Reimagining Life Cycles with ‘Rogue Wave’

The latest exhibition from artist Nikki Ocean sets out to take viewers on a multisensory trip through lush paintings and a sea of CD fragments

by Emil Hofileña

Nikki Ocean’s solo exhibition, Rogue Wave, was launched on May 4 with an entire musical component alongside it. Musician Migi de Belen, under the moniker of his solo electronic project Nights of Rizal, performed an original piece in the middle of the artist’s 22-piece exhibit, as visitors were free to move around the ground floor of Finale Art File. Today, new guests will have to settle for a silent walk through Rogue Wave, but Nikki Ocean’s intelligent use of the space means the exhibit is still more or less capable of creating a sensation of journeying from one point to another.


The paintings included in Rogue Wave occupy two opposite walls, orbiting a centerpiece made from a wooden raft, a set of lamps and exposed light bulbs, and shards of broken CDs spread around like seawater. The pieces themselves are divided into three “Phases”: Kindergarten, Fool’s Paradise, and Memento Mori. Though each tackles its own general theme, all of the paintings display Nikki Ocean’s penchant for generous brushstrokes and rich, bright colors. There isn’t an empty speck on her canvases, her swaths of sky and sea blurring together in textures either light and feathery or thick and oily.


However, because Nikki Ocean’s paintings are so effective at inspiring emotion without imposing meaning, the written aspects to the exhibit become somewhat distracting. Distraction could be precisely the point of having one entire wall be plastered with the words “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. / No_one ever really dies.” But it comes off as loud and ostentatious within an exhibit whose main pieces are already at just the right volume. The exhibition notes—which take the form of a poem by Czyka Tumaliuan, and a blank wall on which visitors can jot down their own thoughts—function better as a guide without debunking any of the exhibit’s mystery. Still, one must wonder if this conceit would have been even more successful without the poem.


Whatever one’s thoughts are on these supplementary components to Rogue Wave, the paintings themselves are strong enough to stand on their own. Taken together, the exhibit begins to take on the form of a life cycle, with a primal sort of beauty pulsing through Nikki Ocean’s unorthodox choices. “The Philosopher’s Mercury” depicts an awesome crocodile-like beast emerging from water and storm. “Internal Compass” reimagines the moon’s phases but with rainbows, feathers, flowers, and aurora patterns overlaid on them. And, most impressively, “#Blessed” finds an intersection between religion, social media, and pop culture through a peach emoji crowned in thorns. The best part: no matter your interpretation, you can scrawl your thoughts on the wall and claim your ideas as valid. Anything goes here.


Rogue Wave is on display at Finale Art File, Makati City until May 28.