Shallow Grave - Tristram Miravalles

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“Shallow Grave”

The scrutiny of death and violence has never ceased. For as long as mankind has learned to appreciate life they have also been observant, almost fascinatingly, with how it comes to an end. “We seek the meaning of life because we are mortals,” a poet would say, yet in the case of this exhibition, the pathway descends to the tragedy that is life and finding bliss in a final breath.

Drawing his inspiration where inspiration is gone, Tristram Miravalles goes about a painstaking process. From his first solo “Mental Shock” ( Gallery Orange, Bacolod City, 2011), he proceeds with his second entitled “Shallow Grave”. A homegrown talent of Negros Occidental, the artist detours from an often pleasant visual imagery surrounding his province and settles down with unintended introspect on personal dark experiences and stories of struggle.

With Shallow Grave, Tristram dispositions life and death where life is being mourned and death is but a presence of its own. He reaches his spectators by leading them to familiar scenes yet keeps them displaced by extracting familiarity itself out of them; distorting figures without going too far away from realism.

Haunted creatures, drugs and weapons look deep into the demonology of society and even deeper to the inward massacre of the soul. Tristram introduces faceless strangers that are alone at their lowest, grimmest, most hopeless predicaments just as they are alone in the canvas, underscoring the devolution of spaces by mutating characters in order to depict the disdain of adapting to a monstrous world. The overall sadistic approach is almost hypnotic. One senses a propositional distinction on everything that life and death recounts; the ultimate oppositions, the clashing of morality and immorality, impenetrability of light and darkness, heaven, hell, and so on; assuming the role of a fly on the wall as he envelopes scenes and symbols with circumstances that impose inescapable misery.

Being brought up in a vexatious environment, crimes and broken ideologies are not strange to him. “Drugs and danger were simply made available to me at a very young age,”the artist recalls. As an effect his pieces offers knowledge culminated from the streets; the kind of knowledge that ignites resistance to mere absorption of truth, and more so about the manipulation of available chances to stir a given circumstance. The artist states, “When you ain’t got the means to keep yourself safe, you have to keep your awareness as strong as you can. I look to the streets and see nothing but violence. So I can’t really say I am inspired by the streets because I see nothing inspiring about it at all.”

The retaliating energy coming from his works is almost as necessary as his need to overcome his demons. It is safe to assume that the artistry or aesthetic experience of the artist is brought about by his acquired tolerance and casual initiations with dread. This grim creativity in describing torture while keeping it visually appealing allows Tristram to initiate a tug-of-war between despising and appreciating his works entirely.

The “Santo Ninyo Dream,” for instance, unveils a story shared by many young lives losing their future day by day in one of the most drug-infested, low economic places in his province. A significant symbol shown in this piece is a drug paraphernalia called “tubo” or “tooter.” A tooter is Negro’s version of a crack pipe. This is originally created in Negros Occidental during the early 1980’s and has been used consistently since then. Using minute items such as the tooter, the artist is able to give his intimate local take on a huge global problem. In attempting to do so, he provides a clear, distinct view of how so many places are drowning in broken dreams and delusions.

The artist collectively gives his insight from way back into his childhood up to his latter years. The culmination of the artist’s negative experiences somehow enabled him to point out global dilemmas right outside his doorstep. The idea for “Whore Roar,” for instance, was triggered by a red light district located just three kilometers away from his studio. “The place where women sell themselves is right next to our local meat market. And I pass by both places every time I ride a jeepney back to the studio,” the artist said. While the piece “Vanity” depicts a Neo-Filipina as something devoured by different concepts of beauty. It describes their obsessive urge to flourish themselves with cosmetics, surgeries, and other physical enhancements; blinding them from their potentials and prodding them to dwell on the physical.

The loss of a dream, the will, or the capacity to have either of the two portrays misfortune itself. The piece “Cocktits” gives a hint on how Tristram views the multifarious perceptions of his subjects. The cactus, symbolizing tremendous desire, corrupts the mind in seeing things as they really are. It is not hard to notice that while the process of viewing is directed from the outside to the mind, this piece reflects a reverse process instead. And yet even upon completing the series for his second exhibition, one still misses to arrive at a thorough investigation about his works; an ever shifting route. He discloses the gore of each piece by diluting the background with tones of grey; leaving only traces of brushstrokes to imply the violence that is unrevealed and the peacefulness that is no longer there. And so Shallow Grave brings to mind how death quietly chaperones life down to the ground

-Guen Decena

Blanc Gallery
145 Katipunan Avenue
St. Ignatius Quezon City

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