18.8.17

Tarlac Artists Collaboration: Contemporary Philippine Art via McArthur Hi-way

BY JAY BAUTISTA


To remain contemporary when much of one’s environment reflects the rural and idyllic; to become authentic despite everything has become coy, commercial and crass; to be original and rogue while besotted with folklore, myths, and traditional views of art. 

Aptly situated inside a commuter bus the creative predicament of being based in Tarlac confronts these twenty young visual artists today. As the centerpiece of this exhibition Maniam Pukaque is their collective stance on these themes, issues and concerns that entailed their individual responses through oil, acrylic, ink, and water-based media; an imaginative collaboration as a way of introducing each artist featured in this exhibition with the same title; bearing their own biases and perspectives, each anecdote is interactive and flowing while characters abound each revolving around various local produce related to their beloved home province.
 


With fertile grass on his mouth, a water buffalo is at the helm of this magical mystery tour. Though prime agricultural land continues to diminish every day due to commercialization and in demand real estate, much of Tarlac is still being farmed using this hard working partner of the Filipino farmer. It could also represent the Laughing Carabao symbolizing the locally crafted beer favored by the working class Tarlaquenos.
 

"MANIAM PUKAQUE" (overflowing)
Tarlac Artists collaborative Painting
243.84 X 365.76 cm
Museo ng Probinsya ng Tarlac

Other representations veer on products only found in these parts of Tarlac. Such is the Capas smoked fish as an endearing passenger; allegorically placed is the iniruban rice cake made with burned young sticky rice coconut milk and sweetener; the bignay rice wine coming from bignay berries; at the far back is a prepared ambula, formed from rice soaked in viand sauce saving much for the hungry with value for his tight budget; an ethereal vendor with an abaca fan calls out for tupig, grilled sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves over charcoal. The burnt scent in gazing smoke evidently lingers in the midst.
 

At the front seat, an absent-minded fine arts student stares blankly at the abyss with her multi-tasking tentacles dealing with various odd jobs she has to accomplish in time to finish her studies and eventually move on with her creative life. A stoic girl with eggs for eyes and a crowning nest for hair signify how Tarlac is by forced circumstance a nesting ground for the would-be artists in them. 

Behind her apathy runs deeps to a man reminiscent of an oblation-like gesture looking at the heavens while a mischievous gyrating millennial twirls, tumbles and turns in between seats. A ghostly image is portrayed at the back referring to the scary tales that haunt the tall grasses in Matatalaib. Seated in a row before him, another scary apparition mount as a ghoulish man appears wasted or without consciousness while a baby is in deep slumber, unmindful of the ongoing episode around her. The circus has just started. Others performers will follow suit. One wonders where the band is?
 

A downtrodden farmer stands in solitude reserving his yantok on the last row, a barangay in Mayantok where it came from. In the middle aisle is an allegorical post which morphs a green sugar cane into a cold steel post. This negates how Tarlac has eventually become industrial from once an agricultural lieu. 

Showcasing Tarlac’s natural treasures is a man bathing from one of the available pristine waterfalls while a rowdy black cat distracts, a Frog jumps and a Geron bird (for Gerona) gleefully cheers in the window seat. A solitary bat swarms, as if on cued performance, from above. Dead aim at the center is a masquerade masked girl in a grotesque garb staring directly as if enlightening the viewer--this is who we are and what to expect from us--at a glance.  

A remarkable plethora of divergent styles co-exist side by side in one fell swoop, debunking any associated art historical classifications. Abound in sheer magnitude this is firsthand looking at the ongoing Tarlac art scene while celebrating the rich and evolving culture these artists belong to. A visual playground flexing the every artistic muscle, this one-way trip is at the height of its vision of capturing present-day Tarlac exuding brighter hope for their separate artistic journeys for the long haul.

11.8.17

Jeff Salon: Truth Well Painted

BY JAY BAUTISTA |


Battle Realms
For an artist the simplest yet hardest role is not to look away--to speak the truth in his evolving context. And for Jeff Salon the only time he deserves the truth is when he paints it. 

For his fourth solo exhibition, Broken Boundaries at the SM Art Center, Salon continues this commitment to reflect his settings and pursuit for the truth in our current social reality. Compared to his previous exhibitions, fiercer and more tormented pieces emerge this time--Salon is fuming, wrathful even.

