'Pag-Ibig at Lumbay' and All the Other Things That Janos Delacruz's Figures Want to Say
Oftentimes, man is torn and scorned, and hopes to be reborn in times of crisis. Isolation kills, as many of us have come to learn from the pandemic. Humanity is fragile, but for a shot at any redeeming social value, we must look beneath the surface.
We don't necessarily need to have some cathartic mega-experience to do so. It can come from the elements of everyday life, from the images we see and the beliefs that inform our morals to the ideas that we keep and the things we hold dear.
It can also come in the form of dreams, which artist Janos Delacruz has constantly noted in his work.
As one of the most prolific painters and printmakers of his generation, the Thirteen Artists Award recipient has always traversed the surreal. It's his muse. His works are dreamlike, but express a lucidity that details the tumultuous relationship between the intricacies of the ethereal and the frailties of man. He is an advocate for self-exploration.
"I would describe my work as an amalgamation of surreal imagery mixed with pop culture, everyday ramblings, social commentary, and a diary," he told Esquire Philippines.
His latest exhibition, Pag-Ibig at Lumbay, offers up the same motif. Delacruz takes us through illustrations of the intersecting narratives that plague human existence. Pag-Ibig at Lumbay, in a broader sense, put's man's conflicted nature as his muse. Simply put, each piece comes with a diatribe against the realities of living as peculiar beings going through some peculiar times.
He does this through paintings, drawings, fine prints (it's his first love, he says), and an eclectic fusion of grotesque and beautiful sculptures. These figures are protagonists who are reacting to the frantic landscape around them. They're caught in motion, unprepared and packed with dread, longing for either meaning or, for artists like Delacruz, creation.
Sculptures are called “Kuya Daks." In Ilonggo, "Dako" means large, a reference to Delacruz' own story and the underlying message he wants to communicate. Think big. Seen here: Kuya Daks - E (2022) by Janos Delacruz, Hand-Colored Reinforced Resin.
Kuya Daks - E (2022) by Janos Delacruz, Hand-Colored Reinforced Resin.
"My creative process is always evolving and in a constant state of experimentation," the artist explained. "But it always starts out as a series of sequential steps. Its always starts as doodles of dreams and random ideas in a visual journal. From there, I transform the images and theme to fine print. After that, I transform them into paintings."
While most pieces in this exhibition are rendered in black and white, a departure from the explosion of color we've come to expect from his work, they talk of the same dread the artist has been known to examine in his works. The exposed musculature of the figures in Pag-Ibig at Lumbay can be argued as an allegory for vestiges and contempt. They are shredded, exposing only the most vulnerable aspects of themselves.
As described by Curator Ian Belleza, the artworks are "a commentary on hiding your beliefs and true self as we try to conform to social pressure, norms and biases. It represents the reawakening of unique thought and removal of the shackles of docility. To be able to love freely and to create without limitations."
Kuya Daks - B (2022) by Janos Delacruz, Hand-Colored Reinforced Resin.
"As people, we have the same hopes and dreams, everyone wants to feel affection and be happy. But the last two years of the pandemic, as we are forced to stay at home and seclude ourselves from others, even with family, we still feel isolated," he expressed. "There is a lingering loneliness and longing for happier times. The show tries to capture snippet of this story."
We are invited to follow the routes of the etched lineal and spiral patterns, as well as the variety of texture to the pieces. Belleza says that these come from "an unfiltered brainstorm of a surreal idea from an incomplete dream."
Some of the artworks, however, do possess a jovial nature. Some are melancholic. Perhaps this is part of the theme that artist wants, which is the "unrequited love" brought about by pandemic blues. "I try to capture both side of the same coin, to appreciate the beautiful as well as the grotesque. To find light amidst darkness. I enjoy creating work that is both aesthetically intriguing and thought-provoking," he added.
In the sculptures, we can see classic Delacruz, but in three-dimensional forms. Each figure, we can observe, wears a translucent mask, which Delacruz points out is a metaphor or allegory for renewal. "Masks represent the skin of the snake."
We can sense quasi-religious imagery in his characters, too. These icons are imposing, both in size and aesthetic. They exhibit spirituality and a consciousness of the self.
Kuya Daks Kuya Daks - C (2022) by Janos Delacruz, Hand-Colored Reinforced Resin.
"I think visual artists are always restless souls, we try to chase our vision and impossible dreams. Although I never believed in the idea of perfection (only god is perfect). I think I came closer to achieving my idea in this exhibition than in any other shows."
Each figure has a mix of pyramids, jagged edges, fish scales, and assorted pigments, complete with the icon of the sacred heart in their hands. The color and volume of the works offset the nihilistic imagery they have, giving these distorted creatures some fun illusory whimsy.
It forces us to look for the viewer's own self-truths, as well. What we will find most evident might tell us something about who we are at a particular moment. These, in themselves, toy around with the boldest concepts of the "duality of man," we can say.
Delacruz's most recent work shows us that, even in our limited capacity in this weird and wacky and limiteless word, we must continue to explore the essential qualities of society and ourselves.
We can also argue that that's the prevailing thought of the exhibition: a demonstration of the good and the evil; the futility in reason and vice versa; and to be conflicted and certain. These, after all, are some of the most universal of human quandaries. And we're going to have to rely on love and solitude for answers.
Pag-Ibig at Lumbay will run until August 16 at Art Lounge Manila – Podium in Ortigas Center. For more information, visit the Art Lounge Manila website.