitant amounts of sleeping, eating, reading, and kissing canines.”

This sea is a sea of grief

Hello dear reader,

As you can probably surmise from a variety of breakdowns in the last few weeks — lovingly? neurotically? — documented across a variety of social media platforms, I am not in a good place. Or have not been. Or have been on the way out of the not-good place, but always find my way back to it.

(Have I confused you yet?)

There have been many factors to factor into this era of deterioration, not least of which are housing issues and friends issues and loneliness issues and work issues and mental health issues and general lack of confidence in my workplace issues and getting locked out of my studio in the middle of the night with a massive A3+ printer delivery so I had to beg a stranger in the studio who lives all the way in Wood Green to please lend me their key because everything of value that I own is locked in my unlocked studio issues.

That being said, I can’t really complain too much. I’ve been on-and-off crying (as in full-on sobbing) for no reason in particular, or for every conceivable reason with no particularity. But my point is that I have been sad, and I don’t know how to get out of it.

Sometimes, the only way I can distract myself without feeling even more like shit, i.e. wasting away in front of the television, is to draw and paint and make something. Even though I usually hate what I make 10 seconds later. It provides that bit of relief that I need, a reprieve from whatever useless fucking thing has set my brain on fire.

And I used to think that the art that I made in lieu of having therapy was inherently bad with no value and no deliberate purpose or message — and perhaps, part of me still thinks that — but now, I think, a little bit, like I maybe see it a little differently, like it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any meaning or that it was made mindlessly or whatever.

Because it’s what’s worked to calm me down and it’s what’s led me out of my own head before I get so completely lost in it. I always say that I’m not homesick — and I’m not; though that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the people in my life who are now so far away — but living on my own and dealing with people who may not have my best interests in mind and struggling to keep afloat have all been difficult, though valuable and necessary lessons.

I am still not in a good place. I thought I was nearing the end of this cycle of depression (because you can tell when the lows are about to hit, and there’s nothing really to do except to wait them out), but I think I’m being roped back in. I called a GP today to set a repeat prescription for my SSRIs and I won’t run out of the meds I need to function properly. I made good food for myself even though all I wanted to do was eat like a college student again. I’m learning to take care of myself, whatever that means.

It’s hard and I’m tired, but I think this might be an important time. So, I’m also paying attention, and I’m dealing with it the best way I know how to.

Three Things No. 1

Three things (but not the only things) I’ve been enjoying lately, shared in an effort to de-avalanche this collection of enjoyment that I want to share, and also that feels like an avalanche. If that makes sense. Think of these as a loose selection of recommendations, if it doesn’t.

Because that’s what it is, and that’s what I should have said in the first place. (Sorry.)

St. Vincent — “MassEducation” + at Cadogan Hall with Thomas Bartlett

A few weeks ago, St. Vincent released a “reimagining” of her album, released last year, Masseduction. MassEducation (which funnily enough was how I initially read the album’s original title) is a collection of stripped down renditions of Masseduction. It’s simpler than how I’m explaining it… but anyway, I love this version a lot, and I was able to witness it first during this gig that I still feel very lucky to have witnessed.

Basically, I was working about 40 hours a week during that period of summer, and I’d managed to get a ticket even though I was 180-something in the queue, and on the day of the concert, I shuttled into this beautiful, fairly small concert hall, downed two double-whiskey highballs because the bar was closing at seven, and Annie Clark was speaking so sweetly and Thomas Bartlett was playing the piano so beautifully, and honestly, it might be one of the best nights I’ve ever had here, even though my shoes were pinching my feet and I was watching this magical thing unfold before my eyes, alone, and I was bone-tired from being at work all day.

Basically, it was a time. Below are photographs I managed to sneak from all the way over at Row N, and also here are two videos: which I was happy I managed to take because Annie Clark is the most charming, and I don’t mind at all that she probably knows it.

Prince Johnny—

New York—

Photos by me, taken from a distance, because I had no choice, lol—

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Vietnamese Irish Coffee (+ wearing outerwear indoors)

LOOK, it’s very cold ’round these parts right now, for some reason, and I am sadly reliant on various stimulants, i.e. caffeine and alcohol, to get me through the day. A sad reality, but no one cares. Anyway, this drink copped from this blog is basically hitting two birds with one stone, etc., and also I am basically eating condensed milk with a spoon, “so I don’t waste anything,” so that’s obviously another plus.

Homecoming

I watch a lot of television, and a lot of it is, truthfully, crap. HOWEVER, I am delighted to say that the latest one I mainlined is, for the most part, a winner. Homecoming is by Amazon (sorry, world) and was adapted from a podcast by Gimlet. It stars Julia Roberts (yes! Julia Roberts! On a T.V. show!) and it is, quite frankly, a joy to watch. It’s slow, but engaging, I thought. And the production’s use of the visuals is so good and makes so much sense, when interwoven with the narrative. I love it so much, I watch the credits. The music and the sound design are so good. It’s so thoughtful and considered and well-acted. I can watch them all day, basically. (And I pretty much did.)

ALSO, My Best Friend’s Wedding reunion? Yes, pls.