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"Time Taken By Brushstrokes"

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"Snap Strokes"
Flaudette May Datuin PhD.

As we go through the images in this show by Vincent Padilla, it is as though we stumbled into an old album or shoebox of pictures that evoke what Walter Benjamin once wrote about history decomposing into images, not into narratives. And yet the images - unremarkable and maybe even boring at first - are on second glance, all crying out for narratives, as well as begging questions. Some of the figures, for example, are labelled with a slanted, barely legible, but beautiful script we identify with old schools of handwriting: "Una yndio banquero," says one; "Una Yndia Manilena," asserts another. Who are these people and who is the writer of the label? Is the labeler the one who took the photo? Or the one who documents and archives someone's snapshots of ordinary Yndios and Yndias doing ordinary things in totally ordinary lives? Is the photographer and/or documenter/archiver a colonizer, or an ilustrado? Male? Female? Once one starts with this train of questions, we move from the abstract to the particular; from deep waters of memory, we hit land, perhaps painfully as we recall histories of struggle and oppression and later on triumphantly and respectfully, as we recall our histories of resistance, and those who fought and fell during the night. By the time we finish leafing through the images, it is as though our fingers have become smudged with gathered dust that remind us that the figures are not snapped by unknown cameras but by strokes of brush on a surface. And that a long time ago, photographs were manipulated to look like paintings. The photos were described as “pictorialist,” to distinguish them from mere literal and mechanical “recordings,” which in those days - and probably until now - were not considered "art." Today, we find traces of this 19th century pictorialism in photos filtered by Instagram, which aim to capture the old and the flawed, in an effort to stand out, to turn the mundane into something unique and special – at the click of the mouse in a matter of nanoseconds. In other words, Art from the vending machine. The current works by Vincent Padilla follow an opposite route: his paintings look like manipulated photographs, bearing the consistency and texture of the new made deliberately vintage: blurry, faded, sepia, washed, blotchy. But instead of instant nostalgia, the images partake of the old and the labored, recalling the age-old technology of fresco. It is a demanding and exacting technique he calls Transparent Oil Painting, which as he puts it, “allows no mistakes once the paint is applied, and the artist is only allowed to work on the painting until it dries up.” The painter has to capture a fleeting image or moment, to "snap" a "shot" through his steady brush while the paint is wet, within a very limited time frame. But the photograph, unlike the painting, is about a moment in time caught by a mechanical eye, and the click of a shutter. Captured chemically or digitally, snapshots are paused instants that domesticate the uncontrollable and crushing rush of time, caught and viewed through our laptop, iPad and iPhone screens. Like the snapshot, the brush catches a slice of time, and holds it, hoping to recapture through the resources of painting that which is now irretrievably lost and to which we can never return. But unlike the snapshot, the painting does not tame time, but expands it, and gives it an energy and pulse that breaches the barriers of the frames. And unlike the landscapes of traditional paintings, the mood of these works is melancholic, not romantic and bucolic. Drawn in hushed tones and muted monochromes, the blurry and ghostly figures that people the paintings are lonely and bent, all silently and stoically walking the lonely streets, selling their wares, posing for a snapshot, making music, inhabiting empty houses, and looking out of windows longingly, but with a grace and dignity that instigates hope. That hope has something to do with the realization that beyond that snapped image, there is life, one that is past, yes, but nonetheless remains alive and lively at the stroke of a sure and steady brush.


"TIME TAKEN BY BRUSHSTOKES"
One-Man Art Exhibition by Vincent Padilla
Exhibition opening Tuesday, July 16, 2013 3:00pm at
Chef Laudico Guevarra's 387 P. Guevarra St. cor. Argonne St.,
Addition Hills 1500 San Juan, Philippines
Phone: 02 705 1874 / 02 705 1811
Email: cheflaudicoguevarra@gmail.com

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