MARK LESTER ESPINA
December 14, 2021 - January 08, 2022
Toward the Comfort of Abstraction
In the midst of the commotion of urban life, especially with the resumption of activities in the wake of a debilitating global pandemic, pockets of rest are hard to come by. Even within our domestic spaces, distractions abound, pummeling us with movies and music on-demand, endless social media posts and updates, the titillation of 24/7 connectivity. Visual art, whose one durable quality is silence, does offer occasions of contemplation, especially when the works in question converse in an abstract language, free from the weight of representation and the clamor of associations.
In his solo exhibition, Tranquility, Mark Lester Espina envisions how this zone of quiet may be manifested by paintings that act as windows into a realm whose optical modulations are set on low. Looking at these works, the viewer engages with spare but meaningful elements, discerning shapes and patterns with how the pigment has been applied onto the canvas. In the absence of illustrative outline, these forms look mysterious, fleeting, and elusive, like thoughts about to vanish. Occasionally, the paint breaches onto the frame, as if to underscore how the latter’s perimeter is but an illusion and art has the capacity to overflow its unique qualities onto the world.
The process with which Espina has made this series of works is two-fold. After preparing the background that shows thick brushstrokes and instances of soft, pastel colors, the artist then shapes the plasticity of the pigment into something recognizable: a waterfall, a bouquet of flowers, a head of a rose (which also resembles a rotating celestial body). These images are suggested rather than specified. Their essentialized characteristics act as the symbolic reference to things in the world—the Platonic ideal. Because of the amorphous nature of the forms, they may be also seen as the artist’s thoughts and feelings crystallized into vibrating, coruscating impasto.
The abstract impulse evinced in these paintings is not new. In his previous exhibitions, Espina would apply flakes and scales of pigments on portraits and appropriations of iconic works, particularly on the dresses of the subjects, creating the tension between abstraction and figuration. Tranquility, however, signals an exploration into a new tangent, as the artist fully trusts how the materiality of the medium may be enacted to give form to interior states. These works are an important addition to the artist’s visual vocabulary, a way of accessing something ineffable and clothing it with art’s optical energies.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
Mark Lester Espina (b.1985) is a contemporary artist in the Philippines. His work has been garnering awards for over a decade in most of the prestigious competitions held in the country such as National Shell Art Competition and Vision Petron.
One of his distinguished works was the Van Gogh series. The choice of subject, his brush stroke, and the bold use of colors has inspired the younger generation to dabble and get into visual arts. For his upcoming exhibit, Espina wants to show a sense of tranquility in his works, free from commotion or distraction, which is something that his viewers can relate to, especially nowadays that stimulation is constantly around us.