Award winning artist Ricky Ambagan’s recent exhibition, From Here, at the Salcedo Private View attempts to characterize what music is--only visually with his distinct iconography in subdued colors and fine brushstrokes. Continuing his artistic foray that Ambagan started with his earlier I’m Coming Home exhibition, Ambagan customizes bespoke canvases in the form of travelling bags as an effective graphic handle to eschew wonder and imbibe deep reminisces as he permits us to voyage back in time--when we were young, restless and capable of imagination.
Huling El Bimbo remains to be most popular masterpiece as it captures what it was growing up in the 70s. One never fails to sing while observing the ongoing clip taken from the video transferred to the canvas. As a child before the advent of gadgets and computers, we used to live in our own worlds where even unrequited love affairs existed--holding hands. We All Live in a Yellow Submarine can be as psychedelic as it is reminiscent of the popular tune when the Beatles sang it, in sync. Ambagan relishes the magic and mystery as it induces the presence of the eclectic arcana showed in the painting.
In Old Friends we all have the longest chums in our favorite superheroes (or barbie dolls), we were never separated from them. In Wooden Plane, we are so enthralled and imitated their actions complete with wearing their masks and capes. We even sleep with them and bring them wherever we go.
By nature we are all anthropologists and historians--as we tend to hoard meaningful things--that reminded us of our valued relationships. They could be bus tickets, corks from a celebratory wine bottle and even old clothes worn by a departed loved ones. In Kept Things Ambagan narrates as we grow older the more stories we have of each other the more fullness of our lives lived. Lost in Paradise is Ambagan’s concealed way to tiptoe to how secrets remain as they are that in this age of Social media we should be careful not to reveal confessions that happened only in their respective places. What happened there, stays there in oblivion.
When Ambagan was ten years old, he envied his many classmates who owned a particular trendy bag given upon patronizing a certain fast food chain. His grandfather saw his grandson’s lamentations and created a replica of the same bag—only Ambagan’s was made of hardwood. This story never fails to instill pride in Ambagan from being the poorest student in class he was the most envied because his bag was sturdiest and man-made.
In a previous show, the travelling bag symbolized Ambagan’s personal burden—an excessive emotional baggage he tried to solve as a parent and able citizen of this country. From Here is an allegory of adventure, in adventure. By portraying a literal bag complete with straps and handles, Ambagan has created an out-of-the-box experience. Notice the boy-adventurer featured as he has been in many Ambagan canvases. He sees each and every of us in the boy as he is present in every painting in this series.
Bucket List reminds us of the many places we want to visit with our loved ones. The saddest moment is arriving at your destination without them in tow. Similar to the film, Up, we should travel like in a hot-air balloon while we are still healthy and able to do so. Road Map shows sometimes it is enjoyable to get lost in a maze. Ambagan revisits his old visual style of a bygone exhibit. Ever the critical, Ambagan wants continuity from his past aesthetics as he moves forward in creative direction.
Beyond Borders and Saga Continues displays the unicycle as it makes surprise guest appearances while it wobbly treks around. An Ambagan fixture, it takes confidence as well as an old-fashioned soul to be able to ride one. Somewhat autobiographical he is Ambagan grappling for reasons for his existence.
From Here is a promising gestalt of remembrances stitched together like custom quilts where Ambagan weaves stories narrated to him by various people. As an sensitive artist he translates them into common tales understood by many, juxtaposing them with contemporary concerns and past memories while interpreting them in the most authentic and realist way.
Whether monstrous, repulsive, beautiful, comely, or alluring, his paintings register our fears and longings, as well as our anger and faith, as a collective living in previous moments we wish to return to, Ambagan allows us to take a back seat--let us look back--as he brings us closer to truths we never still define.
From Here opens today until December 18 at the Salcedo Private View.