Paglaum: Paper and Clay, Hope in Between


Usbong 5. Paper Clay on Canvas, 30 x 40 in.

More than any other art form (photography included), one would like to believe art historian and critic Thomas McEvilley when he said painting is still the preferred aesthetic medium in observing how our contemporary world behaves. Its drawing power has often been associated with the recentness of its approach, direct engaging in dialogue and sometimes even rebellion from its long tradition. 

Given all these, one often takes for granted how much is painting’s privileged capacity to heal a tired or even wounded soul, like a soothing balm on a painful migraine. 

Having been trained by our senses to view visuals made from the usual oil/acrylic, watercolor/water-based media, comes Paglaum, an exhibition of paper clay art by artists from the once typhoon ravaged city of Tacloban, a refreshing take on an art scene currently being preoccupied with art auctions, biennales and prominent provenance issues.

Usbong 5. Paper Clay on Canvas, 36 x 24 in.
At such a time as this where the signature of the artist is preferred rather the meaning of the work, Paglaumdefies artistic media prioritizing message than the eventual direction to regain whatever artistically, spiritually or even physically exiled by Yolanda a year ago.
Resorting to paper and clay these artists were not limited by the scarcity of art materials in continuing to create images. Usbong series by Dante Enage dwells on redemption and afflicted sensibilities to the viewer. Enage uses the bark of the red lauan tree used in tuba (a local wine made from coconut juice or coconut toddy) to pigment his paintings. It is his vision in bringing the arts and culture of the Waraynons to a larger audience through this medium and the symbolisms found in his work. 

Done in abstract yet in confidence, Ernie Ybañez is undaunted in Bloom. For Ybanez, art must revolve and be progressive. By this definition the behavior of paper and clay suits best for him as something good must come from the rubble we only have to pick up the pieces. Ybañez’s art awakening was in the 70’s in Cebu, learning the basics by interacting with Cebu’s landscape artists on their on-the-spot painting trips in the countryside. He is now back in Tacloban, he is also concentrating in his art.

Bloom. Paper Clay on Canvas, 36 x 24 in.

Imagining a Lightness of Being, 36 x 24 in
Using mats as his graphic handle, Raul Agner waxes poetic in Imagining a Lightness of Being. Having tried various media like pen and ink on paper and acrylic on canvas, he has immersed himself with human and social issues, local history and culture and ordinary people’s aspirations for better quality of life such as the almost a year he had to struggle into. As banig has been produced by the Warays for centuries, art should interweave image, message, and meaning for it to inspire people. His works are also in pen and ink on paper and acrylic on canvas and paper which touch on human and social issues, local history and culture and ordinary people’s aspirations for a better quality of life. 

Looking long and hard at these works one imbibes hope not as an assumption but as an urgent construct, as a do-it-right-here-right-now kind-of-thing. It is not longed for but an exacting act and Paglaum seeks to reclaim not only victims’ dignity but the urge to rekindle. After a year, and with an impending super storm again, it hurts more but the tears have dried up. It seeks to reclaim whatever or whoever actually owes the people of Tacloban at no cost to them. That life begins when art matters again.  

Paglaum was exhibited in many venues such as Resorts World, Manila Art and Manila Fame.