April 30 - May 22, 2021
The Proliferation of Flora
Amid the ranging pandemic in which people were mandated to stay at home in order to curtail the escalating rate of infection, many people found solace in the cultivation of plants, whether they are potted in small containers or made to show their full glory in a garden. Soon, what started as a tentative hobby flourished into an abiding passion with the emergence of the so-called plantitos and plantitas, whose main interest was to devote their loving attention to these green beauties and to look out for coveted plants that they may add to their collection.
This obsession with vibrant vegetation is captured by Erick Villarruz in his latest exhibition, Home Invaders. Meant to show how plants have overtaken the homes and lives of some people, the paintings spill over an abundance of leaves in domestic interiors where they have taken total and complete dominion. Rather than quiet, unassuming forms of life, the artist renders the plants as almost sentient beings, full of vitality and frenetic in their growth. Their flourishing is wild and grandiose, as though not even the walls of the sunlit rooms they occupy could prevent them from their unabated proliferation.
While it may be assumed that the reason for the plants’ hectic flourishing is the person who tends to them, the greens reveal a degree of independence, that they grow in such magnitude because of their own innate powers. Only in one work is a human presence depicted, a woman rendered in a ghostly outline sitting in a slim wing chair, a duet of pink blooms held to her lap. In the rest of the works, the plants have learned to thrive in such a confined place, a real possibility if ever man evaporates on the face of the Earth. Long after we have left the structures in the cities we have built, it is almost certain that plant life will continue, even—or especially without—human intervention.
For Villarruz, the symbiotic relationship between the world of man and the world of plants is important as the latter offers a “great escape from the stress, fear, anxiety, and depression brought about by the challenging times we are facing due to the pandemic,” the artist states. “Some people make it as a hobby to cultivate plants and later on make it as their outlet to express the overflowing emotions from within—a real relationship which reminds us to take care of them as much as how they take care of us.”
In the larger of scheme of things, the works of Villarruz align to the growing consciousness of taking care of the planet, as our survival rests upon the continued existence of the rest of creation, not least of which are the plants. “As we sleep, they are still there giving off fresh air for us to breathe,” he says. The word “intruder” in the title is, of course, meant ironically and tenderly: “an intruder we definitely love and completes our comfort zone—the place we call ‘home.’”
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana