Roy Veneracion: Art on the Edge

Viewing the latest collection of paintings by Roy Veneracion, one is awed by images that are ostensibly unconventional, seemingly inchoate, puzzling to the mind and eye. Very well, I confess that the aforementioned epithets may also apply to Veneracion’s art, abstraction in the post-modern sense, workings of the hyperactive mind being suddenly stilled, indeed stalled, by an afterthought, a Freudian slip, or simply, the thought process seemingly gone astray.

Here is an artist who is thinking and painting with the spontaneous sparks of the subconscious, culling images through the mind’s eye in a largely deconstructive mode. With the provocative title, “Painting the Subconscious,” the show of 15 predominantly acrylic and enamel canvases attempts to record both the visual and visceral responses to a variety of creative stimuli engendered by pop music, New Age religion, Zen Buddhism, current affairs engulfing once peaceful places on earth, and, as with any abstractionist worth his brush and palette, the sheer seductive interplay of form and color.

Veneracion has time and again parlayed images that, like a seismograph, record his wandering into the subconscious realm. In a previous show held last month at the newly-opened mag:net, he initially explored his fascination with dreams and intuition, an act of exorcising his personal demons. Interjecting the mainly abstract field with a sprinkling of figurative images culled from art history, the artist grappled with his own personal battles to put sense into his wildest imaginings.

In the present show at the Galleria Duemila, which ends on Nov. 28, Veneracion reinforces his subjects with his trademark touches of layering, visual puns, graffiti, and generous splashes of paint on canvases mainly of the diptych or triptych format. Need we add that here, too, in what seems like a spontaneous clanging of brush and paint, Veneracion, battle-tested through many artistic upheavals, has found greater chaos to further stimulate his creative juices?

Nowhere is this display of fine excess more mind-boggling than in a suite devoted largely to the contrasting image of tranquility and terror, as in “A Freedom Holiday Against the Killjoys of the World,” which is a visual rumination on the spate of bombings that took place in tourist-friendly Bali, Indonesia recently. Here, the splintered road signs gone suddenly awry amid a four-panel canvas shatter a giant orb symbolizing Bali’s effervescent tropical beauty.

Equally disdainful of this generation’s preoccupation with lip-service communication is the painting titled “Lips Express,” a wit-laden montage that shows what, in the morass of layered and superimposed forms, looks like a peephole that allows the viewer a peek into the hidden agenda beneath the mouthful superficial exchange, with a blown-up exclamation mark delivering the ultimate visual punchline.

The changing seasons also get a jabbing of sorts from Veneracion’s wildly acidulous brushwork in the “Red Zone,” a diptych that shows the changing landscape, which has by now fallen prey to the lethal charms of the El Nino. In “Summertime 3,” however, Veneracion seems to look more kindly at the natural course summer has taken, throwing in pigments of sand which have, in the process, been wittily incorporated in the canvas.

14A staunch yoga disciple who goes into Zen meditation as a way of quelling his wildly restive mind, Veneracion has painted the equivalent of his wanderings while the mind is deep in thought. In “Zazen at Noon,” time and space are encapsulated in the textured surface in almost minimalist form. A small window is represented symbolizing the mind just about to open up gently, the artist’s thoughts ferried across time and space by a dash of cloud here and a portentous calligraphic smoke there.

Another piece in diptych format, “Yinyang” is executed in almost similar fashion, with two largely contrasting pictorial fields, one full with bright splashes, the other almost starkly bare in an off-white configuration. Here, in the left image-rich panel, Veneracion has incorporated figurative drawings of flowers and leaves as a counterpoint to the nearly empty space on the right panel, a homage to the Chinese epigram symbolizing nature’s contrasting polarities.

The pervasive influence of music is also present in a number of Veneracion’s pieces, not those of the present-day all-boy or all-girl pretty crooners, but that of a much earlier era, where he, at one point, was himself enamored with the music of the Beatles, James Taylor and Roy Orbison. In “Only the Lonely,” a ditty made famous by Orbison, with its still enchanting lyrics and melody intact, Veneracion has incorporated a string of copper wire onto his canvas, presumably to harp on the impact of his generation’s music now sadly lost in this age of the Videoke and MTV.

The ecological landscape is not about to escape the artist’s endless ruminations. In “Ode to the Rainforest,” he traces the route back to the primeval wellspring of all creation. With the help of signs and symbols both suggestive of a road map, the artist dreams of embarking on a personal journey if only to retrieve and relive what has been irretrievably lost today.

With a sensibility as irresistible as this ardent disciple of abstract expressionism, the art of Roy Veneracion continues to boggle, disturb and haunt, even as it speaks to us of the beauty and ugliness, the Jungian face of man, the trials and triumphs of the human soul.

- Justino Dormiendo
2002

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“The Changing image of the Filipina ” (The Arts)

“…The same sense of moral violation is expressed in Roy Veneracion’s ‘Mutya ng Pag-ibig’. The central image is that of a poor Filipino family, the woman looking anxiously to the future while sheltering her child with her arms, and the father crying out and raising his flayed and bleeding arms in protest. They are flanked by the two contrasting figures of the beautiful female nude on the left, symbolizing the Filipina, and the robot at the right against a background of factories spewing smoke, symbol of dehumanization and ecological destruction. A heart surrounded with barbed wire, an image of intense pain, is above the crossed flags of the Philippines and the United States, thus implying the human suffering that ensues from their avowed ‘special friendship’. The human figures have a vividness of form and color, striking in expressive qualities, and the work as a whole shows that Veneracion's artistic talent in figurative art of socio-political meaning should not be lost but should rather be pursued and developed to the full, for it is here, and not so much in his textural abstracts, that he will make his lasting mark on the country’s art scene.”

- Alice G. Guillermo

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