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October 7 - 28, 2023
On Gentleness and Lost Slippers
A simple, happy life straight out of a dream exists — as the world continues to fixate on a time when things were better, a nostalgia that runs across all generations from boomers to gen Z’s.
Painting a picture of such life is not as easy as it sounds, because some fall into the trap of an over-idealized, Amorsolo-esque landscape that is both idyllic and dismissive of social truths. Negros Oriental born and raised visual artist Rey Labarento presents a poignant glimpse of this life – his life, his inspirations, through his Neighborhood of Valencia, Negros Oriental and its neighboring Dumaguete City.
Some present themselves as a kind of common sight, but bear a uniqueness gifted by time and place. Sundays are family days, and some hang out at the local cockpit, where the Bantam Lover also chills. Somewhere down the road, passing the time in his own cyber world is the Pisonet Boy. “Zoom” had a different meaning compared to the one we are used to now: instead of a detached convenience for meeting, Ligiron Riders is definitive of many Negrense childhoods. A ligiron is like a scooter made of bamboo and other wood, originally used in farming but has evolved into an iconic pastime for kids both young and at heart.
One of the iconic things about Dumaguete is that it is known as the “City of Gentle People.” From Rizal Boulevard to Valencia Plaza, one can see all sorts of characters — all of them part of a colourful spectrum of gentleness. Let your imagination fly listening to The Story Teller, and then go for a fun roundabout on a bike with your Playmate. After A Long Day, as the sun sets, one of the kids goes home with her favourite person whom she calls: My Super Lolo.
While there is a lot of innocence among the gentleness, there are also scenes much closer to reality; not as wholesome as some would say. With a little bit of alcohol, the stresses of the day can fade away. Everyone wants to enjoy their Rest Day, as it becomes Morning in the Night. When the bottle(s) are empty, it's time to say Let’s Go Home, and when it's too far, one couch is enough to prove that Sharing is Caring.
Common to all are blurred backgrounds which are clear locations in the minds of locals: old family houses, local hangouts, the built environment that everyone grew up with. The figures hold a certain abstraction, being rendered all in white — but this is a metaphor for an uncomplicated life — which at the same time is awash in colourful detail through string made from frayed edges of the canvas. All throughout are perfect details of furry friends: cats, dogs, pigeons running, flying around; these too are part of daily scenes. These slices of life from all over the Neighborhood impart the feeling that elsewhere manifests as nostalgia for the present.
One might notice a missing slipper here or there — this is not a lack thereof, but rather an
ode to simple people who go on through life with one bare foot.
Lxx, Sept 2023
Rey Labarento is a visual artist and nature lover from Valencia, Negros Oriental. His body of work involves constant observation and the depiction of his local environment and its people. He examines both their humanity and archives the sights, sounds, and scenes of the times.
While his style evokes a certain naivety, his process deconstructs visual components into pronounced commentaries on society. This is achieved through the use of negative space, blurred backgrounds, and hyperactive detail. The result is a body of work that is both poignant and contemporary.
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