Seldom do we see a show so rich in narrative sprawl, reaching into recesses of subject matter that emergeS from unexpected sources, simultaneously torn between a serious temperament and flamboyant execution, taking issue with multifarious existential anxieties and events wrought by Destiny itself. Painting of a literary bent has always been spurned and disdained by certain quarters – the critics not surprisingly at the forefront – based on the notion that narratives are more appropriately the province of literature. Stories-within-pictures often reek of fictionists seeking an extension of their domain in a medium that is better addressed to pictorial problems.
Now on view at the Galerie Anna is a show titled “Kabanata”, a solo exhibition by Janos Delacruz, progeny of senior artist Fil Delacruz, and it is one sure sign of the younger artist’s spirit of independence that his vision was not usurped from that of Delacruz pere, though the sensitive eye will not fail to notice the discrete affinities in compositional complexities. The origins, however, of Janos Delacruz’s come not from lofty epiphanies of the spirit, but from the daily musings provoked by immediate stimuli, effected by family discussions and exchanges of opinions on volatile issues such as Philippine politics, the Church, contemporary romance and sexuality of the third-sex kind, skeletons-in-the closet of one’s departed ancestors, the high rate of criminality, the drug menace, or just pure, unadulterated neighbourhood gossip. And as that cheezy Identi-kit questionnaire “You are Pinoy, if…”goes, you are bound to find Delacruz’s works suitably and delectably transfixing.
To the artist’s credit, Delacruz does not convey his omnivorous interests with naked earnestness. Instead, he cloaks his images as visual vignettes that can be interpreted in several levels, such that a couple of viewers may interpret them differently, with each one believing that he has cracked the painting’s visual code. Delacruz has addressed his art to serious subjects, without forgetting that he is not delivering a sermon on the pulpit, with all the pomp of a self-righteous preacher. He is always aware that he is, first and foremost, in front of the easel with paintbrushes waiting at his command, enacting a visual performance.
All the works are titled in the vernacular, with all the whiplash impact of contemporary reality, phrased at once in a manner jocular and wounding. In “Sunod-Sunuran sa Tuwad na Daan” or in “Katok-Pakiusap,” Delacruz delivers a message that is as straightforward as current events unreeling on the television screen. In “Karumaldumal” the word reverberates from the mouth of the People’s Champ as a vile denunciation of forbidden love. In “Sugal ang Bawa’t Padyak ng Buhay,” the artist identifies himself with the tricycle driver as Everyman, who when he leaves his house in the morning, may be on his last journey on earth. Not yet remote in Delacruz’s memory is the earthquake that devastated Japan, which he memorializes in “Sagupaan ng Langit at Lupa.” Viewers may be unnerved at the catastrophic prospect of our own country’s “The Big One.”
What is rewarding in Delacruz’s works is the sheer fertility of detailed passages, molded pictorially as in montage, flamboyant without being frivolous, each painting active and alive. Indeed, these are works that amuse themselves. Intriguingly, they can appeal to a juvenile audience, eliciting a childlike grin, since the artist’s delineation of his figures is highly stylized, imparting on them the cocky confidence of a cartoon character, leaping off the page, each one building up to a chapter, a “kabanata” reflected in Janos Delacruz’s own artistic life-story.
Taking pride of place, right smack on center stage of the gallery space, is the artist’s lone sculpture titled “Trono ng Reynang Dalahira” or “Throne of the Gossip Queen.” Crafted in wood in the shape of a gaping mouth, riddled with spikes and painted a sizzling red, the sculpture mocks the malodorous connivance between the tattler’s braying mouth and her torturously seated ass.
Nothing it seems can escape Janos Delacruz’s sharply observing eye, chronicling man’s every folly and pompous view of himself. For the artist, it is all grist for the mill, worth recording in the chapters of his visual journals.