February 27 - March 20, 2021
Despite the seeming sophistication of the life we live in, superstitions continue to inform, if not govern, our everyday conduct, as we believe that certain actions may appease the gods or hold back ill health or bad fortune. For some, the act of knocking on wood three times in order to counteract an undesirable outcome may be born out of force of habit and not from some abiding faith that a higher force controls our destiny. Regardless how we view these things, there appears to be some kind of a psychological necessity to doing utterly irrational actions in order to assuage deep-seated fears.
In his solo exhibition, Disparatis, Nick Navarro turns these superstitions on their heads, not to contradict them but to extend their import and tease out other possible associations and meanings. For instance, in the work, “Sa ating pagkabusog ay di na muli tayo makukuntento,” the artist confronts the superstition that warns of sleeping while hungry (or else the soul will escape the body to seek a place where food is abundant and from where it may not be able to return) by asking what if the hunger is for knowledge. Once this hunger is partly assuaged, will the soul have the desire to still return, having the full awareness that knowledge is limitless?
Through a highly charged depiction of a room, the artist conveys this idea by painting it with wide open windows punctuated with mirrors, an open book paired with a glass of water, and an empty bed to convey that the inhabitant has embarked on a journey. On a wall is painting that shows a white silhouette of a man—the soul—consuming a book. Such a figuration features a combination of the actual, the surreal, and the symbolic, all mingling together to evoke Navarro’s contemplations.
In another painting, “Lulong tayo kung saan tayo nalulunod,” Navarro takes on the superstition that claims that whoever sleeps with wet hair will be become blind or mad. What if, instead of wet hair, it is the anxieties that attend to us as we sleep, drenching us with restlessness? To evoke the extension of this superstition, the artist positions a shower head that issues forth a steady jet of water onto the pillow, making anyone under it to be perpetually disturbed. Clumps of hair, lying scattered onto the floor, seem to have been cut in a fit of madness from this internal turmoil.
For Navarro, these superstitions draw their sustenance from the shared belief of people which assure their continued existence. In the work, “Pananda ang naghuhudyat para maniwala at hindi pangitain,” a bagua mirror takes a central position in the room to deflect bad energy. Since this supposed energy is invisible as it is mysterious, a physical object has to be constructed in order to combat it, thereby solving the problem. In the same painting, the artist shows how the supposed symbolism of certain objects is arbitrary. For instance, a crow signifies bad luck; once they’re grouped into four, they suggest abundance.
Disparatis is an incisive take on superstition and how it may be shaped to the image of the one telling it as way to structure certain behaviors, beliefs, and ways of being in the world. Its haunting iconography, evoked through a combination of acrylic and calcium carbonate, pictorially presents how these superstitions may be read and understood in light of the challenges that beset the contemporary times. Especially in this period of indeterminacy, various modes of superstition take root, offering solace towards the things that elude our slippery human grasp.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana