Wawi Navarroza: Self-Portraits & The Tropical Gothic
About the Event
SILVERLENS is pleased to present Wawi Navarroza: Self-Portraits & The Tropical Gothic, the artist's twelfth exhibition with the gallery. Self-portraits have been a recurring theme in a twenty-year practice, but this is the first exhibition focusing solely on the form. Navarroza will be showing eight new pieces alongside three older works from different years, alternating between muse and visual memoir.
Coming from a string of moving places and foreign travels after the fire which destroyed her Taguig studio, Navarroza re-established herself in Manila at the end of 2018, signaling her return to studio practice, providing the venue for the elaborate mise-en-scènes we see in this new exhibition. The artist looks back and forward, coming full circle to a genre that has defined her early art-making and has punctuated an arc of more than a decade: Self-Portraits.
Navarroza employs formal composition in tableau vivant large format which is staged for the camera. At the same time, she subverts photography in a way that the final image is rendered almost as a flat collage, deliberately controlled by lighting techniques and careful arrangements in the scenography. Furthermore, the artist disrupts the continuity of seamless photographic image by quick imprecise digital cuts-and-pastes on selected areas of the image, reminding viewers that ultimately, we are looking at a constructed image. At turns autobiographical and/or interpretative, the artist both as creator and figure, present allegories replete with materials and symbols, all generous for further significations and imaginings to mirror the contemporary.
“The artist is peripatetic and identity is plural. This time (2019) that I find myself having a studio again, I get the privilege to focus on what is immediate around me and reflect on the integral parts of myself (a confusing amalgam of referents as Filipino, as female, as Asian, as worldly trans-national sponge)—by finding myself at home in the Philippines’ particular pastiche summarized as the “Tropical Gothic” (coined by national artist for literature Nick Joaquin): a syncretic mix of East and West, catholic and pagan/folk/mystic, laced with a Spanish colonial baroque hangover, ornamentation, contemporary clutter, sari-sari, horror vacui, the esoteric and the vernacular, the mashups, DIY, telenovelas, pageants, boxing, elections, gridlock traffic, hot humid eternal summer, raging monsoons, natural disasters, palm trees and concrete, nature and artifice, a marvelous mess of the living. Within this framework, all the incongruities make sense and it becomes a wild pleasure to confront the heavy and tender complexities of Self and Surrounding.”