The Self as Artist and Artwork

by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana

In their first two-artist show together, a collaboration whose time has come, Lynyrd Paras and Yeo Kaa delve into the intricacies of the alert consciousness, the experiencing and responding being that is innate in each one of us. Simply titled Self, organized by Secret Fresh for Art Fair Philippines, the exhibition features large-scale works as well as toy sculptures that draw the limits of identity and explore how this identity makes its mark and functions in the world.

 

For the two artists, this identity is rooted and expressed in art, and here their depictions of themselves naturally emerge as self-portraits, but not as representations of a mere outer shell but the crystallizations of the internal struggle, the existential forays into emotional and psychological spheres as they bring about the sacred fire that animates their art.

 

For Paras, the self is layered, fragmented, and composed of many histories, evoked especially by the polyptych work, “Laman sa Loob.” Composed of frames fused together at the sides, the work presents the centrality of the self-portrait (partly ripped apart by the mouth to reveal an onrush of paint), but is made complicated by the many attributes that Paras has used in his other works: typography, house, brushes, the implements of craft. For him, the constant return to these symbols is nothing but the tireless work of knowing and articulating the self and endowing it with coherence. Hence, in Paras’ work, life and art are indivisible, sustaining each other.

 

For Kaa, the self is the locus of art-making, able to create wherever it may be. It is an interiority that is haunted by thoughts of suicide, violence, and death. But in her works, the self, as represented by Kaa’s proxy and avatar, Krinini, it is not crushed by helplessness, as in the work that flashes, “Fight, Fight.” Here, the self is triangulated: Krinini thoughtfully touching the arm of the suicide, the suicide dangling by a cord and her torso being ripped apart by a descending infant, and the infant curled on the ground as an act of rebirth. Because they are one, the consolation, the death, and the rebirth are forged from a single consciousness—that of the artist in her painful, but necessary, transformation.

 

These selves share a single space in their collaborative work “Ako, Ako,” as well as in the toy sculptures. These are their double portrait. While it may seem that they are finally united, there is no full and total integration. Each is still an artist of his or her own, with his or her notable palette, style, and choice of attributes. In the toy sculptures, the figures have no interaction: the male figure contemplates a skull (ripped out from his own head) while the female examines her outer shell on a hand-held mirror. These works, more than anything, are an assertion of their independence as artists: that though they may share both a literal and figurative space, they are still two individuals with their respective pursuits, seized by their own visions, guided by their own truths.

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