The Cartography of Desire

BY MADS BAJARIAS | In Christina Dy's "His Shirt" (2008), we see a rumpled shirt depicted as if it were a mysterious landscape. At 55 inches by 100 inches, there is a map-like quality to the work as our gaze is swept along the sinuous folds of the fabric. In it, we see what could be a maze of twisting paths, canyons, cliffs, overhangs, crevasses, switchbacks and deep drops. A forbidding region. Easy to get lost in.

Cartographers make it possible for explorers to navigate their way around the dangers of the unfamiliar. We arm ourselves with maps to hold at bay a chaotic reality, and in the constellation of human emotions what is more troublesome and confusing than love?

In love's geography, difficulties flourish and the landscape is never dull. "Love requires absence, obstacles, infidelities, jealousy, manipulation, outright lies, pretend reconciliations, tantrums and betrayals," wrote Diane Ackerman in "A Natural History of Love."

"Lovers fret, hope, agonize and dread," she noted, while describing the travails of Marcel Proust's characters in "In Search of Lost Time."

Dy charts the shadowy cul-de-sacs and sharp turns of this intimate landscape. It is as if hidden within each crease is a trip wire to an explosive memory or expectation. To navigate this terrain requires extreme dexterity. Hidden dangers abound. That is what we get when we enter desire's realm.

As for the man who owns the shirt, his absence is the point. Ultimately, desire is a feat of the imagination.

Christina Dy answers a few questions about "His Shirt."

Medium. Date created. How long did you finish it?

CD: Charcoal on paper, 55 inches x 100 inches, 2008. It took me a total of 8 hours to make it, but a staggered 8 hours. I need time away from my work before I could go back to finish it.

What ideas were kicking around in your head when you made it?

CD: This piece is for a show called "Clothes They Stood Up In." I wanted to show intimacy in a very subtle way. So instead of drawing people in bed, or something as obvious as that, I drew the clothes that people usually just take off and leave on the bed or on the floor. A friend gave me that shirt, and when I wore it and we went out, people were like, "You look like you had just sex with him and wore his shirt after." That kicked off something in my head, which turned into this show.

I love the fact that its large size associates intimacy with geography. It reminds me of a topographic map.

CD: Yes, I was thinking of intimacy and how the scale of the work would draw you into it. How the work could actually envelope you with its size. I wanted a lot of curves and undulating lines to hint at a little sensuality.

Did you work from a photograph?

CD: Yes. That night after I wore his shirt, I took it off and when it was on my bed, I thought, hmmm...

Where can people go to see your works?

CD: I'm represented by Silverlens, so for available works, people can contact Silverlens Gallery at www.silverlensphoto.com. I'll also have a show "Soaplands" at CCP, July 25-30, and I'm part of the Ateneo Art Awards show that will be in Shangri-La Mall this August.

Are you the Christina Dy credited as production designer of "Maximo Oliveros"?

CD: Yup that's me! I'm doing Quark Henares' film "Rakenrol" now, but that'll be the last film I'll be doing in a while. Drawing na muna (Smiles).

Thanks Christina.

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