There will always be some distance between an artist and the audience that views their works. Though both artist and viewer ultimately get to occupy the same exhibition space and look upon the same pieces, their experiences, of course, couldn’t be more different. In one way or another, an artist will feel some sort of connection to their own work, remembering at least the residue of the creative process that led them to where they are now. Meanwhile, the audience doesn’t have the benefit of memory or bias; the only thing they can really connect with is the finished work.
XY, the new dual exhibit at Pineapple Lab, collapses this distance. By presenting works that allow viewers to easily trace the artists’ creative processes and to align themselves with their intent, this two-level show feels more interactive than a standard gallery exhibit. Each part to XY has its own unique rhythm, complementing the other while confidently standing on its own.
On the ground floor is Sherwin Sacramento’s Head Maze & Human Maze, consisting of pieces with a very specific constraint: they all revolve around the same image of a single line snaking through a human body. This line is not meant to inspire feelings of restlessness, but quite the opposite. According to Sacramento, the line represents wholesomeness, connecting the mind to the heart, impressive in the patterns it forms within a limited area. The best touch here is a thick line painted on the floor, seemingly connecting Sacramento’s works to each other. The whole exhibit is a visual representation of how the artist uses art as meditation.
Once the viewer learns of Sacramento’s intent with Head Maze & Human Maze, it becomes easy to want to meditate alongside him. The exhibit has a hypnotic quality to it, beginning with paintings of different human bodies, that aforementioned single line contrasting with the artist’s plain backgrounds and strongly defined shapes. By the end, Sacramento has ditched the full body silhouettes for the simplified image of a head, repeated over and over. These final prints, grouped together under the title “Fill It with What Matters” are straightforward and reassuring by design, meant to ease you out of your meditation cleanly and quietly.
So it only seems fitting that XY’s second floor exhibit, Belzasar II’s Why Are You, is aggressive and violent in stark contrast. The mixed media works here are purposely ambiguous and more purely reactive in nature. Spirals, skulls, and repetitions of the exhibit’s title are layered on top of fractured collages and landscapes indicating the opposite of Sacramento’s conceit: confusion and chaos. One work, however, grounds the rest in an all-too specific context. Entitled “The Death of Kian Lloyd Delos Santos,” the work is an angry, irreverent doodle amidst headlines and newspaper clippings, and sheds a completely new light on the rest of the artist’s works.
Belzasar claims that the narrative of Why Are You is told in three parts, but the intentional messiness of the exhibit doesn’t quite get this across. This is fine, though; the works seem to make more of an impact when any search for order is forfeited. And even if the featured pieces were arranged in a more linear fashion, nothing in Belzasar’s exhibit is more interesting than the little touches in between: found objects splashed in paper and paint, interrogative questions on the wall, connective tissue that binds each of the works together beyond their frames. It’s here where one feels Belzasar’s creative process come to life in real time.
XY offers a rare opportunity for those looking for art that they can truly attach themselves to. Both Sacramento and Belzasar transform the act of viewing art into something personal and internalized, and Pineapple Lab provides a space for viewers to move from meditation to agitation, and back again. It’s an exhibit that demands to be seen and felt in person, boots on the ground, with no more distance between those who view art and those who make it.
XY is on display until October 2 at Pineapple Lab, Poblacion, Makati City.