Anna De Leon’s “Timelapse,” 72×192 mix media on canvas (2022)

Is bigger better than better?

When it comes to art, the answer might just be a simple yes. With the advent of modern art, particularly with the rise and stay of abstraction, artists have resorted to using a bigger canvas to express themselves with, and as a result, engulf the viewer by the sheer scale of the project. This translates viewing into a breathtaking experience where the painting becomes more than just an object to comprehend, but rather a sort of “location” that viewers can truly imagine themselves in.

With walls that could accommodate oversized works, Art Lounge Manila, presents “Monumental Abstracts,” an exhibit that features artworks that use canvases that are at least 10 feet (most using 16 feet). It’s a project that was born out of the thrill of creating something memorable and impactful; like an explosion of pent up energies from being so cooped up in their respective homes for so long.  

“Monumental Abstracts” presents different expressions of abstraction in a large scale. The diversity of subjects and inspirations show how color, composition, balance, movement and sheer size present a welcome alternative to narrative for aesthetic delectation. The exhibit, which runs from April 23 to 30, at Molito Lifestyle Centre in Ayala Alabang, marks a point of expansiveness as the country opens up to the new normal.

Francis Nacion’s “Wave Dreams,” 74×197 oil and textile on canvas (2022)

Among the artists who contributed their artwork include Anna de Leon, Francis Nacion Jr., Louie Ignacio, Jonathan Dangue, Ricky Francisco, Melissa Yeung Yap & 0270501. 

De Leon, known for her pastel paintings of flowers and birds, displays work that focus on on composition, with work that are neat, tidy, and balanced; President of the important Saturday Group of Artists, her paintings and sculptures are found in many important private and institutional collections.  

Ignacio, on the other hand, found emotional release through the frenetic splashes and drips he did to create his work.  Using his whole body to paint, the gestural strokes used were simultaneously liberal and liberating; matching the energy of the music he was listening to and creating something equally majestic.

Balancing planned order and intuitive discovery is the work of Dangue, whose technique is a synergy of painterly drips done with both planning and intuition. Dangue’s intimate familiarity of his material enables him to create tonalities, patterns, and form using a combination of watery and thick acrylic in a variety of techniques; allowing him the ultimate pleasure of balancing planning, with intuition, serendipity, and chance.

Integrating intuition into his sunset-inspired work is Francisco, who has taken to painting recently after more than two decades of museum work and a decade of curatorial work. His fascination for light has allowed him to explore both bright color and light-reacting metallic and iridescent paints.  With broad strokes, Francisco emphasizes the horizontality of the canvas and uses it as the horizon which his abstract sunset is staged.

Louie Ignacio’s “Seeing The World from Above,” 96×60 AC (2022)

For his mural-sized work, Nacion showcases artwork with textile-inspired patterns as the compositional device for his abstraction. He introduces a color field and diaphanous layers to his richly detailed sgraffito oeuvre, and focuses his attention to composition using sewing-inspired elements that remind viewers of textiles, patches, stitches, and thread overlaid and assembled into a central image that is compositionally balanced and yet full of movement.

Two other artists who are inspired by textile and actually include them in their works are Melissa Yeung Yap and the artist who prefers to refer to himself as 0270501 (or “Zar”). 

Yap integrates t’nalak, a woven textile made from Philippine abaca by the T’boli, into her mural-sized work. The flowing flowery organic forms are complemented by flat and folded t’nalak, creating a highly textured, nearly bas relief, painting. By choosing to use a lot of t’nalak in her paintings, Yap is able to create a demand for the t’nalak, which for her, along with other indigenous fabrics, are truly beautiful but are in danger of being lost because there is not enough market for them. 

Zar, meanwhile, integrates abaca fabric sourced from Bicol, one of the country’s foremost abaca producing provinces. Finding ways to create a market while simultaneously increasing their value are some of the motives that prompt him to create the works. Aesthetically, Zar’s work reference the Japanese gutai in that it reminds us of the relationship between material, spirit and freedom, as well as contemporary aesthetics, while using the highly traditional and utilitarian abaca fabric.