The line between painting and photography is a often a fine one within contemporary art. Constantly altered by the modern technologies of digital imaging and reproduction, these two respective mediums often cross each other traditional boundaries. STRIP 2012, curated by Rachel Rillo, further delves into these relationships by presenting the work of three Filipino painters as photographers: Allan Balisi, Manuel Ocampo and Costantino Zicarelli.
STRIP 2012 challenges these three visual artists to rethink and recast their previous practice of painting through photography. This shift entails a familiar yet nonetheless separate process, with the end product or the material object being distinct from that of painting itself.
In this exhibition, the three artists, using their own respective takes on the concept, unpack the medium of photography as a reference material for imagery, a means of documentation, and a separate intervention in the visual arts.
Painter Allan Balisi, for instance, takes photography as a starting point and as a primary reference material for this paintings, previously incorporating images from his collection of family photos and movie stills in various works on canvas.
In this series of photographs for STRIP 2012, Balisi creates a staged narrative using bleached photographs: a fragmented story with two faceless and anonymous characters, shot in various stages of recluse and repose. He positions these frozen figures amidst settings filled with cast shadows, floral motifs and the various textures of fabric and floor. The mystery behind the narrative remains unresolved, the gaps are left unfilled; Balisi leaves the viewer to deduce whether these fragmented moments are memories of a crime, a fatal accident, a practical joke, or a merely a fantasy reframed. Partially degraded and altered, his images hint at stories lost through time.
Multimedia artist Costantino Zicarelli, on the other hand, focuses his lens on seemingly random objects or moments. Using photographs printed on metallic paper, the artist approaches photography as a means to collect documentary evidence of his previous works or of passing fancies.
The images share fragments and elements from Zicarelli’s forays into drawing, painting and installation. Captured on film are the artist’s works in various states of completion and display, including graffiti and found objects, as well as relational images he happens to find along the way. Despite their deliberate randonmness, Zicarelli’s choice of objects challenge the viewer to seek parallelisms and continuity in form, content and aesthetics.
Zicarelli’s collection of images points to both the incidental and the biographical, combining the modern day memento mori with snapshots of his deliberately insolent works as a painter. Interestingly, a characteristic of Zicarelli’s earlier works was his predisposition towards the use of black and white in paintings, mirrored here perhaps in the way how the artist tries to make full use of black and white photography as a medium.
Finally, in what is perhaps an unintended way of bridging the divide, Manuel Ocampo presents a series on the artist's studio as a site of negotiation between photography and painting. The artist takes photos of several works lying around the confines of the studio: unwrapped and framed, safely encased in glass yet unceremoniously propped on the walls—straddling the acts of display and egress.
The images seem pretty straightforward at first, until one looks closer. The subjects of the photographs turn out to be paintings as well as framed photographs of photographs of paintings. Ocampo innocuously inserts this matrix of endlessly reproducible images as a means of conceptually investigating the tenuous ties between the two mediums, implicitly challenging viewers to photograph and display them again and again. Through the “symbolic dis/appearance of photography into painting” using digital reproduction, Ocampo recasts the medium of photography as a process for creating multiple interventions within works of art.