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Asymmetrical Shelter (Kalangan)

Clark Manalo

October 08 - 29, 2022

Press Release

Keeping Afloat

In Asymmetrical Shelter, Clark Manalo rides on the concept of a kalangan, a bamboo raft or logs lashed together, which in his native Navotas is an integral part of a fisherman's marine armory. A coastal town in the northwest part of the metro, Navotas was said to have gotten its name from butas or nabutas when a piece of its land was eaten away by the sea until an opening pierced through it. Now, the city is considered the Fishing Capital of the Philippines, borne on fishermen's sweaty brows, seabound labors, and a constant battle against nature's whims.

Manalo witnessed how fishermen counted on the kalangan to fulfill different roles in their vocation. Light fishing vessels were mounted on them, keeping them afloat and, depending on high or low tide, may be seen dotting the water line. The kalangan also served as a temporary shelter where fishermen could take quick naps, darn their nets, or fix fishing traps. Some even created makeshift sheds on these improvised bamboo rafts, making lightly-roofed mobile homes or even sanctuaries for some of their fishing tools and the bancas themselves. Waterlilies, mushrooms, and different water plants at times clumped up amongst the wet wood, taking root and being transplanted amid rivers and streams.

With these simple floating machines as the focus of Manalo's most recent exhibition, he tackles how man's survival instincts allow him to continue existing everyday despite having life itself being precariously imbalanced, always on the brink of toppling over and being swept out from under our feet. At any time, a mighty wave of misfortune may wash off all efforts and the results of backbreaking work. A kalangan becomes a place of comfort and reassurance, showing order in chaos and a much-needed contraption in protecting existence, trade, and property.

Thus the artist surrounds his kalangan with his signature glitches and repetitions of images, mixing sun-browned human limbs with water lilies and neon orange life preservers. A white outline of a stevedore or a figure transplanted with his belongings on his shoulders stands on one for a free ride, the kalangan serving as a barnacled buoy, a moving roadway transporting him towards another destination. A heavily tattooed fisherman melds into one, as it bears rescue lifesavers and life-sacrificing flags, with a popular soda container utilized for waterlogged greenery. Upon closer look, the kalangan becomes a part of another tattooed individual more integrated into the bamboo pieces, the components of a banca. The kalangan may be an assemblage of slowly decomposing bamboo rafts and logs, but it still signifies a place of comfort and utility, a platform on dry land, and a means of survival in high waters. His kalangan becomes kanlungan, a sanctuary that offers refuge and safety. It is and will remain part of Navotas' waterscapes as it shows its advantage over modern and expensive plastic and metal vessels.

Manalo visualizes metaphors in his placement of the kalangan in his color-saturated, skillfully painted, and well-thought-out works; he reminds us that every day offers flotation devices to help us survive and cope. Though not everyone is built for a life at sea under the burning hot sun, in case we see ourselves in sink-or-float situations, we can be supported by instruments that buoy us and not drown us and our indefatigable spirits. When a hand-wrought haven offers a lopsided expedition through rough waters, we have the agency to right it and acquire balance in the end

- Kaye O’Yek

Clark Manalo (b.1995)

is a social realist artist, who is a graduate of Advertising at the Technological University of the Philippines. In 2021. He received a Special Citation Award for the Oil/Acrylic on Canvas category at the Metrobank Art & Design Excellence program.

For his upcoming exhibit– Titled “Asymmetrical Shelter” (Kalangan), Manalo was inspired by his family history of being a Fisherman. “Kalangan”-- a floating machine composed of bamboo raft or troso which they use for working and considered their 2nd shelter. Manalo describes it as a place of comfort and a space for "order in chaos".

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