24 September - 24 October 2015
September 24, Thursday, 6-9pm
Silverlens is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of Renato Orara’s more recent incarnations from the seriesTen Thousand Things That Breathe, begun in 1989. It is nearly two decades since he first brought drawings from this series to the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 1996. The series is a growing body of work comprised of drawings of objects that happen to be in the artist’s habitat or that he happens to encounter beyond his home—typically quotidian things that he coaxes into being from a blank sheet of paper in layers of ballpoint pen ink. The exhibition will also feature eight works from his series Library Bookworks, comprising books that feature his 'intervention' with ballpoint pen drawings of human ears. The books appear in this exhibition courtesy of the various libraries in the Philippines to which the books were donated in 2009. Both the drawings and the books will be displayed on tables to provide viewers with a more intimate setting for viewing these works. The exhibition runs from September 24 to October 24, 2015.
Orara’s knowledge and appreciation of art, music, and literature; his interrogation of current events and serious regard for the world both as a philosophical construct and as the larger picture of multiple humanist units; his steady dedication to making art, impervious to the highs (such as having a series of works enter important collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York) and the lows (such as unrealized solo exhibitions)—these all intersect in a convicted engagement with the contemporary moment.
Among the graduates from the first batch of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling during a time of unprecedented creative ferment at the school and of political upheaval in the country during the Marcos years, Orara diverged from the ‘academic’ path of an artist by shifting from the art program at the University of the Philippines and majoring in Psychology instead. During those college years, he nonetheless continued to make a lot of art, mostly conceptual in nature; exhibited alongside other artists; and even curated innovative and experimental exhibitions. Reaching that proverbial fork in the road after college, he turned his back on his conceptual art practice, took up Zen meditation, and became a social worker in Japan, counseling callers to a suicide hotline. From exposure to the extremes of the immediacy of people’s despair on the one hand and of the calming meditative tenets of Buddhism on the other came about a return to making art that couldn’t be more far removed, at least nominally, from conceptualism than making small drawings from life—a hummingbird, a vegetable root, a watch.
Since the first of his Ten Thousand Things that Breathe drawings, the series has, over the years, steadily expanded and branched out to the Drawer Drawings,Library Bookworks, Blood Works, and The Iraq War Memorial, comprising works that foreground the artist’s hand but also have conceptual underpinnings that take the work beyond the precious. Deftly distilling the epic into the intimate in his drawings, his command of the ballpoint pen on small rectangles of paper to transmute the physicality of the drawn object; the effect of time, air, and gravity on each object; and the lyrical act of limning the edges, textures, crevices, and shadows with his eyes are impeccable. The unquestionable technical mastery is only second fiddle to the very strong presences of these drawings, evidencing not just our physical world but what might be delicate, forlorn, ephemeral, enduring, humorous, seductive, mind-stopping, or plain innocuous in it—incrementally transcribed through a meditative prism. Their presence is rooted in an honesty that is refreshing in an era steeped in irony; and radical in its quiet strength in the face of an art milieu where even things called ‘ugly paintings’ preen slick and shiny. This combination of commitment, honesty, intellectual curiosity, engagement, and pure creativity testifies to a spirit that, with an economy of means (i.e., pen and paper), does not shortchange.
The artist will be present at the opening reception on September 24, 6-9pm. For inquiries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +632.816.0044.
by Carina Evangelista | Silverlens
About the Artist
Renato Orara is a Philippine-born and New York-based artist whose focus over the last 25 years has been an ongoing series of ballpoint works on paper called Ten Thousand Things That Breathe. His work has been exhibited in Asia, Europe, the United States, and has found its way into private, as well as museum collections like The Museum of Modern Art, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Singapore Art Museum.
Founded by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo in 2004, Silverlens has earned recognition from both artists and collectors as one of the leading contemporary art galleries in Southeast Asia. Through its exhibition program, artist representation, art fair participation and institutional collaboration, Silverlens aims to place its artists within the broader framework of international contemporary art dialogue.
Silverlens Galleries Manila
24 September - 24 October 2015
2F YMC Bldg 2,
2320 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension,
Makati City 1231, Philippines
Tue-Fri 10am-7pm | Sat 10am-6pm