2016 Series/Volume


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Uploaded May 20, 2016

EXHIBITION ESSAY


 

Dengcoy Miel's
Baroque, er, Barok

 


 

​curator and critic Siddharta Perez's exhibition essay on Miel's first one-man painting show at Quezon City's Kaida Contemporary gallery, with an added introduction here by Jojo Soria de Veyra
 

 



SauverMan | Dengcoy Miel | 3' x 4' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016

 

 


 

 

 

Introduction by Jojo Soria de Veyra

 



THE CLOSE relationship between political/social satire in oil painting and the political cartoon as an art form goes a long way back. One could even say that the popularity of the works of Hieronymus Bosch (b. 1450) was already loaded with potentially political and social commentary that, in spite of their clearly religious pessimism/cynicism, could nonetheless have influenced political and social visual commentary’s imagery through the later centuries and consequently the imagery of the political cartoons of the 20th century. That is arguable, of course, since Bosch was not the first on this planet to create exaggerations of the real for metaphorical statements in painting, and cartoonists can give you their own roster of inspirations from the past. Anyway, it’s many of William Hogarth’s (b. 1697) paintings that have been officially acknowledged by art historians as the precursors to today’s mannerisms in political satire drawing (in both the cartoon and painting), so let’s begin there.
    But we’ve already come a long way, and conversely now have a long list already of painters working in the same visual language and sensibility used by the political and social cartoonist. Among these painters, one could name his favorite in Reginald Marsh (b. 1898) or in a cleaner Norman Rockwell (b. 1894). If he’s Polish he might remember the name of Franciszek Kostrzewski (b. 1892), if English D. L. Ghilchik’s (b. 1892), if Mexican Carlos Orozco Romero’s (b. 1896), and if Catalan-Spanish Josefina Tanganelli Plana’s (b. 1904). And today’s practitioner of this kind of cartoonish painting could point to singular works from the past as an early inspiration, which singular works may not necessarily own the requisite comic element but could be as serious to a fault as Man, Controller of the Universe (1934) by Diego Rivera (b. 1886), among other social realist works, such as the Soviet Union's and the Cultural Revolution's poster makers'. More popular to us are recent advocates of the cartoonish, in the person of Americans like Roy Lichtenstein (b. 1923) or even more recent adapters like Keith Haring (b. 1958); both of these names worked in the Pop Art wit tradition.
    Now, it hasn’t only been painters and cartoonists who’ve had this relationship of influencing each other; the art industry itself has grabbed the puns of the cartoon and illustration industry for its own iconization and commodification, appropriating these used works by removing them from their original usage, in short moving them into the gallery space as now-framed oeuvres for gallery exhibition and sale. In the ‘80s, graffiti artists were relieved to have found work with galleries, and, even later, the graphic works of such illustrators as Raymond Pettibon (b. 1957) found themselves peddled as artworks to be regarded for their own sake. There is also Marcel Dzama (b. 1974), whose illustrations for books have likewise been exhibited as “pure” artworks.
    Today, there are hundreds of famous names in painting working with the very same political and social cartoon sensibility, and it’s no surprise that some of them have also been earning their living as editorial cartoonists for newspapers and magazines or as illustrators of books or comic books. The works of the late cartoonist-painters Mario Miranda of India (b. 1926) and Alan McLeod McCulloch of Australia (b. 1907) continue to be popular among international collectors, and a list of living artists in this same category might include Garrick Tremain (b. 1941), Bill Leak (b. 1956), William Wray (b. 1956), Bret Blevins (b. 1960), Naushad Waheed (b. 1962), Guy Richards Smit (b. 1970), Kostas Koufogiorgos (b. 1972), or Alex Fellows (b. 1979), to name a few. And how can we forget our very own Manuel Ocampo's combining cartoon elements with colonial baroque imagery?

