Sunday, February 28, 2010

POSTVIEW: Escape into MaxBal's Scape

It all started with the gallery owner apologizing to me that he was too busy to respond to my inquiry because one of "his" artists has just won a major art prize in Italy. Well, to be more exact, the artist is the Filipino visual artist Max Balatbat or better known as MaxBal. As for the prize, it is the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Silver Award at the 2009 Florence Biennale.

Fast forward, I flew to the Philippines and visited the gallery not to look at MaxBal's work but instead to view the painting I was inquiring. However, what greeted me in the gallery was "CUPOLA" 6x4ft MaxBal mixed media work, which I immediately investigated.

CUPOLA 6x4ft. mixed media

The architectural and graphic references in his abstract work reminded me of patchworks immediately; especially because for this particular work, indeed some part of it were patches of fabrics. I had some mixed feeling. First and foremost, I have to be practical. I live in Hong Kong and I do not have a lot of spaces for a 6x4ft painting! It is bad enough that I do not have enough walls for all the paintings I already bought and now I am thinking of buying a big one. Second, I was not really taken by it... as simple as that. So I asked if there was anything smaller, and they showed me "ABONG" 4x2ft and 2 others that were 4x3ft and 4x4ft.

ABONG 4x2ft. acrylic on canvas

I usually prefer abstract in bigger dimensions, something about standing "in" it appeals to me. However, "ABONG", the smallest of the three or four (including "CUPOLA"), gave me the sensation of looking at a map. It was suddenly accessible and at the same time gave me a new perspective toward "CUPOLA".

I ended up not buying the painting that I was inquiring, instead I bought "ABONG" and two other paintings by Julio Jose Austria and Melvin Culaba.

The story continues though. When I came back to Hong Kong and looked at the picture of "CUPOLA" in my iphone, an image started to form and suddenly I found a personal connection with the piece. I saw instead Hong Kong. The arch on the upper left looks like the new government building being build at the Tamar site, the protrusions on the upper right look like the ferry piers, the blue band that separates the top and bottom is the Victoria Harbour, while the cross-harbour tunnel is shown vividly connecting the top and bottom.

Yes, I have a wild imagination and yes, I bought the piece. No, I don't know how to bring the painting to Hong Kong and no, I don't know where to put it.

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