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Arts and Culture

When home is a landscape

SUBLIMINAL - Carlomar Arcangel Daoana - The Philippine Star
When home is a landscape
Artists Shannah Orencio and Kenver Sarmiento
Resuello Portrait photos by Wig Tysmans

Pinto Art Museum features Kenver Sarmiento Resuello & Shannah Orencio.

In his first solo exhibition, “Manempet Ti La,” Kenver Sarmiento Resuello comes home to the landscapes of his hometown, depicting them in a suite of paintings that invites the eye to roam expansive nature lit by the fiery colors of a setting sun. The hometown is San Carlos, but the artist’s attention includes Mangatarem, Binmaley and Lingayen — towns and cities of Pangasinan gifted with undulating mountains. “There’s a need to showcase the beauty of Pangasinan,” states the artist.

The beauty of the province is a late revelation. Though Resuello was born and spent his formative years in the province north of Metro Manila, “it was only up until now that I got to appreciate everything. You’re so caught up growing up and figuring things out for yourself; you never have the chance to actually sit and bask in the beauty of your hometown.”

Now residing and practicing his medical profession in Pangasinan, Resuello began painting a couple of views earnestly, usually from a photograph he had taken as visual reference. As he immersed himself in the task of paying attention to the natural wonder around him, the tentative attempts at painting became an almost full-fledged devotion. Because of the lockdown, the artist had the time to travel around and rediscover the province and vowed to translate what he saw onto the canvas.

“Irong ka ta ngarem la” by Kenver Resuello

The result is not just a literal translation of the scene but one that is amplified and infused with memory, affection and emotive power, so much so that the landscapes become a tapestry of highly saturated colors, revealing shifts of light and shadow, sharply contouring the outlines of the mountains, the columns of trees, the shards of grass. The expressive quality of the works conveys the ardor of the one witnessing the view. In the process of painting it, the artist also praises it.

This sense of intensification is conveyed not just the land features but the sky as well. It is a well-lit splendor, in which the rays of a usually setting sun imbue clouds, from billowing cumulus to feathery cirrus, with dazzling formations that appear to be mirroring the landscapes below. Charged with atmospheric phenomena, the sky is not a mere background but an active presence in these paintings — a depiction possibly nurtured by the many years the artist spent in the skies as a flight attendant.

While the landscape is uninterrupted by human habitation and presence, it’s undeniable that the point of view is a singular sensibility, either being enveloped by the natural world or surveying the scene from a distance, respecting the expansiveness of a culminating day that encourages mindfulness and relaxation. “Sunset, for most people, would signal that the day has ended, and hopefully one has spent it well, done enough work; you’ve been productive and served a purpose,” the artist states. “It’s a signal to go home and finally rest after all the hard work.”

“Kayari’y agew”

“Manempet Ti La” is an invitation not only to enjoy and luxuriate in the beauty of nature, but to appreciate it through the lens of one’s hometown, through which one’s personal history and context is amplified, so the relationship with the scenery becomes personal, deeply-felt, and invested with gratitude. Beauty is not some remote occurrence but readily appears in one’s vicinity — accessible and available to anyone who takes time to sit back and bask in its generous light.

Marking time & place with flowers

As someone whose biggest fear is to forget things, Shannah Orencio is an assiduous collector. The habit, which she has nurtured since high school, has led her to accumulate things that represent, capture or extend the memories of faces, places and events, all organized and tucked away in boxes. Nothing to her eyes is insignificant: “candy wrappers,” “a seashell by a beach trip,” “a deflated balloon from a party,” “letters given to me by friends.”

But what hold the most associations for the artist are flowers, which either marked milestones, were given to her by people she held dear, or procured directly from flower shops in Dangwa. Nothing is ever wasted. For instance, the flowers that were part of the installation of her exhibition, “Soul Companions,” were resurrected in the works of her succeeding show, “Vase Life,” with a few blossoms permanently preserved in resin.

The pandemic, however, found her sources run dry. As events were limited, flower shops were closed, and friends became remote because of lockdown orders, the artist had to find ways to acquire her well-loved flowers. So the artist instead “foraged” them from the gardens of Pinto Art Museum and her neighborhoods, the unique combination of flora uniquely marking these places. “To Put to Gather, To Put Together” is the result of the months-long searching, collecting, and painting flowers, alongside twigs and the carapaces of dead insects, from these sources.

“A mail of roses” by Shannah Orencio

Rather than depicted in a tidied-up manner and composed with an eye on bountiful beauty, the works in this exhibition are spare, acknowledge the presence of decay, and allow the infusion of negative space. “The resulting boxes are not at all as put-together or as cookie-cutter beautiful as my early ‘Flower Box’ series, but I find these boxes have a lot more stories than before,” the artist narrates. “Given the significance of what was and is happening in the world right now, I have come to associate the boxes with the phases in my life as I go through this pandemic… As I look at my boxes I see pages from a visual diary, each piece a narration.”

As markers of the places where the flowers came from, these paintings “represent a certain day, a person, or a place put together to form a portrait together of what used to be.” Orencio’s works may then be seen as an index, a metaphor, a visual symbol of what has come to pass. While the viewer may not be privy to what the flowers symbolize, the works convey the stark sense that something is being acknowledged, commemorated, and treasured. Whatever it may be, the flowers serve as proxy to it.

The urgency to paint, to record, to make something permanent is prompted by the fear of Alzheimer’s, which runs in her family. “When I think of my grandmother, I think of her love for gardening and plants, how she lost her connection to everything as her Alzheimer’s fully consumed her,” the artist states. “There is a fear that someday I will succumb to that fate given that Alzheimer’s can be genetic so keeping memorabilia and recording important happenings and people has always been a habit.”

The act of painting for Orencio is a “repeated attempt to memorize details of the past they represent and, in doing so, preserve them, not only tangibly in the form of paintings but in the process itself that helps ingrain these moments, places, and people in my mind.” Memories, which extend the shelf life of events, are not enough, as they themselves are prone to slippages and erasures.

“Not all fragments will last forever,” admits Orencio. “Most of them will slowly deteriorate. A lot of them have started to crumble, but the ones that will last will stay with me for a longer period and these are what I will hold onto for as long as I can. But hopefully these paintings I have made will last longer than I can remember.” “To Put to Gather, To Put Together” is the artist’s heartfelt attempt to arrest transience: Ars longa, vita brevis.

“Bi(re)fringence”

* * *

The works of Kenver Resuello and Shannah Orencio will be featured in an upcoming dual exhibit at Pintô Art Museum, Gallery 7 this October.

Due to the current lockdown, their work can be viewed in video form starting Sept. 8 on the Pintô Art Museum website.

Visit https://www.pintoart.org/museum for more information.

Pintô Art Museum is at 1 Sierra Madre St. Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo, Rizal.

PINTO ART MUSEUM
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