The slow demise of nature has been a recurring theme that has haunted Salon’s canvases for the longest time. Alarmed at the rate we are tearing Mother Nature apart it obsesses him to no end. His most potent work is seen in Thy Kingdom Come. A swirling chase in existence involving endangered animals lorded it over only to be reminded of their distant mortal cycle. Salon’s valiantly captures the big picture show done in exquisite strokes with gusto and bravado; how a thing of beauty can be led to its wrath and decay in one fell swoop.

It is now considered a privilege to still view these threatened creatures in the wild and not captive in public and private zoos. The Guardian pays homage, as well as a glorious pitch for the Philippine eagle to critically survive. Discovered two centuries ago, this majestic bird, which is the biggest winged animal in the country, are the only 150-500 pairs left out there. Salon’s depiction of his lonesome self, perched on a branch against a graying background of negligence leaves an eerie feeling of guilt.

A complimentary pair to The Guardian is Cultural Survivor, which proves that there is nothing that differentiates animals from us. A lone indigenous Filipino caught in an act of defiance for their survival, he is a bygone reminder of quest for national identity. There is an urgent need to document their traditional and oral traditions in our fight against their perishing and modern day relevance.

Salon brings us to closer to various situations in depicting his take on our daily occurrences. They are often grounded on his personal experience and specific longing in behalf of children. Basked in golden brown with tinge of silver, somewhat like an impending explosion greets the viewers of his pieces. In Battle Realms against the scrutinizing eyes of His benefactor Salon wages war on many fronts—our oppressors, against clichés and what-have-yous in Philippine art. A hint of orange encroaching from behind to hint danger. Even in this very exhibition he has constantly honed while maturing in his artistic boundaries as well.

Thy Kingdom Come
Beautiful Mosaic provides a gentle pause yet turning the tides against colonialism. The colors or tempered of them are his signature hues are observed in the Filipina. Accented by a few reds in highlighting his message, our ongoing emancipation is defined by Spanish galleons, Japanese Tora Tora planes, and the American soldier. It may be evoking nostalgia but Salon’s art is anything but cuteness.

Recent issues have made news how foreign presence in guarding our shores. More than the old maps that documented our territoriality in our 7,106 islands, our sovereignty resides from our people. Our strength in safeguarding must be firmly in place. The allegory of nature evident in women’s bodies abounds in Shaping the World. How our islands are often exploited for their attractions mirrored in the curves of three women representing Luzviminda.

Salon’s realism follows a very abstract process in making art. Starting off by texturing his images with knife palette he then more difficultly illustrates on top of them. Everything is moving in a Salon composition, in a zen-like manner--no beginning or end. Depending on his mood he sometimes finishes of by splatting the already smooth surfaces. His confidence is key of his amount of pressure.

Specificity is another way to describe how each person is different and how we have our own peculiarities, belief, and are part of particular or imagined communities. Some features we can see, some you cannot. In A Piece of Peace may be as basic as a two-fingered universal symbol of peace but notice how rough and coarse his brushstrokes are. One can meditate on these experimentation this painted sign for harmony and equanimity.

F*ck Up Island
Charged with political acumen Salon abhors greed and hypocrites. There are more to be engaged at in F*Up Island. How semantics has ruled our lives and how power and understanding emanates for one’s anatomy to express. And they are even the hardest to demonstrate--the ok sign, clenched fist, number one, TV commercial sign, even the-holier-than-thou religious hand.
Now You See Everything

There is beauty in composed chaos that Salon depicts his pieces to convey his messages. It has always been about children and how Salon confines his purpose for their future. A child looks back to how adults behave worse than them. Now You See Everything proves we can learn more from the younger generation for our own realization. Depending how you much time the viewer has one can marvel at the Salon’s layered scenes.

Unlimited Being revisits his old style using his fondness for faces as inner canvases. Depending on the emotion on how his piece will be composed it is this foreground that immediately grabs the viewer. Representing freedom in flight, his star on forehead reminiscent of bright hope for tomorrow.

One may be familiar with His image but only an artist can interpret it on his own. In gratitude to His blessings Salon paints an enigmatic Christ in Resurrection. Notice how blood and sweat oozes from His thorn-crusted head. With Him in the middle of the exhibition space, He balances everything.

