"Hulagway," solo exhibition of Nunelucio Alvarado

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Tin-aw Art Gallery presents works by artist Nunelucio Alvarado in the forthcoming exhibition Hulagway. Hulagway is Hiligaynon for image or representation, an act Alvarado carries across three large-scale paintings and several small ink drawings. In these works, the artist re-presents the world through images of people from the sugar plantations of Negros and the arid flatlands of Manila.

Alvarado’s distinct figuration, stark colouring, and brimming pictorial space can be discerned in pieces for the show. While the paintings reiterate these qualities, the ink drawings on card-size watercolour sheets condense and fragment them into head portraits. Works for Hulagway trace the development of these artistic gestures, affirming Alvarado’s illustrative dexterity, his keen eye for the world, and his discerning records of transformation and struggle.

The paintings for the show date between 2000 and 2002. All share a dark ground complemented by the strong hues of Alvarado’s solidly built figures of sugar farm workers. These figures swarm two of the paintings while crouching hollow-eyed children push the pictorial boundaries of another. The sakadas of Red Espading and Karga Tagpas grip farm implements stolidly in their hands. Pronounced in both is the cruciform as overarching layout of the pictorial plane, organizing the visual elements and connoting suffering and sacrifice. Hunger has robbed the children’s faces of luster in the third work. Stripped of vibrancy so associated with youth, they cling with sullen resignation onto a bowl of remains, mechanized objects to hack their empty stomachs apart. Alvarado’s sakadas are depicted in tense repose, energies contained, their strength turned by back-breaking toil. The artist however endows them dignity, depicts them with determined air. An atmosphere of surreal tension shrouds these works comparable to quiet before a storm, the uneasy peace before hell breaks loose. In Nune Alvarado’s pieces, there is the monstrous and the grim, a dark energy that is also unrest and protest.

For Hulagway, such energies may be contrasted with the hundreds of ink sketches the artist calls ‘freak drawings’. Meant to be installed on one wall of the gallery, the portraits were quickly done on Alvarado’s usual morning jaunts in places near his Manila studio. The ink portraits are impressions, remnants of the artist’s observations of people. To him, these are caricatures laughingly referred to as ‘freaks’. He compares these drawings to photos posted to social networking sites like Facebook, half-truth and half-falsehood. The exhibition rests on the seemingly opposed forces of tension and repose, between darkness and light, bulk and sparseness yet what it succeeds to show is Alvarado’s mastery of his medium and the sensitive soul through which he filters his world and with which he seamlessly weaves aspects of art with his many advocacies as well as the less grander rhythms of the mundane.

Hulagway opens with an artist’s reception on 12th July 2013, Friday at Tin-aw Art Gallery Somerset Olympia Building, Makati Avenue, Makati City. The works will be on view until 2nd August 2013. Gallery hours are from 10AM to 6PM.

Nunelucio Alvarado (b. 1950) is known for works that chronicle the plight of sugar-farm workers in his home province of Negros. Several of these have been exhibited internationally. He is founding member of artist organizations Concerned Artists of Negros and Black Artists of Asia. Recent solo exhibitions include Inspirasyon ni Alvarado at Museo Iloilo in 2012 and Himbis at Gallery Anna at Megamall in 2010. He was Outstanding Negrense Artist in 2010 and awarded the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan sa Larangan ng Pintura by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2004.

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