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September 09, 2010

BENDIX M. FERNANDEZ

Moreen Austria and Jana Jumalon-Alano’s various works speak out boldly about their experiences as women and as artists in the contemporary milieu, while showcasing mood, narrative, and beauty in the female form. Though there is much in their exploration of art that is different, the two artists are bound by many other things: geography (both hail from Negros: Moreen from Bacolod, Jana from Dumaguete), the art making process, and their passion for their chosen subject.

In Womanspirit, opening September 11, 2010, at the Malkootha Artbud Gallery in Bacolod City, they team up to celebrate facets of the feminine with the viewing public.

Otherworldly vibrancy

Moreen Austria is no stranger to the Bacolod local art scene since she went public with her paintings nine years ago. She has exhibited with veteran Bacolod artists as part of the 3rd Eye Visual Artists group and BABAYI in the past.

Much of the charm in her paintings springs from her use of color and texture. Luminous multi-hued halos and blissful pyrotechnics of color surround her subjects, while sequins, beads, and other additive elements enhance the compositions the artist borrows from tradition. There is also an air of vulnerability in her paintings of a mother and child and gatherings of maidens. Most of her subjects rest their heads on their arms, turn their cheeks to cradle another, or curve their slender necks as if they were stalks of grain swaying in the wind.

“In painting, almost every move that I make I do by instinct,” Moreen states. “I pour paint in different colors, mix and blend them to create texture, then wait for a flash of images. Painting is just moving quickly enough to chase these images.”

This dream-like quality shows in the painting “Flores de Mayo” where three young women appear like wisps garlanded in the floral offerings of the festival. In “Rock”, we see a mother and child with eyes half-lidded, each serene and drawing love from each other, the artist’s impressionistic style providing a counterpart to the bare but telling title. All these captured dream-forms glow with otherworldly vibrancy that situate Moreen’s women in some gentle, spiritual realm.

Dark mirrors

Jana Jumalon-Alano, the other half of the two-(wo)man team, contributes to the art dialogue by providing a powerful contrast. Jana belongs to the Jumalon family of artists and has been a part of many group art exhibits in Zamboanga City, Baguio, Metro Manila, Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod, Davao, and Dipolog. She moved to Dumaguete eight years ago – a city which has witnessed her various passions in painting, terra cotta art making, and music.

All her travels and passions, her ups and downs, have built up a representation of the female form that is rendered raw and starkly minimal. In Jana’s women, we get a glimpse of mortality with all its wounds and triumphs. A series of multimedia works the artist calls her “dark mirrors” show self-portraits juxtaposed with found objects and brilliantly composed in black box-like frames that are both haunting and beautiful. One particular “dark mirror” stands out: a creation made from resin, glass, wood slabs, paper-mâché, and found metal objects where we see the artist’s portrait framed and surrounded by various circular forms that evoke celestial orbits.

Her rough paintings of nudes on paper are equally powerful – she focuses on the bodies themselves, relegating heads and limbs outside of the frame. “I sketch on 10-15 papers at the same time,” she states. “There is a feeling of something primal, of feeding something to the abyss until it springs something new when I create these works and I can only get it when I paint fast enough.”

Where Moreen’s paintings are ethereal, Jana’s dark portraits, her nudes on paper, and her torsos in terra cotta are grounded in a physical reality that values self-reflection and transforms fragility into strength.

Womanspirit may have two participating artists but it exists as a trinity with Razceljan Luis Salvarita conceptualizing the show at the helm of his new gallery, Malkootha Artbud. As a practicing Indonesia-based artist himself, Razceljan runs the gallery in part to support and promote women artists. “The word “Malkootha” itself stands on its name as a ‘nurturing Divine goddess for the Arts’,” he explains. “I want the gallery to exist as a playground for artists to showcase their works and to exist as an institution that brings cultural enrichment to the community.”