Amidst the crass commercialism of the venue, there is a certain solitude one attains after viewing the exhibition. An ironic inner peace is depicted in Salon’s artistic quagmire. Unusually the deeper conflict happens inside. Like a well thought of consciousness, Salon’s brilliance lies how issues are politically charged yet he paints a more serene scraping as a result. One may witness the goriness of the episodes yet Salon opts for a more resolute but unrefined way of enlightening his viewers.

27.7.17

Ricky Ambagan: Pulling the String to a Full Stop

JAY BAUTISTA|

I'm Coming Home

The increasing pressure to phase out our beloved jeepneys from the main thoroughfares of Manila (and Baguio) where they once ruled is surmounting by the day. The government says they don’t even physically fit any more—an unpleasant sight--a stumbling block to progress; that their sheer volume has become a liability even as commuters cramp them up every early morning filling up their maximum sitting capacity.



This is where visual artist Ricky Ambagan pulls the string to a full stop. Paying homage to the Patok, a parlance for the last of the rogue jeepneys, Ambagan has kept the faith for these most enduring Pinoy icons. Patok is a sub-species of jeepneys plying from Montalban or Cogeo via Marcos Hi-way. Bigger than the usual 16-seater capacity, they have been built for one sole reason for being--speed; most are candy-colored and heavily decorated using airbrush. 


Basang Basa sa Ulan



With young and restless drivers at the helm, Patok travels you in hasty, topsy-turvy-style, often arriving at your destination in record time. They take you to Montalban—like in a drag race--in the shortest time possible–even that claim is an understatement. They too are notoriously loud for their music.



Patok:Ang Pagbabalik ng Langgam is an ode--a narration of the travesties and intricacies of the last days of the jeepney. A roving telenovela--as Ambagan likes to call it--because we are a reflection of the kind of transportation we get into.


Other jeepneys today are barer for its practicality but the Patok are praised both for their functionality and aesthetics. What was once a war surplus and replacement for jitneys (thus the name) became a rolling showcase of our folk artistry. The jeepney became an extension of a driver’s humble abode: how he extends an altar in his dashboard complete with vigil bulbs; how he adorns its ceiling with copied paintings from masters, alongside names of his loved ones; how he uses curtains to ward of dust and keep ventilation for a smooth and safe trip.


Ambagan does not capture all their dirt and grime but seats in front as a hopeless sentimentalist, tempering that in-your-face rap music with jingly-jangly chords, even acoustics of the heart. In I’m Coming Home he sets the mood how the ever-dependable jeepney will always be there by remaining available 24/7. No matter how late —the graveyard shifters, the overworking employees, clandestine lovers unaware of their stolen moments, the sordid drunk coming from revelry—all depend on the jeepney to get safely home. Composing the picture Ambagan shows how lonely the crusade and uphill battle they now face. Yet the stars are out in full support for their cause.    

Basang basa sa Ulan implies in you an uncomfortable situation and captures another practicality of the Patok--how it is to survive without being drenched in the rain. Ambagan’s brilliance gears up when he juxtaposes his subjects along with the title of the most popular Aegis song. He resembles it how it is being soaked—both in our bodies and feelings—from the July showers evokes discomfort yet nostalgia; how art and music blend well in a painting. Ambagan has been there, done that.

Come Together
Come Together reprises that inviting Beatles song with the pedestrian as trigger word linking the famous fab four crossing through Abbey Road. Notice Ambagan suits his images with whatever his idea he had in mind. No photos as reference but imagination and how emotions play when that song was first played. Reminds one of the good times, as we flash back reminding the soundtrack of our lives.

The Jeep of Medusa
They may not be as comfortable as it was then but a Patok experience is on the extreme in riding dangerously, so to speak. Ambagan observes how these accents and accessorizes daily living. Each Patok jeepney is a wandering statement, its character emits from the graffiti’s they espouse, as well as the sentimentality of the music it pipes in. Ambagan laments that the day would come they will just end up in glass cases enclosed in a cold museum for viewing purposes only.

The Jeep of Medusa is an astoundingly haunting sepia, pencil, and charcoal on canvas. Against the colorful palette is this centerpiece discussing the plight of the jeepney. Opposed to the desperate survivors of the shipwreck as Louis Andre Theodore Gericault depicted his masterpiece, Ambagan took off with liberation and breaking free from human frailty and futility.

