ELMER BORLONGAN, PLET BORLONGAN,
AND DANIEL DELA CRUZ
27-31 March 2019
Central Harbourfront, Hong Kong
Art Cube Gallery presents “Brave Soldiers” featuring works by Elmer Borlongan, Plet Bolipata, and Daniel Dela Cruz. The exhibition explores the theme of heroism in its various context; from valiant displays of valor as exemplified by Bolipata’s assemblages, which draw inspiration from Philippine history and feminism; everyday heroism of those who dedicate themselves to causes which transcend them, as illustrated in the paintings of Borlongan; to the nobility of the domestic, which is the theme of the sculptures of Dela Cruz. As an exhibition, it examines the theme laterally, amidst differing context, and untangles the interweaving elements of duty and dedication, submission and transcendence, individuality and the collective; which gives heroism its context and nuances.
Plet Bolipata is known for her multimedia works which span mosaics, sculptures, assemblages, and constructions. Through the evocative pairings of different surfaces, textures, and juxtaposing them with often opposing metaphors, Bolipata succeeds in creating contrasts in often familiar themes, to create breakthroughs of insight. Her work “Gabriela Silang,” for example, is inspired by a real person canonized as a hero through her prowess in battling the Spanish colonial military as a female general of the Philippine resistance in the 19th century. Through a staging which uses the generic wooden human body model, plastic beads, and trinkets, Bolipata creates a contemporary image of the hero which borders on the irreverent. Presenting the opposing Spanish Soldiers in the same way, Bolipata imbues both parties with nobility – one through her bravery, and the other through their duty.
Elmer Borlongan on the other hand, draws from the lives of his peers, who, though actively engaged in art, have expanded their dedication to civic causes. “Fernando Sena” is a successful painter who sets aside time and resources to teach art to prisoners for them to make sense of their condition and to be productive while incarcerated. “Art Relief Mobile Kitchen” pays homage to peers Precious Leano, Alex Baluyut, and their group, who organize mobile kitchens to give food relief to Philippine communities which suffer from disasters. Borlongan’s paintings focus on artists who go beyond their medium and create art from life.
The subject of the sculptures of Daniel Dela Cruz is heroism in the home. Bringing the locus of heroism away from the public, and into the private, Dela Cruz further insinuates that heroism is nurtured, deeply personal, and happens not in a moment, but in the countless moments which build up our lives. All the figures in his sculptures are presented on step ladders, evoking both passage and process before the pinnacle is achieved. With titles like “We don’t raise heroes, we raise sons,” and “The first time I met you,” the role of parents and parenting comep to the fore, and ennoble the confines of the domestic, and the choices we make in private.
Surprisingly, “Brave Soldiers” skirts issues of nation and government (the usual institutions that canonize heroes), in favor of civic society and the private. Perhaps it is as Dela Cruz posits, that contemporary heroism happens in private, and within small groups, opening its call to everyone, regardless of nationality or persuasion.