Studies on the human psyche
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte
Visual artist Niccolo Jose successfully opened another one-man exhibit at the Altro Mondo Arte Contemporenea on the 3rd Level of Greenbelt 5 Mall in Ayala Center Makati. Simply dubbed “Remnants,” the three-week show is an exhibition of new sculptural pieces that were all culled from recycled wood. Each piece utilizes reclaimed Filipino wood such as sampalok (tamarind), narra, molave and mahogany; bringing forth a fresh and new tale on sculpture and medium.
“This is my second one-man show. The first one was mounted in Nov. 2012 entitled “Alice in Wonderland.” It featured functional art like home fixtures and furnishings and all other things one can find in Wonderland. I’ve also done paintings using ceramic, acrylic and water color as well as portraiture in the past. I’ve done sculpture and installation art too. These were some of the things I did while attending college in Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon. I finished Bachelor of Arts from that institution, majoring in Environmental Studies and Sculpture. Some of my commissioned works can be found at the International School in the Bonifacio Global City and those that have been shipped to Mexico. For this exhibition, the human anatomy is my inspiration. Remnants is a poetic immortalization of my moments, thoughts, and glimpses into other people’s lives,” shared the artist, during an exclusive interview.
The human forms in Jose’s works are not anatomical. Rather, human physiology is artistically suggested, or gestured toward rather than illustrated. What we see in Jose’s artworks is therefore the abstraction than the representation of human anatomy – its parts, and innards, that, in the image, seem to have been brought up out into the light for exposure and scrutiny. Some of these are the most unusual nudes that one can come across; as the stripping of the human body is more than just a matter of absent textile. In this collection, the inner is literally the outside (exterior), and the blur of the distinction is brought to solid, dramatic effect with the unlikely material of wood.
“Wood symbolizes growth as it keeps moving; it is alive. It is a hard material but once collaborated, it can make an unlimited number of things. Inspired by the humdrum of everyday life and the individual’s state of mind, I wanted to create an avenue for emotions on an entirely new aesthetic.
“Thus, the challenge to paint figures in wood and to capture their emotions and expressions melded beautifully with my chosen medium. The character and personality of each subject was brought out through the grain, texture and color of the wood – a medium whose own characteristics created an enduring persona of its own,” he added.
Many other artists have done the same artistic gesture of abstracting and suggesting human form. Sir Francis Bacon (Study after Velasquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X), for example, is the exemplary figure in the sub-category, having worked with x-rays in order to line the body’s insides while keeping clear of illustration. But apart from the interest in the human body as imagery, Jose’s art in no way resembles Bacon.
“For this collection, I do my ‘paintings’ with wood. I use the grain of this element as my brushstroke. The works on display were culled from pieces of lumber that have been kept in my furniture shop in Batangas. My shop is simply called Studio 10-10, as it was opened in 2010, on the day I was born, Oct 10th. You can say creating art is my avocation while furniture making is my vocation. I mastered carpentry at the tender age of 13,” continued Niccolo.
Instead of the Baconian sense of motion, what we see and crucially experience as a sensation in his art, is a monumental, stone-like stillness. Although supple in terms of shape, Jose’s works are remarkable for an implacable stillness that borders on a drama of immobility. And lest one think that these human forms are tortured, it must be noted that such immobility evinces a kind of peaceful, almost homely repose.
“Studying the human anatomy, as well as life in general, and even Nature itself, were some of the things studied by artists during the Renaissance. Of these great masters, Michaelangelo’s art is my favorite. His works show his creative genius. All you need is simply clean the marble figures as often to see their splendor,” informed Niccolo.
Looking back through time, starting in the 14th century, man began to realize his importance and effect on the world. This rebirth (or ‘renaissance’) that was reflected in art figures became more life-like; space became more real and the Christian story began to be told from a humanistic point of view. As the decades continued, artists were able to recreate the world on panels, frescos, and altar pieces with increasing ease.
Beginning with the stylized works of Giotto (The Lamentation) and Massacio (The Holy Trinity), the Renaissance culminated in the monumental creations of Leonardo da Vinci (Mona Lisa), Raphael (The School of Athens), and Michaelangelo (The Doni Tondo).
“Altro Mondo Gallery espouses different orientations. We are mostly known for offering contemporary and modern art; not only from established artists but also for quality art from new ones. This gallery opened three years ago. We’ve featured European, South American as well as Asian artists’ exhibits. Last year, we’ve showcased “High Notes,” an exhibition featuring a French (Ernest Pignon Ernest), Serbian (Vladimir Velicovic), Argentine (Antonio Segui), and Dutch (Pat Andrea) artists. Next year, we will be presenting artworks from China, Italy, and the Dominican Republic. Mountings could either be of paintings, sculpture and/or installation art. Aficionados can also visit our other showroom in Salcedo Village that’s located at the Picasso Boutique Residences,” invited gallery owner Remegio David, right after the ribbon-cutting rites with Jose and chanteuse Kuh Ledesma.
The Remnants exhibit runs until Sept. 14th and open for public viewing during mall hours. For more information on the Remnants show, simply log-on to the gallery’s Web site, www.altromondo.ph.