Folk religiosity has been a recurring subject for Amabagan. Lord Patawad remains a subliminal in its message. He has committed to his creative passion but more faithful to his God. Finding Pepe reflects Ambagan’s nationalist fervor. Here he situates Jose Rizal as a lowly passenger among the throng, busily absorbed in reading today’s news. Affected by the goings on with our current state of affairs. Ambagan hints we may be giving up our values for less mundane and superficial things.    

Finding Pepe
The subtitle Ang Pagbabalik ng Langgam reminisces Ambagan’s previous exhibitions which featured multiple of people en mass be it in Manila, downtown Baguio or flooded Malabon. His style of distortion, marked up by raw and coarse brushstrokes, endeared in humor and memory are the hallmark of his visual style. How he angles his canvases, twisting and twirling his subjects convoluting the kind of complex quagmire they are into. Not veering desperation rather he counters perspectives that would find meaning to whatever longing that may come along their way. His colors burst with bravura often engaging even provoking the viewer as a call to action and not passively observe.

Filipino artist worth his salt had a take on the jeepney. Vicente Manansala focused on its aesthetics as a folk art; Cesar Legaspi probed on its definite lines and earth-toned hues; Mauro Malang’s jeepneys appealed like general postcards to the tourists; Manny Garibay focused on their interior jeepneys being a socialist stage, the happenings inside while in transit. Ambagan is anecdotal highlighting the stories behind his paintings that make you stare long and hard, whether you empathize, amused or baffled at the drama behind it. How scenes elicit a smirk is what inspired him to feature this. Ambagan nonchalantly contributes to the contending dynamics of our culture and a deeper encouragement that the Pinoy will survive whatever that comes his way. 
Lord Patawad

With the clock ticking, though jeepneys may still be the preferred informal mode of transportation of the general publics, however like terminally-ill cancer patients, they are now living on borrowed time.

In Patok Ambagan honors the jeepney one last time while it is still breathing, fighting for its life. He parallels the existence of the jeep with the timeline of our country—too crowded, rowdy--with every passenger has a preferred direction to take. Everything that is happening in us—be it political, entertaining or poverty reflected--revolves around the goings-on of the jeepney, as one takes a collective ride. In the end, Ambagan is just an artist who commutes.

17.7.17

John Paul Antido: The Paint is in Our Stars

BY JAY BAUTISTA |


Memory, mystic and melancholy persist in the recent paintings of John Paul Antido. A certain lightness of being permeates these characteristics such as that they evolve in the realm of his fertile imagination. In so doing Antido’s conducive characters never touch the ground, close to hypnotic one gaze long and hard at them. And the fleeting feeling never goes away haunting us long after viewing the exhibition. 
Sa Kalawakan, Irog ay Humayo creeps in some more. Like a cool breeze dwelling deeper into the night something magical happens proving to be a more suitable ambience. Antido belongs to the old school bringing back storytelling in painting. Like in a trance, everything floats as Antido enchants us back to the ground with humble realities done in his folklore-like narrative as if his collective works is one long tale to be told side by side.


Such as in Bihag ng Gabi, one could almost levitate with the woman quietly ascending to the heavens as darkness prevails. A kind of escape, with alienation marked on her face, she is unconsciously slipping to a faraway reality. Her stoic composure may not reflect her sensibilities but they mirror her longing enlightenment with poetical allusions.

Antido’s calm and balanced spatial harmony is illuminated with insights of the human condition. The blatant irony as the world progress, the more we are connected by technology, the farther the distance we are separated by hatred and greed for one another. Kanya Kanyang Kamunduhan is a masterpiece done in three parts manifesting this concern for one’s ambition

and individuality created by a person’s needs and aspirations. To each his own peddling for his survival, they remain focus on their dreams as the constellations interconnect them together hoping for emancipation and fulfillment of one’s dreams.


The more engaged pieces in this triptych are enlarged in Planet series. Similar to the characters of The Little Prince, the smaller planets demonstrates one’s larger than life personal space. The lines of the axis serves as background intersecting like drawing dots making them part of the bigger and better version of the universe of us. We merely are specks belonging to an encompassing spectrum. We think locally but should act globally.   



