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Clarissa Rodriguez’s lightboxes evoke Paris, the city of lights, as a mystifying dreamscape, a domain of wonder and rebellion in the manner of a scientific picture book that defies all natural laws. What is at first impression a gentle display of chronic motifs and characters on the diaphanous surface of the duratrans print, upon closer investigation reveals the young artist’s inner world as a stage of sensitive disquiet. “Mise en Abyme,” Rodriguez’s first solo exhibition at Light and Space Contemporary in Manila - The Fort, indicates new explorations of media and references. While her choice of subject increasingly engages personal histories, constructing these light drawings has given a clear structure and narrative to her work.

Recalling the displays in planetariums or illuminated star maps, these works when lit at night also suggest a frightening uneasiness reminiscent of the haunted house experience. The series in Mise En Abyme, a composite of 17 panels, expands the vocabulary of Rodriguez’s drawings through layering and distance but by physical presentation as a series provides an ample context to her life and work.
Rodriguez recomposes images and landscapes from her stay in Paris as a scholar in the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts (ENSBA). Rendered in a straight and elementary manner, Rodriguez outlines these ghostly figures, suggesting the physical inanimateness and inflexibility of people as they appear in memory. This debility is refracted in the lack of grasp of the mind over our own experiences. Floating and obscuring, the shreds of light, seep through, but remain incomprehensible. Depicting herself as a wandering photographer, Rodriguez makes conspicuous parody of idealistic postures against her solitude. This drawing also demonstrates the evolving strengths in Rodriguez’s formal inventions. The subtle associations of both overlapping images within each frame are also conceptual iterations. In Western art history, 'Mise en Abyme' is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, in a sequence appearing to recur infinitely. The technique is perhaps best illustrated in the painting, Las Meninas by Velázquez.

Rodriguez’s work educes a host of inspirations and connections, but these are not works whose understanding can be achieved by a definitive deciphering. Like their disjointed sources and inspirations that vary from vintage children’s book to classical architecture, the drawings command similar multifaceted and limitless associations. The degree of conceptual sophistication, formal development and self-conscious reference her practice has achieved also continues to set her work apart from other younger artists as well as predecessors who have used the medium of the lightbox. While Rodriguez’s work continually references literary and personal sources, the presentation of her experiences are most opportune. In these images which have become metaphors for personal issues, Rodriguez engages her psychologically complex realm of the abyss within memory, embellishing notions of both latent and manifest thoughts in the fascinating naive chronicle of photographic recollection.- RB

February 15, 2014

Exhibit runs until February 28, 2014

Light & Space Contemporary
Ground Floor, Fort Victoria Building
4th Avenue, The Fort, 1634 Taguig

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