BY JAY BAUTISTA | The story goes that it took Michelangelo three years to sculpt a slab of marble into the figure of his contemplative "David." The renaissance artist became so obsessed with perfecting the human form that when he was done, legend has it that he commanded the statue to speak to him.
After "Mona Lisa" by Leonardo Da Vinci ("Da Vinci" means "from the Italian town of Vinci," thus, I find the book title "Da Vinci Code" a bit odd, but I’m digressing), the most famous representation of western art is "David," created in 1504 as a symbol of strength and youthful beauty. This is the essence of what Mark Justiniani is rebelling against.
The rebellion implied in Mark Justiniani’s "David" does not refer to David's fight against Goliath, but to the tiny Pinoy with a slingshot perched on David's hand. It is a critique on the belief that art should be perfect, balanced and centered on western notions. By having the Pinoy aim at the "David" that has dominated our concept of what is true, good and beautiful in culture, Justiniani is asking the viewer to think on his own.
You have to hand it to Justiniani, his fine craftsmanship after years of rigorous training in drawing is evident here. In "David," he uses the medium to symbolically rebel against the “master.”
Justiniani's "David" shows his continuing struggle for a post-colonial identity. Yes, some of his contemporaries have gone on to other ventures like Pop Art, hyperrealism, or even something I call cuteism.
He’s still at it, and Justiniani will never get tired of going after the Governor-Generals, Spanish friars, Uncle Sam and the traditional politicians who continue to corrupt our lives.
I don’t think he is capable of painting a bad picture and the remarkable thing with Justiniani is that the soft, child-like strokes are loaded with a deep force that makes the viewer imagine new realities.
Maybe for him, there is something about breathing the air in foreign shores that makes him think and feel more deeply about his country. Sort of being a forced exile makes Justiniani paint even more beautifully as he ages.
Pinoy artists say that the best compliment that you could get from Justiniani is when he says, "nadali mo dito" about something that appealed to him in your work.
Well maestro, "nadali mo dito si David."
"David" is part of Mark Justiniani’s 12th one-man show, "Catapult" at the Substation in Singapore.