NOW, there's another Filipino artist quite renowned internationally, but in the world of the editorial cartoon. A two-time Reuben Award winner, Dengcoy Miel recently had his first one-man painting show, launched last May 1 at Quezon City’s Kaida Contemporary gallery, which is actually a return to painting for the Singapore-based artist. And even as he doesn’t see a home-base-return to the Philippines anytime soon, he promises that this return to painting, or so we heard him say, would be for good or for a very long time hence.
    And so what Hogarthianisms did he have waiting for us at the salvo of this return to, or cartoonist’s swerve towards, painting?
    His show's title (“Philippine Barokue”---a salute to the Philippine comic character Barok, and perhaps to Ocampo's played-on baroque imagery as well) gives us a clue. Especially as this is echoed by his pieces’ own titles with their own equally mocking allusions to elitist culture via their nationalist and social liberal puns (which mockery alludes very clearly to elitist social elements as confronted by intellectual concepts/approaches against them coming from Miel's learned critical angle).
    True, Miel’s mockery is itself now working from within the language of an existing elite art, acrylic/oil painting on canvas. But shouldn't that be more laudable than the act of mocking hegemonies from without (say, from an alternative tabloid), given that being embedded in a culture creates the perfect parody stance towards that culture (self-parody as well)? And what could be done to this mocking from within? Well, lo and behold, Miel chose to launch his anti-elite but gallery-embedded pieces' show on Labor Day, also as if to predict the near and oncoming May 9 win of a Rodrigo Duterte, he with an equivalent collection of sneers at high culture and that culture’s accompanying neo-imperialist, also lumpenbourgeois and socially exploitative, contexts, but displaying these sneers from within the presidential electoral system instead of from without (putting aside the issue of whether the politician is for real or just someone else's lumpenbourgeois partner).
    But we're getting carried away. So, now, to curator and critic Siddharta Perez's essay regarding the show.
 


The Empire of the Gaze | Dengcoy Miel | 4 x 5' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016

 



". . . an element of cultural practice is hijacked or obligated. How, then, does it persist in the programming of the Philippine consciousness?"

 



A Counterflow to the Gridlock:
Traffic and the "Philippine Barokue"

 

by Siddharta Perez

 

THE regally postured subject in the painting "Philippine Barokue" reminds us of the '70s Philippine comic character Barok. However, he is neither garbed in ratty animal hide nor on a narrative fraught with a humor achievable through a tense scenario appropriate only through the ways one can imagine the “caveman” era to be. The portrait, however, continues to enact a certain incongruity---a whole narrative of this mismatch unfolds if one were to identify the appropriation of the subject as a mirror to its own copy of the American animation The Flintstones. This Neanderthal is clad in imperial trappings, all indicating a haughty demeanor except the dead giveaway of the club. Can the primitive, bad taste of the Filipino “barok” be disguised in the precious “borda” and emblems of pseudo-royalty?
 


Philippine Barokue | Dengcoy Miel | 4 x 5' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


    Concurrently the new series is titled Philippine Barokue, positing a return to the construction of the colonial imaginary through the tongue-in-cheek mash-up of “baroque” and “barok”.
    The former persists as an architectural index and the latter introduces a vernacular set of codes on utterances towards lifestyle, gesture or taste that is deemed unrefined and even reckless. As culture, or in the living of it, is relevant only to its performance, what then emerges from the study of the “barok”? In this suite of portraits and mise-en-scènes, one could deduce a proposition of an index as much as we could identify the conglomeration of iconic variables---a blonde National Hero, a half-reptilian political class, the conquistador. And yet, besides these major character tropes, the cast is an infinite a horizon, as is the landscape of sin that has no vanishing point in “SauverMan.”
 


Joe Rizal | Dengcoy Miel | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


    Within the platitude of culture as a melting pot, or that stew wherein the bones of Empire and colony that need to be picked contain the marrow essential to the flavor of our social construction, Philippine Barokue is an inquiry rather than a roll call of the permutation of appropriation.
​    We begin to look at how they persist beyond the conduct of an echo of a legacy. How did we get to these disparate hyphenations? On a cursory level, it is a matter of excess---whether in irony or resistance, an element of cultural practice is hijacked or obligated. How, then, does it persist in the programming of the Philippine consciousness? Baroque indicates a look manifested in a façade. The translation unfolds as on a physical plane. Much like the imprint of this genre, the “barokue” proposes an inscription on bodies. “Juan Burdado a.k.a. CasaNoveau: Basta Driver, Sweet Lover” is cast in Rembrandt-esque chiaroscuro---his face veiled in romantic macho stupor, overcome by the charge of the jeepney by his crotch. The barok is stitched onto his skin, and maneuvers us to think of the jeepney experience---enclosed in this nightmarish joyride, we are tattooed by it in the same manner as its pimped-out façade. Fatalism perhaps marks the forming of this consciousness: that the encounter is as violent as a jeepney roaring from suburbia to underbelly lanes in the metropolis, trauma clinging to bodies it hostages like the panic and eventual surrender we exert as we too cling to the handrails.
 


