Uploaded April 28, 2016
The New, Global Individual
While he continues to regard himself as a community artist, Ferdie Montemayor ventures into solo planets of quietude
by Jojo Soria de Veyra
AS PEEKING into the artist’s history is both tradition in, and requisite to, the formation of a critique on that same artist’s present production, so we might find it helpful to consider where it might be that Ferdie Montemayor took off from with these, his new sculptures and paintings, that he launched last Sunday, April 24, at a specialty store in Greenhills, San Juan called Secret Fresh.
So, where to begin? In the ‘90s Montemayor was painting with a nervous concern for Metro Manila’s urban sprawl that he was witnessing from atop his home city of Antipolo’s high elevation. With a degree of red and purple-hued expressionism, most noticeable was his obsession with the complexity of roads qua lines representing mobility, even restlessness.
To Montemayor, the complex lines of roads were already context-rich by themselves, already inviting mental considerations of the realities of trade and goods transport, relationships of all kinds, and endless access to various points from other points, etc., while shouting out the emotional fright from the basic idea of an unrelenting metropolitan population growth. At that same time, Montemayor was painting pastoral representations of small-town life and even relatively rural Antipolo life, as if to underscore the negative context of his urban-sprawl pieces. Nonetheless, while positioning himself as a critic of urban life, he likewise acknowledged its formal beauty from Antipolo’s elevated distance, especially as a sparkling city of night lights, as if to acknowledge that there is also beauty in self-destruction.
And now here we are with these. Montemayor’s present sculptures and paintings, calledGlobo series, offer a view of hollow spherical planets where the complexity of his previous roads qua lines have been reduced to mere plasticized organic filaments---in the sculptures rattan fiber filaments covered by doses of acrylic resin, in/on the paintings embossed acrylic lines. And these planets or moons are inhabited not by a rowdy community of humans but by a representative single individual inhaling a silence. Sometimes the representative individual would be accompanied by a child, even a pet. Some carry what could be a pouch---of what, it is left to the viewer to decide. Or is it a club?
". . . these are in minimalist black and white now, or in Japanese minimalist black and red, or in ecru or silver, clearly departing from the noise of Montemayor’s past and entering the hollow, plasticized silence of the present."
Otherwise these globes would be inhabited by a single tree as their sole vegetation. And then some globes present a rider-less bicycle, as if to negate travel (remember Montemayor's earlier lines’ contextualization of points of arrival obsessed with points of departure?). And while there is a work that is clearly representative of a family, the family members do not share the same planet but are portrayed, sardonically perhaps, as individuals each inhabiting their own.
And what about the coloration? Remember his earlier red and purple-hued expressionism? Sure, that expressionism has stayed, mainly in the Pollock-like splotches of liquid acrylic that form the paintings’ globes’ lines as well as the spherical sculptures’ acrylic-welded fibers. But these are in minimalist black and white now, or in Japanese minimalist black and red, or in ecru or silver, clearly departing from the noise of Montemayor’s past and entering the hollow, plasticized silence of the present. Notice that his past’s maddening lines are now contained in either a minimalist circle or a minimalist sphere.
But wait a minute. Aren’t planets spherical due to a gravity pull at their center? Often that center is unseen because of an opaque surface, the reason perhaps why we earthlings are often earthly---because we can’t see that gravitational mystery. But what if we make planets transparent, so that we can witness how invisible that center really is? I don’t know how more minimalist you can be with these hollow globes, if minimalism is indeed constantly inspired by Zen Buddhist thinking. No, these new pieces cannot be an iteration of Montemayor’s 2000s series of paintings depicting planets filled by population, with endless road structures stretching from end to end. Instead, these new pieces could be that 2000s series’ very counterpoint.
What is the ultimate achievement of this, Montemayor’s present series, then? One guest at the vernissage had this impression that he communicated directly to the artist: “unlike your past works, I feel I need to build a hotel first in order to buy one of these, or live in a posh condominium.” True enough, the sculptures’ and paintings’ plastic minimalism do evoke some glamour, helped too perhaps by the granite tiles and glass walls of Secret Fresh, a store for relatively expensive toys made by artists. But if we are to consider the artist’s history for a richer context reading, we can perhaps to suspect a reverse action: that the artist has not purely succumbed to high-end glamour but has also invaded it in order to consciously or unconsciously mirror that community’s own loneliness, hollowness, and plasticity, if only to offer a minimalist altar to its members upon which each of them can meditate on their personal planet’s future. [d]
Text (c) 2016 Jojo Soria de Veyra. Photos by Simkin de Pio.
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