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May 21, 2022 - June 11, 2022
On Growing, Time, and Tight Spaces
Left unchecked, any living organism has the tendency to continue growing. Untamed, the possibilities are endless.
Coming out of an event that forced humankind to halt many activities considered as essential to daily existence, many had to limit movement and travel. Yet that was no condition for growth to stop. Some saw themselves becoming rooted to their abodes: either working or studying from home, or becoming more engaged parents; some branched out into previously unexplored territories: like finally starting hobbies long dreamt of, or opening online stores selling homemade bread and pastries.
Beginning the pandemic stranded at a residency in Negros, Mars Bugaoan made a choice to continue an exhibition against the odds. It was the expected product of the residency anyway. After ten months in provincial lockdown, he was able to stage an exhibition in Manila that were reflections of his city dwelling that he had been away from for so long. It did include references to Negros. A few months down the line was another exhibition which allowed him to really think back and synthesize the time he had spent in Negros - an environment both desired yet not for daily consumption. Most recently is an experimental installation that is practically an archaeological record, a visual documentation of the artist’s efforts in recent years.*
After what can be seen as an entire cycle of artmaking and exhibiting from 2020 to 2022, Bugaoan had a realization: it started from the beginning. Well, that doesn’t sound much but most people assume that choices taken later in life just happen out of serendipity. The time alone allowed him a clarity to see a path that goes all the way back to his birth — or even before that — of how he is borne of the choices of his ancestors or even the events of the Big Bang. Everything starts from the beginning, as it's a very good place to start, but many times we don’t realize that we’ve already begun - that we have been ready for the world despite our doubts and hesitation. Wildly growing - feeling the moment, feeling the time - he made various life choices that all somehow led to where he is right now. With what can be seen as introspective, he put together an exhibition that is both intensely personal, but also viewed from an external perspective.
It is said that memory is sometimes kept in sensorial containments, like a particular odor that reminds you of elementary school lunches, or a certain musical genre that brings back the old days. Sky blue, orange, yellow, green, pink - each color is akin to a specific energy from that period in time. Furthering his implasto series of works - a clever take on the plastic quality of paint by using plastic as if it were actual thick daubs - each has a dominant color that harks back to a certain point in the artist’s life.
Speaking of containers and memories, there is one work that is of particular interest: a portrait of the artist’s father made out of the blister packs from medication he has been taking daily since 2017. Piece by piece, it is a visual metaphor of everyday survival and collective coping.
Tying the exhibition together is an installation that is a stark reminder of the unseen forces that shape us - a proof of life. Steel scaffolding is appropriated, merged with plastic. The strips — draped, arranged, composed and built up around the metal form, adding intuitive paths via node-like knotting — turning them into a visual metaphor of an organism’s dominion over the built environment.
Living in unprecedented and interesting times - we discovered ourselves, we got to know ourselves better, we became more of who we are. Having been forced into limited spaces, we emerged from the wild growth where in truth, many of us grew inwards.
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In February 2020, the artist started his residency at The Abungalow Project In Talisay, Negros Occidental. After lockdown was declared in March 2020, it took ten months before restrictions were eased enough for travel. Prior to his return, he held a solo exhibition at Kapitana Gallery in Talisay in April 2020. Planned as a physical show, the decision to turn it into an online exhibition makes it perhaps the very first of the pandemic’s online shows. Back in Manila, he then had solo exhibitions in February 2021 at Artinformal Makati, and July 2021 at Vinyl on Vinyl Gallery - with both exhibitions using elements and content from his Lockdown Period. The rest of the year was leading up to his installation for the Thirteen Artists Award 2021 Exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which after many safety postponements, opened in March 2022.
still in the time of Covid, 2022
Mars Bugaoan (b.1988)
He took up a degree in Fine Arts with a major in Advertising from the University of Santo Tomas and graduated with cum laude honors. Since 2016, his works have been highly recognised in various galleries in the metro and he was shortlisted for the Ateneo Art Awards in 2018 and 2021. In 2021, he was one of the recipients of the 13 Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
His works tell stories of impermanence, survival, and of vulnerability alongside power by experimenting, manipulating, and transforming discarded everyday objects that he finds while creating his pieces.
Bugaoan participated in the Bellas Artes Projects: Namamahay Flash Residency in Bataan. He was also a participant in the Bungalow Residency Project in Negros Occidental, as well as the Pasaload Online Residency by Load Na Dito Projects.
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