Well versed in this painterly style, Antido has finely matured with his brushstrokes. Starting off with pen and ink on paper he does an acrylic sketch for his first coating. Depending on his desired composition, three coats of paints are mixed and applied layer by layer. Emanating from thinness to thickness, they are done in short but firm strokes are on top of one another. Gradually achieving his aspired texture, he oftentimes lets the previous hues left slightly peering through. He then glazes thereafter. In this certain luminosity marked by his impasto technique, Antido has placed everything in his own unique viewpoint easing out discontentment and frustrations we may have in life.


Antido’s brilliance remains how he sublimely tempers by slowing down his lyrical narrative to whatever fast-paced desperation our present day existence forcibly envelopes us. He diffuses harshness and squalor with the quaint and composed posture of his subjects. This trailblazing spirit is evidenced among Antido’s women such as in Seeking Mothership. They are purpose-driven and strong enough to redirect fate by their own feminine hands. With the wide and open skies of Antipolo influencing his hovering perspective, they cruise afloat driven by their own sentiments towards life. Notice how Antido advocates the traditional Filipino folk values by effectively infusing archaic words as tadhana, muni-muni, and hangarin done in transient cutouts similar to meticulously done pastillas wrapper. By simplifying these big concepts he reinterprets the contemporary by revisiting the positive and holistic with his new varying interpretations. Staple to Antido is that subjects are garbed in Filipiniana in their wholesome wellness and refined gestures--juxtaposing our bygone culture with modern approaches revitalizing fresh meanings in the millennial reading of the image.   

The alarming dying of culture is better interpreted by injecting fantasy or the mythical into something seemingly surreal. In Abducted the endangered carabao and threatened farmer is dislodged in his native soil by UFO. The beaming bright light hints that their simple days are critically numbered.










Spacebound is an upbeat you-and-me-against-the world-love tale. Being stricken by arrows, an eloping couple is pursued by forces against them. Nothing can stop them in breaking free with the power of volition and fate fueling their journey to uncertainty to fate.
In his more than a decade of art practice, Antido has dealt with impermanence and displacement extensively. His anonymous solitary travelers are endlessly searching, seeking for something, or going away. Capturing an ephemeral time in an ethereal place on canvas, some resemble prominent national heroes. More than their similarities in features, it is the character of a Rizal or Bonifacio he longs for his viewers to emulate.
Despite the desolation to our problems and dilemmas outside our lieu of comfort, Antido has kept the faith in expressing reality by revealing magical elements to his colorful visual imagery. Favoring heavenly bodies Antido has a romantic soul, who may have been an astronomer in another lifetime. He never fails to make you swoon upon first sight. With much respect to the audience, he leaves much of his framed portrayal on how they resonate to their liking. An open ended dialogue occurs with him initiating that you stop and look for a while.  

Sa Kalawakan, Irog ay Humayo: 8th Solo Exhibition by John Paul Antido is ongoing at the Boston Gallery until July 22, 2017

17.5.17

Arturo Sanchez Jr: Apocalypse Now

BY JAY BAUTISTA 


The past is knowledge
The present our mistake
And the future we always leave too late
I wish we’d come to our senses and see there is no truth
In those who promote the confusion for this ever changing mood.

My Ever Changing Moods
Style Council (1984)


One day everything will be gone at one fell swoop--we will no longer be here.


This factual eventuality has provoked artist Arturo Sanchez Jr. in Unearthed to further investigate our own near extinction by experiencing the various possibilities of resin in art. 


It was his cutouts etched in layered shifting narratives on mirrors that first gained attention for Sanchez; how he carefully composed by transferring each image to suit his desired effect on what it intently reflects to the viewer.


Again as objects of contemplation, Sanchez continues his collage of cutouts from many printing sources with the assumption of man’s inexistence on earth. Layered with resin, he compliments these images with ghoulish and macabre hues evoking an eerie mood reminiscent of the apocalypse being implied on us.  


