Not too long ago, Alfred Marasigan thought of himself as a stargazer. In 2012, he made All Stars, a collection of acrylic paintings on 5” x 5” canvases that depicted stars in biblical narratives. In the same year, there was the oil-on-paper Pilgrimage—a print of which he keeps framed and displayed in his Katipunan studio, betraying his fondness for the piece and, perhaps, the sentimentality that the subject matter holds. It was then a productive few years for Marasigan, who had decided to focus on the concept of celestial bodies to depict the energy of an outstretched hand reaching for the ideal. But now, in 2016, Marasigan is coming down from his throne of stars. “They’ve become too lofty to me,” he confesses. “I think it’s time I married them with the real.”
His upcoming exhibit Places, which runs from March 10 to April 10 at the CCP, features a series of 11 paintings, all depicting skyscapes that only ever hint at the urban: maybe stray power lines in the corner, or the roofs of factories, or traffic lights suspended midair. All the rest is gradient sky. “When I had my first handheld camera, I would always take offhand pictures of the sky,” Marasigan explains. “I collected them. Here, in Places, I recreate them.”
But it goes beyond mere reimagining. Several of the pieces in this new exhibit feature works that are “unfinished.” That is to say, parts of the canvas are purposely left unpainted, as if in reinterpreting the pictures he’d taken of his subjects, Marasigan decided they were better off left not-so-perfect.
“Sometimes it wasn’t necessary to complete the image in order for it to be a completed painting. The place you’re painting, it’s no longer the same place you went to. You’re creating something entirely new, and this new place, you get to own it,” he says. “There always seems to be something in the process of getting constructed. The sites are everywhere. I think it’s never going to end, this construction, this constant building. You can’t really achieve the ideal, but the under-constructed can depict beauty as well.”
This wasn’t an idea that came to Marasigan out of nothing; it was born out of years of introspection on train rides and in slow city walks. He felt a distinct sense of displacement, as though his feet were meeting all the wrong pavements. “The Philippines is a very hard place to love,” he says, wishing this wasn’t the case.
He then began to wonder how he could work with that. Places explores the groundedness that comes from knowing and accepting precisely where you are; a knowing that seems to assert itself most potently, he muses, when one is in motion, and after one has felt more at home somewhere else. In creating this collection, Marasigan played around with the concept of “non-places” by geographer Edward Relph who wondered what exactly is the unit that constitutes a place, if time is the unit that constitutes history. A small corner in Katipunan, Marasigan says, is just as much of a place as Paris. What he hopes to say with Places that he never could with his stars is: “Instead, you are here. That’s okay.”
Places will be exhibited from March 10 to April 10 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.