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17 OCTOBER 2020




More than six months since the country had seen its first case of the Coronavirus. Still, we all seem to be walking on eggshells as we navigate through all aspects of our lives affected by the pandemic. The exhibition “Oh Well” is a visual manifestation of how personal and collective struggles are amplified due to the situation’s volatility. Here, artists Raphael Carloto and Maribel Magpoc, look into the effects of the present time in the human psyche and how it transforms society.


“Oh Well” demonstrates dual narratives hinged on difficult emotions and how we deal with them. Subdued images of urban scenes are at the center of Carloto’s works. Laborers on their way to work and go about their day while wearing a mask. These are tales we see as we turn on the news. Carloto describes these scenarios through varying degrees of feelings and emotions: guilt, pain, frustration, discomfort, and being overwhelmed by the sudden changes we now have to face. Carloto’s sentiments are embodied within these images: on the outside, the world appears to have regained some sense of normality, and yet, internally, we are all screaming. In one of his paintings, a distorted male figure is at the center of the canvas. He stands aloof and yet tussles to tilt his head and meet the viewer, but he never makes it. Carloto compares this with anxiety when in the middle of a crowd; he wants to connect and talk to people but finds himself in an uncomfortable position. After months of isolation, this must have been the case for many of us. The uncertainty of our situation is depicted in another of Carloto’s works where different doors are standing inside a workshop. The artist compares this to the similarities between the paths we are led and our fear with the people we allow to enter. Should we instead build our own door?


Meanwhile, the works of Maribel Magpoc illustrate narratives that appear to have been seized in time. Magpoc’s body of works depicts her sister, who is living with Down syndrome, in everyday scenarios. This conscious insertion of her subject calls for equal rights and treatment of people with disabilities. However, today the world has turned 360-degree. Magpoc painted images of her sister in scenes that mirror what the rest of us are doing: inside our homes and hopelessly waiting for progress on how to defeat the notorious virus. The irregularity of the circumstances re-defined our capacities to survive, whether in our physical or emotional state. Magpoc paints a familiar image: a girl sitting in front of a computer while her face communicates her exhaustion from all of it. The next scene tells us that she is in the middle of a virtual celebration. The supposed joyous moment is clouded with everyone’s trauma and attempts to grasp any normal sense. Somber mood emits from objects that should have been symbols of delight. Then, Magpoc paints us another interpretation: her sister sitting beside a pile of luggage while a photo of the Eiffel Tower in Paris hovers around her head. On the other hand, next to it is an image of different indoor plants. Perhaps, what the artist wants us to realize is that despite restrictions in mobility, we can still thrive and grow.


However, the mood of all the works in this exhibition releases either a sense of resignation or resilience. There’s a heaviness in our chests and sometimes, moments of relief. For now, expressing that is maybe enough. Oh, well.

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