Excavation Site (Panel 3)

Excavation Site was initially inspired from Steve Cutts’Man, a four-minute video on how man came to destroy his surroundings including himself. Sanchez always had the forced habit of collecting clutter and debris around him--how he likes things that slowly deteriorate or observe them as they physically disintegrate. With his collection accumulating, he thought of creating that ultimate “end of the world” scenario. Meticulously done like a fine draftsman that he is, Excavation Site is collage in three parts covered in clear-cut resin. Emanating a beautiful tragedy where everything will just be covered in debris. With grayish strokes resembling an impending melancholy in our midst, Sanchez reveals all of man’s folly and his greediness will be his own culprit and eventual downfall. With this exposition in ruins, all his secrets will self-destruct in the dustbin of history. 


New Found Specimen. Collage in Clear Cast Resin

With depopulating the earth and a breakdown of urban systems emerged New Found Specimen 1-4. Using huge quantity of images from several references making each perspective an emerging narrative, Sanchez’s imagination is limitless: ranging from flowers blooming from a clot of blood; a tree trunk morphs into another fabled being; a torso becomes a shelter inhabited by earthy creatures. Connoting an aesthetic honed from our diverse experiences of the everyday, he pours in resin into customized frames resulting in a realist play in abstraction. Sanchez would like to consider continuing this into other series in his next forays.




Enduring Decay is an unfolding surreal drama which involves a sculpture of a boy and girl morphed into a tight embrace on a mound full of animal bones and carcasses. A romantic interlude amidst this infatuated setting exuding beauty in impermanence. A lone mythical bird reminding us all that love is fleeting with only the memory of one another remains. Notice how Sanchez brutally finishes off his pieces with black splats even deepening his evocation of the affection between these tragic lovers. 
Enduring Decay
More like science projects Future Past shifts the focus to more ethereal and mundane subjects in everyday objects. Imitating the natural process of amber in archeological diggings this series provides a glimpse of how artists like Sanchez can be as ordinary beings live and how their lives evolved.

Sanchez attempts to achieve the pale yellow orange effect of amber as his resin fossilizes whatever brought to its attention. Attracted to the intricacies of the method he makes up for what his pieces represent. For Sanchez it could be a simple shell or as complex as exploding egg shells; they could also be the tools of his artistic trade as an overused paint brush, rubber roller, cutting tool or his daughter’s favorite shoe. They are all extensions of his being expanding notions of time, space, process, or participation how materials obstruct, disrupt and interfere both with his being a struggling artist and a devoted father.
Future Past (Paint Brush)

The given simplicity of materials is complicated with the adverse complexity of his process. Sanchez considers many factors to its mortality such as the thickness of his layers, the volume in pouring his resin which is controlled by its varying temperature. Depending upon how the material behaves with resin is another difficulty. Before the resin dries up he must paint over his pieces to achieve the amber haze finish. Finally Sanchez polishes to smooth to be lighted on a customized pedestal.

 
Future Past (Daughter's Shoe)

Coming from a well-appointed position, Sanchez has revived that bygone debate on what and how conceptual art is. For viewers these pieces could be easier seen than done yet it is that element of surprise that grabs them which shows the wit and candor of Sanchez. How each visual and physical memory by the random selection of material evokes like a time capsule is effective in its own context. 








Inspired by the natural desire for the uncharted lies the artistic prowess of Sanchez in capturing what we have been missing out and looking forward to. While 
he makes us conscious of the things we do not see, he transports us to our current actuation and opportunities. With his experiments, we need to step back and marvel at his art’s exuberance for he has captured our evolving mortal transience. In an appropriated time our short lives can be told through Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, but only in Sanchez’s boxes of curiosity and wonder can life be resurrected and celebrated.




Unearthed is ongoing at the West Gallery, West Ave. Quezon City

5.5.17

The Soaring of Little Wing Luna

BY JAY BAUTISTA |

Second of two parts



The first step is understanding the story. And then it’s finding the places where you think pictures might happen.
Amy Toensing
National Geographic Photographer





It took only two words for first-timer Little Wing Luna to get her US Visa: Bob Dylan. It was her honest and truthful self, as she really wanted to see him playing live in New York summertime last year. 
Her two words got her on that plane on her way to meet the soon-to-be Nobel Prize for Literature. With tattooed wings in her already ink-clad body, she was really destined to fly—literally and figuratively.
 
A Teenager Waiting for Her Train
As her early years she would volunteer to take photos during family occasions using her camera. She soon attended photography workshops of photojournalists Luis Liwanag and Alex Baluyut and would became part of Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines and now works in documenting activities of a government agency.

