Exit Wounds

by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

For more than a decade, Lynyrd Paras has been exploring the multi-layered self through the act of portraiture by superimposing various elements—from text to symbols to actual objects—to come up with an approximate rendition of a person, one that is embedded in history, awake and imbued with agency, looking at the viewer with an alarming pair of eyes as though asking, “What do you see?” Working in the biographical vein, Paras has always been adept at plumbing the complexity of the self in the world.

 

In Exit Wounds, his latest exhibition at West Gallery, Paras ventures into dangerous territory: here, the focus has been turned towards himself, past beneath the surface of the skin and intestinal walls, ultimately reaching to the dark recesses of consciousness panicked by a loss of control over bodily and mental functions and confronted by mortality. This exhibition is Paras’ dark night of the soul, and everywhere the light has gone out: mouth unclenches in silent scream, teeth gnash, eyes open wide from the onslaught of terror.

 

A breakdown has taken place, not only of the body and mind, but also of the physical canvas. There are slashes, holes, scissored areas revealing negative space. The canvas is skin: mutilated, infested with sores and, in “Sugat,” stripped, exposing the bare bones of the frame. In “Bulok sa Loob, Atake sa Labas,” a layer of canvas is draped across the painting (a second skin), showing a tangle of infected intestines, and through which a hole has been cut to reveal the figure pressing on the web of flesh near the thumb to alleviate anxiety. In this work, we see the external and the internal, the sickness and the method of coping, all at once.

 

This is the artist exposed at his most intimate and harrowing: food being vomited out, acid corroding the digestive tract, the commotions of the mind proliferating like scabs. In the diptych “Dilim Ulo,” the figure is in the grip of an escalating doom, his fingers interlaced with a gnawing sense of futility as a small fire annihilates his face. In another self-portrait, “Nang Makilala Ko ang Demonyo sa Loob ng Aking Ulo,” there is death peering through one eye.

 

And yet, one cannot help but see Exit Wounds as the artist’s fevered attempt to reclaim his life, that while he may be dealing with the failures of the body and the mind, he is still able to wield a brush, conduct himself before the canvas, and confront the devil of illness. While part of its courage lies in the transformation of pain into art, the exhibition’s greater bravery draws from the affirmation of all that is human: the helplessness, the irrational fears, the desire for alleviation, the awareness of mortal limits. Here, Paras looks at life squarely and without flinching, investing all his vitality on creating works so we may see that even from the deepest, darkest wound lies an exit.

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