Eye Witness For Kirby Roxas


Sometimes I see then paint it. Other times I paint it then see it.

Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither.

Jasper Johns

In his almost a decade of art practice, it is exacting for Kirby Roxas to constantly engage his public in a discourse. Like a jabbing boxer, how he dabbles in his own contemporary realism marrying the rational with the macabre; painstakingly employing various media like old geographic maps, obsession with random security numbers for whatever sequential requirement they entail, and even geometric forms traced by masking tapes to induce his kind of social relevance, he so consistently infects to his audience.

Ever probing, Kirby is well-versed in the medical sciences having studied physical therapy before he shifted to fine arts. Thus explains his methodical approach his concepts for exhibitions.

Sometimes these visual consultations sometimes emanate from the unlikeliest of opportunities and circumstances. Foreseendenials, his sixth solo exhibition at the Crucible (which opened on the day following Osama Bin Ladin’s death), it was in a recent high school reunion that Kirby met up with a former classmate who now works as an optometrist. Before that fateful night was over, he had already figured what would constitute the art pieces now on view.

We are All Even After All (Acrylic on Canvas)

Cross-eyed, Wall-eyed, and the Black-eyed

Revolting/revolving around one’s constant search for truth, fate, and the indigenous psyche of the Filipino, the centerpiece appropriates the Snellen Charts. Named after the Dutch ophthalmologist Hermann Snellen, the standard 13-letter test dates back in 1862 and has been a fair gauge in examining one’s visual acuity. For Kirby, the science of optometry seems another form of optical dialogue in painting. Cleverly spelling on the canvas Pagbalikbaliktarin Mo Man Ang Katotohanan (No matter how you continuously reverse fate) Irreversal Individual emphatically alludes to the beauty of our impermanent lives. Slightly hinted in the background, Kirby affirms one’s mortality and eventual demise. As the man seeks his own redemption, he vehemently reflects this existential inquiry to a mirror directly before him. A somewhat simultaneous jeopardy happens as roles are reversed and the viewer looking long and hard on the canvas is now in the same dilemma as the one depicted in the image.

His repetitive death wishes that are constant in his previous works would obviously be present in these pieces as variations in twists of one’s own fatality. An identified grim is evident as the prevalent gothic element of decay and uncertainty of his subjects forces him to make his brushstrokes even darker this time, as if the grayness witnesses the pollution of our culture with starkness all around us.

Instinct to Distinct (Acrylic On Canvas)

Fate, Faith, Pait

The running texts in the two smaller pieces accentuate his earlier premise of lifeless physicality, more of memento mori than doomsday placards. Again banality becomes another version of him.

As a man stands in front of a monolith of tombstones on the background, we clearly decipher in We Are All Even After All the inquiring Papaano Mo Haharapin Ang Iyong Kapalaran Sa Araw Na Itinakda Sa’yo (How will you face your luck in the day that is destined for you). Using the Snellen Charts again, one must realize that your allegorical near-sightedness could be a product of our own greed or one’s far-sighted view could be the corruption of the other.

As if an intended reply for the viewer, the next work, Instinct To Distinct, recites as Nasa Bawat Isa Makikita Ang Pagbabago Di Mahahanap Sa Yong Paligid (It is in each other that you will find change not in your surroundings). Being part of his community as seen in the political rally in the background, Kirby believes we all have a common destiny as a people and as an artist one must first capture its inescapable collective imagination as the spirit of change moves from within.

An artwork can only become meaningful once it has been given a second hard look. For this exhibition, a reading of the elements in the said charts and tests is crucial. Although his pieces may not be medium specific, they are historical in context. As soon as you recognized its personal and social message, one is drawn inward like in a hypnotic trance.

Acquaintance Test (Details)

Blinded by Science

The common myth is that the Ishihara test is a type test for the color blind. After first successful experiment was done by Dr. Shinobu Ishihara at the University of Tokyo in 1917 and as more people took the challenge, the Ishihara test did not actually recognized color blindness but only referred to those who could not decipher primary colors from one-another thus suffer more specific with red-green color deficiencies.

More than just blots in the spectrum, Kirby accurately did 31 plates in Acquaintance Test and graphically comprehended Dito Mo Makikita Ang Tunay Mong Kulay (It is here that you will see your true colors).

Emanating from his deep concern with our sense of being and belonging, Kirby texts clearly run schmuck, as if on target in the middle of the gallery space and the creative conscious somewhat saying “Have you been good lately?” like a Hallmark greeting card. The colors are may be accurate but subtle. Going further, Kirby professes we need not distort one’s innate beauty in make art adapt to the times and in dispelling what is currently perceived as art today.

Scientifically employing these charts and tests with thought-provoking intentions of what living (or dying for Kirby’s case) in our culture means, I fear mall-goers may just passively ignore and pass by without even seeing the show. Worse, they may even dismiss the exhibit as another fancy optometrist clinic.

Foreseendenials (fortune-foresee-denials: even his exhibition titles must have a special patent play of words) may have concocted an optical solution to a perplexing national migraine. Less than finding the proper antidote, at least Kirby makes one see what and where the future brings for a moment. And from where Kirby stands, he may even have a better vision than the one with the glasses who now sees us from his high office by the Pasig River.