07 Nov Black Clouds
by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
Siraulo: a messed-up head, but translated literally from our language it also means a “broken head,” and here, in Black Clouds, one of Lynyrd Paras’ most cohesive and powerful exhibitions to date, we see them, 16 portraits whose heads are in various states of brokenness. Nearly defaced, peeled off, stippled with scabs of oil paint, cut holes into, stabbed by a brush, violated in all sorts of ways, these works bear the damage the artist inflicted to physically and visually represent their mental anguish, breakdown, or terror which afflict men and women from all walks of life.
While the portraits represent people beloved to the artist—friends, relatives, fellow artists—they are not biographical but as flesh-and-blood counterparts to those who, one way or another, have to face with what Andrew Solomon calls as the “noonday demon.” This is the inner voice that paints the worst-case scenarios, drains our appetite for life, questions our worth, pushes us to harm ourselves and others. Unstopped in its tracks, it eats us out until it manifests externally, which Paras evokes as an abstract, corrosive element that gets spewed off from the mouth, demolishes the senses, and threatens to dissolve all notions of self-regard.
The works may be menacing and bleak, but by using two layers of canvas (or by initially painting the figures as whole), Paras maintains that the people behind the ruin are still essentially intact. Their damage doesn’t define them. In one work, the canvas is peeled off to expose palette knives, instruments to correct (and smooth out) the encroaching destruction. Another shows the rainbow with which one can still paint the darkened world. Rather than a bone that is corrupt and black (which we call maitim ang buto to refer to people who are deep-down evil), we see one that is brushed with color. In another work, tell-tale signs of sunflower manage to bloom amid the impasto. “Ayoko” is inscribed in one painting—a word which means “surrender” as much as “resistance.”
In dealing with his own demons, Paras calls forth the material resources of his medium to represent, analyze, question, and ultimately understand the “black cloud” that attends human experience. He wrestles with the ground of the canvas, the pictorial surface of the painting to release—and exorcise—the mind’s silent, but deadly afflictions. Destruction is affirmed, yes, but it is affirmed through the agency of art. These paintings neither call out for pity nor romanticize mental illness but acknowledge that it exists, within the context of our society where it is still largely considered as taboo and stigma is still attached to a visit to a psychiatrist. While it doesn’t promise a return to wholeness, the elimination of the negative, Black Clouds offers tentative hope in the creation of these portraits as proof of life.