As many as the bright lights that glitter its most famous skyline, New York has more than a thousand stories to tell for Luna. And to be an effective photographer and convey her message, she would engage her audience by immersing herself, often asking questions or simply by making them smile.

She opted for the gorier subways, as there was more beneath the main pavements and blind alleys above. Down under you meet the rest of humanity—the struggling, the desperate and the live-for-today being transported to various far points of destinations to and from the city. Such as in the case of A Teenager Waiting for Her Train while Listening to Her Music. Unmindful of her chaotic surroundings marked by spontaneous litter and serious graffiti, her innocence is flanked by silence as evident in her plugged in music.
 
Everything has Shape, Texture, and Emotions
Luna opted for black and white photography, which is as old a medium as New York itself: “The streets are so amusing to me--every scene, every character, everything with textures, forms, breaths life. It’s sometimes cool to document them with all honesty. In the street, the mundane becomes surreal,” she explains.

One would wonder how long it took for Luna to imbibe the rhythm of these moments that passed by underneath. Reflecting on this kind of personality, can one really decipher if a photograph was taken by a woman? In A Woman with Heavy Load Riding a Train one could as the viewer is quite disturbed to how the lady is burdened by how her bags defines her individuality.




Everything has Shape, Texture and Emotions is a study of contrasts: leopard dress with velvet boots against metal stairs and cemented paths--all unified for one brief captured instance in a frame. 
It was the great Henri Cartier Bresson who defined what he describes as the decisive moment when the photographer’s eye, mind and heart come into focus together on an image compelling enough to inspire the click of a shutter. Photography is mostly about what and how the subjects are going through or the about to action.

If You See Something, Say Something
If You See Something, Say Something, is both uncanny and riveting. It freezes the moment where one descends to the uncertainty of the stairs. Not revealing the face, it is the identity of every man that she could not conceal from the experience.
     
Favoring musicians Luna could not resist the Purple Haze guitarist in Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway from her prying yet prowling lens. One can even hear his guitar riff fretting from a far through this image.
Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway
In time, by the opening and closing of cables Luna has been assured by people’s vibe as patterns of gestures, by the cadence of commuters footsteps, even how their bodies behave alighting and descending the stairs, how fatigue and weariness that takes the shape of their seats. Passengers on Board the Train is one such beautiful instance.
While Santos’ titles are irrelevant assigning only numbers to them, Luna can be as literal as to how she titles her images. Luna is the kind of storyteller unraveling the mystery of the everyday, the familiar in these remotest of places.

“Not really, to be honest. I just want to document the things i see and experienced. Having a cam with me is like carrying my cigs in my bag. I never ever leave home without it,” she adds.

If You Make it Here, You Make it Anywhere
Santos and Luna first foray was Chasing Quotidian three years ago in vMeme Contemporary Art Gallery in Quezon City. Showing their strong feminist perspectives, it was a well-accepted exhibit and affirmation of their passion for their art.

“I really don’t limit myself in photography. I shoot everything and anything; I experiment with my styles, angles, and perspectives. For me photography must be free from all limitations, be spontaneous and unexpected,” she says.  
Passengers on Board

Luna who currently documents various programs for a government agency photography is more like responsibility. Every minute an action happens and one must be ready to shutter and not leave tables perturbed.  One must live to fight another day. Yet Luna still leave something for the viewer Movie Series on Subway Walls.

Luna believes everybody has its own style, the same way as you tell your story as you take your shots: “I got a lot. I guess. I looked at their photos and I’m amazed always, but I believe everybody has its own style. It’s like telling a story, the way you tell your story is the same as taking your shots.”

Notice how none of the New York landmarks were seen in this exhibit, which was a giveaway and we could marvel at them. However Santos and Luna have captured New York the hard way and in a less postcard pretty manner. Some may not be please. Other may opt to call it pure talent. Enough said.


Note: Much has happened since viewing the exhibition on a Thanksgiving last year. From writing before and now Trump and Duterte presidencies all while basking in the scorching heat of May. At any rate be it in New York or in Manila, both Santos and Luna can be found shooting in the streets. In fact Luna was recently named among eight Filipinas for the International Photography Awards.