Event  |  Reviews  |  Comments
© Courtesy of the artist & Silverlens Manila

Lapanday Center
2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension
1231 Makati City
January 10th, 2013 - February 9th, 2013

+63 2 816 0044
Tue-Fri 10-7; Sat 10-6


ALLAN BALISI's Mirages at Silverlens features large format monochromatic paintings of jarring lyrical images cinematic in their aplomb suspense that explore the phantasmagoria of uncertain meaning melancholic over fictional ends.

The look on the man's face is one of perturbed intensity.  He squints hard from despair with an effort to find something he couldn't see yet.  Lateral strokes line the image per inch mechanically distorting the portrait like bad visual reception on TV as if losing his composition from this conundrum.  The next panel reveals the object of his vexation: a booklet with blank pages apparently.  His fingers poised readily to flip to the next page wanting affirmation of the vacant meaning from the book on hand, while permeated with a foreboding existential horror creeping into the core of his beliefs that maybe there is only nothing.  This climactic episode is forever on hold.

A woman sits on the bedside.  We cannot see her face as it is turned away from the viewer.  But the gesture that she makes seems to be that she is talking intently on the phone, with one leg crossed and raised to relax over idle amusement about what is being said.  Although, we don't truly see her hands so it is difficult to tell if she is actually talking on the phone. Or maybe, that she is just miming the gesture of being on the phone, like the rehearsal of some forgotten memory.  A ghostly existence this is, having lost her sense of reality.  The harsh light that hovers about her effectively washes out her constitution from her surroundings.  Thus, the painter cleverly whites out certain parts of her body to blend it with the adjoining bed that creates a surreal effect.  Indeed, that maybe the purpose of the work, which is to create doubt, or to establish fiction based on fact.  This is what pictures do, to confabulate, especially paintings that can resemble reality through facility guided by the artist's creative imagination.  Thus the lamp at the top corner of the picture on the bedside table seems to agree with the conceit of appearances by bending its body to blend with the fantastic quality of the painting.  

A piece of cloth fluttering in the wind reaches the height of the moment when it touches the peak of the mountain, apparently, making a shape that resemble the much rigid bigger mass.  A visual pun of course, connecting two seemingly similar forms but each having different content, which remarks on our visual interpretation of phenomena or the cognitive processing of events.  In such a case, painting manages to freeze the fleeting moment into still episodes of ecstatic awareness - a simultaneity of contradicting conditions that opens up to wide vistas of new experience and understanding, possibilities amid impossibilities, that can only add to the mystery of the operations of a static medium capable of activating our conscious experience. 

In cheerful anticipation of what is still to come a group of young men looks ahead.  They perhaps are in celebration over the conferment of new responsibilities laden with expectations.  Hanging above their heads is the word "end" which has a double-edged connotation here, as in the mark of a new beginning, or perhaps an end to a previous more innocent life.  The "end" rings an ominous sound of impending finality caught side by side with an image of hopeful gathering, which can only play so many endless juxtapositions of meaning, such as: is this the beginning or the end type of inquiry, or the blank signification of what end and for whom, moreover, who are these people and what is their identity, since the viewer is not made privy to a prior condition within the narrative context that gives it closure.  The challenge therefore is how to navigate away from making associations outside of its intended meaning or the author's narrative imperative.  Thus without leading to misconceptions, we can approach the painting as an abstraction of sorts, as an empty signifier, one that avoids representational attachments to literal interpretation, but is linked to a structured net of ambiguity, creating an open discursive inquiry, with a permeating mood that can only be distinctively melancholic, nostalgic for long lost ideals, giving the picture a decentered reality.  Here, the combination of these disparate images altogether lend a modernist montage effect to the works, one that shocks the viewer into making connections amidst jarring missing links, which can only intensify the tension lying behind their mute sensibility, creating an anticipation of an end that only recedes further back as we approach it.

The culture of copies does bring many questions pertaining to the nature of how we perceive and interpret reality.  From painting's standpoint, some things can be taken out, or maximized to effect, without losing grip of reality held by outward impressions, but allowing the mind to take control of the interpretation of reality as opposed to relinquishing it over to what the eye can normally see.  Alan Balisi manipulates the picture deftly like a narrator who tests the limits of our attention, to challenge our notions of reality, that is, if we can still believe what we see, given the fact that all things appear normal.  Perhaps this is still what makes painting credible, not so much because of its capacity to create an illusion, but rather, with the way it can transform semblances of the real into replicas with a negative aura - the other that would critique the actual.  Reorganization, repetition, revision, and patterning of internal components are characteristics of a language that can make familiar utterances into a unique individual style.  This idiosyncratic stylization becomes essential especially within a practice such as painting that through time has become compacted with various modes of expression, which in itself makes it such a unique language different from other mediums of representation.  Resemblances have become mere appearances, like the real that repeats itself everyday without alteration of our cognition of it and yet life essentially is different from day to day depending on how we live it, in how we use it to each of our own purpose.  Alan Balisi's works had shown us that through a touch of ironic humor, mystery, poetic reflection, and melancholic introspection, that the language of painting facilitates critical attention more than its mere appearance.