The common perception is that writers aren’t usually visual artists also, because working with words is different from creating images.
Art show Chromatext Rebooted gives a chance, not only to spectators, but also to writers themselves, to show how they can expand into other forms of artistic expression.
The show, curated by Jean Marie Syjuco and Krip Yuson for the Philippine Literary Arts Council, opened last Nov. 6 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
The show features the artworks of over 120 writers, poets, journalists, and visual artists. The individual and collaborated works are related to words, poems, and prose, and includes abstract, sculptural, conceptual, and digital works.
On one wall hangs Butch Dalisay’s framed short story, about a man who buys a pen and a bottle of rare Persian Rose ink online—and what happens when he tries them out.
Poems by Krip Yuson, Marne Kilates, Gemino Abad, and Eileen Tabios, among others, line the walls. Danny Sillada’s Constipated Time is a gleaming white porcelain toilet that somewhere in its innards contained a recorder that played the sound of a flushing toilet in a continuous loop. Padma Perez created a blanket fort strewn with Dr. Seuss books, a recorded poem playing in the background.
There are also wooden book stools by the late Edd Aragon. A sculpture of a house rising out of a book—Homage to Gibran—by Maxine Syjuco. A red crop top embroidered with words, a collaboration between Frank Cimatu and Dumay Solinggay. A tall canvas completely covered with words written in black ink that in places had run out to light grey, only to be continued with a fresh marker. A neon sign by Cesare AX Syjuco.
The piece that I wanted to take home was a magnificent black velvet and gold winged throne by Jean Marie Syjuco that proudly bore the sign “Salumpuwet.” Imagine a set of six of those around the dinner table—now that’s living it up.
I was entranced by the coffee art of Rev Cruz. His painting “Fifty Shades of Coffee” depicts a man and woman contorted around each other in a yin-yang shape, while text—“Smell me! Touch me! Coffee Beans! Coffee Stains!
Instant! Ground!”—fills the blank spaces around them. The entire work was created using only different shades of coffee.
It inspired me to try coffee as a pigment, so back at home, I laid a wash of home-brewed Arabica on a sheet of watercolor paper. The paper took on a lovely warm beige stain and smelled sweet, like coffee with plenty of brown sugar. This is how art informs, teaches, and inspires the creation of new works, in a cycle of birth-remix-rebirth.
Among the viewers at the gallery when I visited the show last Jan. 5 were some college students. Sandra, 24, said, “It was interesting to see how different artists interpreted the theme in their own unique ways.” Rose, 17: “Art is a way of communicating on deeper level. Art and language are inextricable. And it’s fascinating to see how different people use the power of words in their art.”
Not all the works are easy to interpret, understand, or appreciate. Then again, art is relative, it is subjective—one man’s art is another man’s “what the hell is that?”
On Jan. 15, a closing party will be held, to be attended by the exhibit participants, along with the launching of Krip Yuson’s latest collection of poetry, Islands of Words And Other Poems, released by UST Publishing House.
Chromatext Rebooted closes on Sunday (Jan. 17) —do try to catch it if you haven’t seen it yet. The next one might not be for a long time yet.
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