BY JAY BAUTISTA |
|Wind of Change|
In these trying and often troubled times, when even a body of water or a group of islands is gravely being disputed, Pangaea by Ricky V. Ambagan reiterates what we have been and knew all along—that we are one and universal. As evidenced in geography marked by the broken connections of land masses in coastlines of what used to be a super continent, Pangaea simulates this united treatise through a shared cultural vocabulary through visual arts.
Ambagan’s themes revolve around science, culture, religion and even philosophy. He celebrates man’s greatest sociological and historical issues infusing them into our most personal sentimentalities. If Ambagan honored unknown Italian masters the last time in Omaggio, he concerns himself in present-day realities in Pangaea. Contemporary anxieties like global warming, environment degradation and cultural amnesia seriously occupy his canvases of varying sizes. Using omnipresent children, lamps representing souls, and luminosity as a positive graphic handle as signature in his works, Ambagan is a poet of the palette combining the local and global, the ethnic and cultural, in adventure-filled settings-- mixing naïve and sophisticated testimonials--straining out what limits the imagination. Ambagan has brought back storytelling by painting narratives into what our collective memory is--we are all shared beings. What appeals to us also affects other peoples from the other side of the earth.
His figures are often stuck in a moment—pausing an action—bravely appropriating with abandon popular and critical iconographies from diverse milieus. An interesting dialogue emerges among his subjects. Witness two kids in Hidden Gem, as they are in wonder while in search of something. Both are beside Bansky’s Girl with Balloon with the Easter Island statues and the Stonehenge looming in the background. Ambagan has taken risks in depicting his images and confidently attempting at playfulness. Consider Fix You which has the elements in a traditional Chinese luck signifiers; in Chosen One where our hero favors an imperial soldier in the afterlife; and Happy Thoughts which reminisces on lightness and impermanence of our being, as exuded by Japanese carp kites representing courage and persistence. They become dragons once they hurdle the current--all these adventure relate to Ambagan’s oriental take on civilization, as it happened through cornucopia of classic archeological findings and popular icons.
Mortality and the future of existence affects Ambagan’s consciousness as witnessed in Sleep Tight wherein the presence of a panda is a cause for alarm as flying lanterns provide a semblance of dismal hope in the prevailing darkness; the man in a unicycle has always been a recurring Ambagan creation in his previous shows. It denotes temporal suspension of belief while awaiting for a reversal of fortune of bigger things to come. It makes an appearance in Wind of Change in what appears to be a broken clock signifying twist of fate. As one is facing uncertainty in life’s constant events, one just has to move in order to be still. Cool Change speaks of post-apocalyptic scenarios that may scare the viewer but mind you these are not Ambagan’s intentions. More of a constant reminder as observed in Deep Peace ushering a grim reminder that the world is much darker and deeper than what a jellyfish experiences in the ocean—that we should practice contentment and live within our means to be at peace.
Dramatic interpretation of birth and constant re-birth are depicted in New Beginning and Against the Flow. New Beginning revisits a more cryptic Noah’s Ark as evident in the fossilized animals representing ancient times which blended well in the famous Biblical wrecked ship submerged in water. Against the Flow follows the circle of life as a boy freely floats like a baby featuring that there are more intelligent people born--despite the critical mortality caused by hunger and poverty--while at a young age they are faced with monsters of age-old curses. Puff ushers in sentimentality as that 70s song by Peter, Paul and Mary beckons eschewing nostalgia taking us back to bygone days filled with nostalgia. Finally, I Surrender finishes off Ambagan’s longing for equanimity and transience as it summarizes his faith for humanity. It overwhelms as it grabs your attention showing the scale of man as a mere speck compared to the towering cross. It is as spiritual as Ambagan can get without favoring any religion.
Against the Flow
Ambagan’s long and arduous process of art making starts off with words as he reflects upon them while listening to audiobooks or watching documentaries on inspiring men such as Machiavelli, Alexander the Great and Gengis Khan. Early in the morning, as soon as he wakes up, he inspires himself with he calls as his “quiet time.” Upon recharging his thoughts he then gears up as he recreates his words into images sometimes translating them in 3D fashion even sculpting them on paper. Upon careful scrutiny on his pieces, Ambagan finds the appropriate colors and emotions rendering them in textured brushstrokes. His palette may use bright or subdued colors as deemed necessary. Ambagan wants subjects shouting their tempered brilliance in silence. His commitment is to his craft and his pursuit for emancipation runs deep within his subjects’ character.
Ambagan is versed in carefully composed stories on his masterpieces. He has no regular pattern and prefers to deconstruct images from various sources. Lately he assumes the role of a cinematographer in the way he presents his artistic scenes. His prowess lies in his moments of delight-- being theatrical on canvas is his aesthetics.
Pangaea is a hopscotch where you can customize how you would like to connect Ambagan’s framed pictures to comprise your one big bespoke exhibition. It disturbs your peace as you do your rounds in this year’s Manila Art. It is interventionist against convention done in Ambagan’s in-your-face realism—a kind of counter culture being introduced into the mainstream. It is an adventure with challenges wherein the hero wins in the end. Like a chess game, viewers can either take the lead as king or queen or be a pawn rooting in the sidelines. No matter what we shall overcome—as we are all in this together.
Pangaea, a solo exhibition of Ricky V. Ambagan will be from October 9-15 at Galerie Roberto in Manila Art 2019, SMX Convention Center, SM Aura Premier, Taguig City.