Curated by Queenmelo Esguerra
Exquisite Forms Against a Landscape of Textures
Exhibition Notes by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
Fashion designers and visual artists share the language of shape, color, and texture. Materials—whether they are fabric or pigment—are examined for their possibilities, how they convey certain ideas or modes of feeling. The preparatory sketches of the designer are fundamentally similar with those of the painter, as they imagine how these sketches could be translated to a finished product: a dress draped on a human body or a painting hung on a wall. Jun Escario, a master couturier, is one of the few who have made the leap to the medium of painting. Part of the impulse has been brought about by a schedule freed by the quarantine and lockdown. Another aspect of it is propelled by a design intervention of thinking the possible works that could hang in his newly-built home. What has started as an earnest foray into paint, canvas, and brush has now transformed into Terra Forma, Escario’s first solo exhibition. The title is a play on the Latin phrase, “terra firma,” translated as “solid ground.” While his paintings draw the eye like an anchor in space—a stabilizing presence—the viewer observes the fluid and loose textures that charge each and every work. It’s as if colors have been draped over the different forms of the earth, not unlike landscapes suffused with the different tonalities of light. With their emphasis on texture, the paintings achieve an eventful surface, which acts as a counterpoint to the long, flat, and occasionally winding application of paint. Escario’s expressive textures provide the groundwork for his gestural aesthetic as it maintains its subtle minimalism. The sweep of red in one work, for instance, becomes a banner of rhythmic and lineated procession of brushstrokes against a white surface because of the texture. While it is readily evident that Escario subscribes to the ethos of abstraction, the artist references elements of the natural world: a cascading waterfall, a sunlit atmosphere, the concentric ripples of water. It is in “Homage to Matisse,” however, that Escario shows how he visualizes the human figure. In the work, the lines are smooth and curvilinear, with the silhouette evoking an almost circular form, set against the textured background that has become a defining feature of the exhibition. The size of the paintings, no doubt, also contributes to Terra Forma’s grand ambitions. As large-scale works, the paintings are envisioned not as autonomous environments but as swathes of color responsive to the demands of a domestic space—an important aspect in how Escario has imagined these paintings to be. Just like a dress highlighting the best features of the human body, the paintings drape the house in order to emphasize its good bones. Terra Forma, as Escario’s initial foray into the art world, proves that visual thinking is shared by countless artists who simply choose their manner of expression. Now within the ambit of visual arts, the imaginative contemplations of Escario gain new audiences as he combines the medium’s different elements but still with the objective goal of producing something that is pleasing to the eye. His keen sense of composition, balance, and proportion in fashion has served him well in this suite of works of magnitude and beauty.