Where is Home?
January 15, 2022 - February 05,2022
SOMETHING MORE THAN JOURNEY By Kaye O’Yek
As Filipinos seek greener pastures and opportunities abroad to provide for their families, a Negros Occidental-born contemporary artist living and working overseas longs for his native land. In his recent exhibition, Where is Home?, Proceso Gelladuga II dissects the transportability of sanctuary and living in transience.
Movement and fluidity embody majority of Gelladuga’s works, as seen from his first exhibition in Boston Gallery, Flight of the Swans, in 2010, and continued with his Maleta series and Children of War dance performance in 2017. A disciple of dance since childhood, he is immersed in contemporary dance performance and choreography, which led to his career as a Hong Kong Disneyland cast member and a contemporary dance teacher, and into a fruitful personal and professional partnership with his wife and collaborator Nina. A self-taught artist, he was spurred into painting seriously in 2008 under the tutelage of Renato Habulan, though he has had decades of experience in drawing portraits and designing costumes for productions.
Gelladuga’s experiences as an overseas Filipino worker informs his visual arts practice immensely. Moreso during the Coronavirus pandemic, the artist became a living, breathing definition of Filipino flexibility, as he had to add Zoom lessons to supplement his income during park closures. This also afforded him the time and quiet space to ruminate deeply about the global disaster and its effect on children caught in crisis, as head of a migrant family living abroad with a young daughter, and as a painter whose works anchor themselves on faithful renditions of physicality and agility in motion.
With pieces resembling choreographies transferred into canvas, Gelladuga presents new paintings in Where is Home? with figures first imagined in Crossing Borders, a dance video choreographed and directed by the artist and his wife with the help of their dancer and videographer friends, shot and documented in 2019. Shifting bodies frozen as references make up most of the compositions that portray survival, strength, intimacy, grace and hope. Added to this are inspiration from the poignant words by British Somalian poet, Warsan Shire about mutable shelter brought about by adversity, Home, which reads in part:
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
your survival is more important
Survival is indeed of utmost importance, as man sees himself in a battle against the elements, in this case, the turbulent waters of the sea, and dark, looming clouds overhead. Dreamers Float portrays three figures in bright yellow life vests, perhaps psyching themselves for sustained endurance while waiting for rescue, refusing to be burdened by their traumatic pasts. Father and Child shows a man cradling his daughter protectively, going against the more commonly pictured mother and child motif popular throughout art history yet still providing notions of comfort and nurturance. My Strength and My Refuge, two pieces with seemingly similar compositions, show where an individual draws courage and fortitude in times of great hardship– with personal power buttressed by the support of intimate relationships and inspiration not only for the self to survive, but sustain a life of dignity with loved ones. Adrift references Gelladuga’s past Maleta series, with a suitcase resembling the weather-beaten safety colors of SOLAS-regulated liferafts pushed into shore by waves. Graphite on paper works continue Gelladuga’s depiction of water-drenched bodies in Refuge 1 and 2 immortalizing poses that underscore an end to the struggle, life guaranteed continued existence.
Gelladuga’s Where is Home? asks viewers directly where they themselves retreat for sanctuary, and shows that home does not instantly translate to a roof over one’s head. Shelter is where one finds rest and subsistence, preferably in the company of family and friends, but home is often where, as they say, one’s heart is, regardless of country or international borders that welcomes refugees of all races. The artist’s treatment of water as means of washing away the dust and sweat smelling of the earth of one’s homeland, transporter of bodies and futures to foreign shores, and holder of consciousness and aspirations as one manages to remain afloat is carried by waves, splashes, and drips, with masterful brushstrokes drenching his pieces in longing and promise in equal measure.