The Philippine Star
‘You Are Here’
What does it mean to be empty?
This is the haunting question that curator Arianna Z. Mercado explores in the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ newest exhibit of abstract works,
You Are Here. To be displayed at the lobby of CCP’s Little Theater until May 7, the show features works from nine Filipino abstract artists namely National Artist for Visual Arts Arturo Luz, Lee Aguinaldo, Raymundo Albano, Augusto Albor, Constancio Bernardo, Ibarra dela Rosa, Lao Lianben, Lani Maestro and Ben Maramag.
Since the 19th century, abstraction has been challenging classic art and traditional works with its indiscernible forms, bare lines and “blank” canvases. It often expresses the power of space and ambiguity in expressing transcendental and philosophical realities that cannot be concretely manifested.
Arianna’s selection of works from the CCP visual arts collection revolves around the concept of emptiness. In works like Augusto Albor’s Fixation and Lani Maestro’s
Untitled, emptiness is not devoid of meaning; rather, it is a space for beginnings, experimentation and change. It is a pure state, from which new ideas can grow.
Other paintings in the selection, including Ibarra dela Rosa’s Novaliches, overflow with colors and textures but still avoid showing any distinct shapes and figures. The meaning of these pieces lies in their ambiguity, with the overlapping colors and jumbled shapes forming new images and concepts with every passing second that the viewer spends with the works.
There are only few pieces in this exhibit, allowing visitors to linger and reflect on each painting. “What struck me most was that for abstract works, what’s important in appreciating them is the engagement the viewer has,” Arianna says. “Sometimes, when you look at it, you just pass it by. But when you really look at it, you ask yourself questions about it — being present helps you find a deeper understanding and appreciation for works like these.”
The open- endedness of the central theme makes it difficult to pinpoint an overarching tone in the exhibit. Emptiness can be gloomy and lonely, or it can be comforting and peaceful. But if there is one thing we can take away from the exhibit, it’s that emptiness can make you think.