Opening: 14 November 2013, 6 - 9 pm
In the art world of the Philippines there were - and continue to be – several clear and often opposing tendencies: nostalgic representations of peasant life, social realism, conceptual art and works that though object-encrusted are anti-Catholic. Geraldine Javier has responded against all these tendencies to create a complex and dynamic body of work. Images of rural life and nature recur in her work, but are far from reassuringly comfortable. What she takes from the social realists is a concern with painting things and people well, but her position is a more personal one - one that may be defined more as moral than political, and as implicit rather than explicit. An intuitive artist rather than a theoretically driven one she has nevertheless been profoundly affected by studying under conceptual artists.
After a childhood in the provincial town of Candelaria she left for Manila where she spent five years studying to be a nurse before enrolling at the art school of University of Philippines (UP). After the time of her participation in the artist’s collective Surrounded by Water (SBW) between 1999 and 2003, her work became more overtly “figurative” or “narrative” and two recurrent themes emerged: childhood and death. Her childhood had been characterised by a delight in play and nature but also by acute illnesses that kept her inside and away from the company of other children. Death, she remarks, she was always curious about. Photographs are important sources and tools in her work process for the paintings.
She is often referred to as a narrative artist, but let us consider the actual status of the “narrative” in these works: more than telling a story they are about setting up a situation. (Javier prefers the word “vision”.) Things are often about to happen or have happened in these paintings. We don’t know why or how. They are Problem Pictures: we have to work out what is there and what will happen. They are open ended. She had always used thread in her collages but from 2006 she began to add embroidery to the paintings. Other elements, collaged, embroidered or sculptural, began to colonise her paintings.
This exhibition is perhaps an important landmark for her as paintings, objects and installations are not presented separately, but as organically blended together in five works. Moreover, the whole exhibition is conceived and should be experienced as a larger entity.
The tents, all of them covered with hammered leaves, in which the five paintings are sheltered act as refuges for other objects. Tucked behind the paintings for the curious to find they may seem to be secrets of the imagination or the memory. All figures in her paintings are grey. Are they made of stone or are they ghosts? Strangely it is something many viewers do not notice immediately or even at all. Grisaille is a distancing device for painters, and a way of harmonising a picture. Used in contrast to colour, black and white can signify from another world, time or state of being.
Excerpts from the essay “Geraldine Javier” by Tony Godfrey, 2013.
Press review by KUNST Magazin from 25 October 2013.
Potsdamer Strasse 96
For further information, please contact Lisa Polten (Lisa@arndtberlin.com)