Artistic talent cannot exist in a vacuum. The artist working in his cell, waiting for inspiration to strike and, when it does, paint his grandiose vision in a flurry of brushstrokes is a tired trope in art history. Even the most hermetic of artists (Van Gogh comes to mind) had some support. More so in this contemporary moment in which the creative climate encourages collaboration, openness, and critique. To be an artist today is to be receptive and responsive to ideas, to be implicated in a web of relations which, one hopes, will deeply inform, energize, and improve his practice in more ways than one.
What are the coordinates to where you are? What is the grid your city makes? In your vault of sky, which shapes do your stars constellate to form? Do you need instruments? Maps, radars, the intelligent homing ability of migratory birds? Do you need instructions, arrows, codes written haphazardly on a piece of paper that you might place mindlessly somewhere and never look at again? I have yet to detect you like a heat-seeking missile. Under the tumble of waves, you are virtually undetectable, except when you rise up to take a gulp of air. You are a submarine, or a small island that vanishes with the rising of the tides. Sometimes you take on a disguise, and our bodies may have brushed in a crowd unknowingly, triggering electricity. Your smell, however, is something I can recognize all the way from the tip of the country where I have a view of the ocean which is eternally blue and hurts the eyes. We pulse like separate lighthouses in the dark. At night, I open myself like a well-thumbed book. I smile at the mirror. I cure my loneliness by listening to the water drumming on the sink. Do you ever get lonely, too? Hurry. Beneath our feet are fault lines, rivers of fire. Dear traveler, dear viewer, meet me at _________________.
Sculpture—as craft, tradition, and artistic medium—can be traced back to our precolonial past, usually expressed as evocations of our homegrown gods. Now considered as ethnographic and archeological finds, these sculptures nonetheless still assert their presence, still keeping guard over one’s house in certain cultures or being prayed to for a hope of a better weather or harvest. Their contemporary translations as Catholic icons do not diminish their power. The various festivals devoted to Jesus Christ, Mother Mary, and a motley crew of saints testify to this. Even the rope that teeters to the platform where the Black Nazarene is mounted is perceived to have healing properties, the ability to shift the tides of fate and fortune.
n Handumanay (a word from the Visayas that closely means “recollection”; note, too, of the last four letters, “anay,” that trail the word), Manes examines the erosion of memory as well as those that hold a record of it—photographs, an identification card, and a bill which, to some extent, preserves a kind of national identity. Once translated to his chosen medium, both subject and keepsake, the depicted and the record, share the same fate: their vulnerability is made evident. We as viewers look at his paintings as salvaged (denoting both “saved” as well as the vernacular connotation of “destroyed”) documents. Without these remnants, their destruction is complete.