Juan Burdado a.k.a. CasaNoveau: Basta Driver, Sweet Lover | Dengcoy Miel | 3 x 4' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016

     Dengcoy Miel, whose constant flow of illustrations have reflected and nurtured the irony of his bilocal landscape in the Philippines and Singapore since the 1980s, has presented to us grittier tales of the reflection we see in the mirror. At a time where the aestheticization of social ills offered its own anaesthetic, what occurs when seasoned practices have lived through the changing representations of the garboil that persists as in flux? The paintings of Miel lift this impasse in both the neutralizing machinery of images being produced as well as in the ways in which we settle with the conditions that perpetuate the “barok.” Philippine Barokue confronts that trajectory of the cultural unpicking dismantled to a pulp and re-pieces the imaginary by recalling certain codes in postcolonial image-making. For the representations of imperialism that have been revived, reworked and circulated do not seem to have enabled a conclusive point. Rather, they have been nothing but exaggerations, much like the solipsistic sense of “barok” that extends the incongruity of a mash-up. The zombie horse continues to stomp through the landscape of sufferance, carrying the specter of the conquistador in “The Empire of the Gaze”.
     The Philippine Barouke spreads the suite of cards that we could call an inherited destiny----inherited so much so that it seemed imprinted in the body, strapped deeper than surface level; after all, the “past” reckoned to be portrayed in black and white are rendered by Miel in the colour of earth, perhaps even of blood. It is almost like a cultural programming that needs to be exhumed as a performance of something that is anticipated, of something yet to arrive. It is the jeepney that has been blazing through despite the gridlock of the city’s traffic---and we, as passengers, have been made to feel we have been hijacked to stay put. After all, once one decides to get off at standstill, that’s when the jeepney starts moving again. ​[ d ] - See more at: file:///D:/Jojo/DISKURSO/VOL%2002%20ISSUE%2004/Dengcoy%20Miel's%20Baroque,%20er,%20Barok%20-%20diskurso_%20filipino%20art%20magazine%20online.html#sthash.3Fs7TyQm.dpuf


    Dengcoy Miel, whose constant flow of illustrations have reflected and nurtured the irony of his bilocal landscape in the Philippines and Singapore since the 1980s, has presented to us grittier tales of the reflection we see in the mirror. At a time where the aestheticization of social ills offered its own anaesthetic, what occurs when seasoned practices have lived through the changing representations of the garboil that persists as in flux? The paintings of Miel lift this impasse in both the neutralizing machinery of images being produced as well as in the ways in which we settle with the conditions that perpetuate the “barok.” Philippine Barokue confronts that trajectory of the cultural unpicking dismantled to a pulp and re-pieces the imaginary by recalling certain codes in postcolonial image-making. For the representations of imperialism that have been revived, reworked and circulated do not seem to have enabled a conclusive point. Rather, they have been nothing but exaggerations, much like the solipsistic sense of “barok” that extends the incongruity of a mash-up. The zombie horse continues to stomp through the landscape of sufferance, carrying the specter of the conquistador in “The Empire of the Gaze”.
    The Philippine Barouke spreads the suite of cards that we could call an inherited destiny----inherited so much so that it seemed imprinted in the body, strapped deeper than surface level; after all, the “past” reckoned to be portrayed in black and white are rendered by Miel in the colour of earth, perhaps even of blood. It is almost like a cultural programming that needs to be exhumed as a performance of something that is anticipated, of something yet to arrive. It is the jeepney that has been blazing through despite the gridlock of the city’s traffic---and we, as passengers, have been made to feel we have been hijacked to stay put. After all, once one decides to get off at standstill, that’s when the jeepney starts moving again. ​[ d ]

 


​------------------------------------------------------------
Siddharta Perez is a Singapore-based Filipino curator and critic.

 



MickeyVellian | Dengcoy Miel | 3 x 4' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


Pamana | Dengcoy Miel | 4 x 5' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


Trick or Treaty | Dengcoy Miel | 3 x 4' | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


Sabungerong Amboy | Dengcoy Miel | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016


BurLace | Dengcoy Miel | acrylic and oil on canvas | 2016
 

 

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Intro text (c) 2016 Jojo Soria de Veyra
Exhibition essay text (c) 2016 Siddharta Perez
​Photos by Simkin de Pio.

 

 

 


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diskurso is an independent, Philippines-based online magazine on art aiming to veer away from a present mental landscape replete with the customary peacock and weasel words that continue to service the art industry.