The wood sculptures by cousins Jun Orland Espinosa, Tyrone Dave Espinosa, and Jeanroll Ejar put a viewer on a cauldron with each piece enraptured the imagination because of the idea, meaning, or social issue that it deliberated and attempted to convey among viewers.
The three sculptors prodigiously appropriated a powerful imagery in wood throughout their oeuvre in Salvage,a recently concluded art exhibit curated by Gallery i.
Defining, divergent, and distinctive
As a featured show for three weeks, the art viewers were treated by the remarkable mastery on wood by the three artists. Salvage left a distinctive mark in the Iloilo art scene. It brought out a new realization on the pull of talents who possessed the ability to produce contemporary artworks with compelling messages that are relevant to the times.
In fairness with earlier exhibits held at Gallery i, Salvage was divergent. If likened to automobiles, it was a sportscar where you can feel its high-powered engine rapidly accelerating upon entry at Gallery i. It was a turbo-charged show perhaps because of the medium, its meaning, and the messaging.
As experienced wood carvers from a family wood shop, the three artists had carved out on scrap wood a design that is not commercially pleasing on the eyes especially when judged by their usual clients.
But it was a defining moment for the three artists whose intention was not merely to impress but to convey a statement using wood as a medium to nag audience’s senses on the issues that the pieces represented hinting reflection and suggesting action.
“In their previous works, the three have already explored the idea of saving debris from total destruction, explained by UP-Visayas Prof. Martin Genodepa who wrote the exhibit literature.
Professor Genodepa, who is also a respected artist, emphasized that “the three have significantly practiced turning trash (wood) into collectibles in their apparent struggle to emerge as serious artists.”
In Salvage, Jun Orland Espinosa, Tyrone Dave Espinosa, and Jeanroll Ejar showed the “serious artist” side of them by displaying unquestionable skills on wood. They are considered skilled woodworkers, but Salvage was not about skills alone, its oeuvre demonstrated the profound knowledge that they have acquired regarding the ills and historical injustices in society.
Woods are our diamonds
Their command on the medium was clear by way of choice on a type of scrap wood that could be used for a thematic focus.
The wood materials that they used for the collection were not prime sections or pieces of teakwood, gemilina, molave, mahogany, mangium or wood planks. These were rather scrapped or disposable pieces from the family shop. But in Salvage, scrap woods were their precious ‘diamonds’ as they used their knowledge shaped by extensive experience in handling different types of wood in judging which of the pieces could be converted from trash into a valuable art piece.
They have considered the unique characteristic of the wood pieces available for their art: its fiber, texture, size, and natural color, and they matched these qualities for appropriateness in their art.
This process was evident in Jeanroll Ejar’s The Thrones Collection – a set of 14 miniature chairs aimed to show authority and status of people in society who are sitting on it.
Yet they have also studied the physical contours of the wood and how it could positively enhance the pieces that they have in mind. This consideration was dominant in Jun Orland Espinosa’s collection: Thoughts on Mutation and Perceptions of Insanity.
But despite the different types, sizes, and shapes of scrap wood, the display of skills, meticulousness, and attention to details had strongly manifested in the work of Tyrone Dave Espinosa’s Rehas na Bakal ang Ingay (Grating noise).
A centerpiece in the artist’s collection, the 120 x 189 cm. was done from salvaged wood of different sizes and shapes yet it formed a seamless piece of endless chains and highlighted by an inverted pyramid to convey equality, collectiveness, and strength through unity.
Overcoming levels of transformation
Admittedly, the three artists underwent transformation from the mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical levels. Salvage may have implied that they have overcome many barriers (both real and imagined) which hindered their transformation from producers of utilitarian pieces into sculptors.
The change of milieu denotes that they have resolved many of their self-doubts. Salvage apparently expressed a feeling of freedom and liberty perhaps for the artists has attained it as a result of the pieces that they have created, this time not for the utilitarian purpose, but rather in a form that allowed them to communicate and convey meaning shaped by their innermost feelings.
It is on this trajectory of their transformation that the three artists appreciated their elders who instilled on them the values of discipline and consistency and the virtues of patience and perseverance. Upon serious self-reflection, they have realized that imbibing these qualities are vital for one who intends to develop as an artist.
Salvage also showed that they have prevailed over struggles on how to compose themes that can echo the message that they intend to deliver among viewers of their art. Jun Orland Espinosa underscored that they too invested a good amount of time to learn by practice and mentoring to enrich their understanding of art and its forms and how it can be applied on their context.
Here lies the climax of Salvage as the three artists rendered shapes to communicate long repressed sentiments borne out from their struggles, as processed by self-reflection and evaluation, bringing them to a realization that they too are change makers and not merely fence-sitters in society.
More than anything, Salvage was a personal awakening that liberated the three artists from an internal yet common bondage being cousins trained under the same craft. The pieces that they created were emotionally loaded. This is the reason perhaps why Salvage could be depicted as a turbo-charged show.