"In the Ocean without a Boat or a Paddle"
a Surrounded by Water exhibit
on view till May 9, BLANC compound
Surrounded by Water is a collective of contemporary artists Argie Bandoy, Vic Balanon, Jonathan Ching, Mariano Ching, Louie Cordero, Christina Dy, Eduardo Enriquez, Lyra Garcellano, Geraldine Javier, Mike Munoz, Gary Pastrana, Amiel Roldan, Eric Roca, Frederick Sausa, Yasmin Sison, Keiye Miranda-Tuazon, Wire Tuazon, Ferdz Valencia and Alvin Villaruel.
Born in 1998, the Surrounded by Water Alternative Art Space was established in Angono, Rizal by Wire Tuazon and a bunch of enthusiastic young artists. In 2000, they transferred to EDSA beside the POEA building. I remember attending one of their many group shows at their EDSA home. It was obvious back then that they were having a blast in their new space, inspiring each other and making a community for themselves. Then, in 2001, on the eve of EDSA Dos, I found myself walking the stretch of EDSA and finding safety in the grounds of Surrounded by Water. I spent the rest of the night drinking Tanduay with other artists, talking about art, politics, and other mundane things while waiting for all hell to break loose. Amidst political chaos, I had fun with these very interesting people. Simply put, these were good times.
In 2002, the art space relocated to Cubao. There, more young artists found refuge and the freedom to express their art without restraint. It was a place that, in one way or another, molded them into becoming the contemporary artists they are today. Unfortunately, in 2004, the well-loved space had to close down.
The group continued to have annual exhibits called "Dogshow." A reunion of sorts, the exhibits allowed them to show how each of them had matured and evolved as artists. They called them "Dogshow" unless they could think of a better title for that year. This year, they obviously came up with a better one–they even took votes. I heard there even were flying voters just to mess things up. Eventually, most of them would go on to have their one-man shows, receive grants to study abroad, or simply continue to shock or intrigue everybody.
The once young, starving, emerging artists have now become established figures in the contemporary art scene, making it big not only in the Philippines, but all over Asia. During this exhibit I was able to hang out with the group once again. I got to chat with Bandoy, who told me about the group's silly trips in Cubao. Geraldine told me about the flying voters, Yasmin's son ran around the gallery, Mariano turned red a few hours after the opening (he's allergic to beer), Keiye and I talked about traffic since we both came from the Rizal area, Wire showed the crazy poses he did for a magazine, Christine Dy revealed to Lyra the funny questions she was asked during her artist's talk. We hardly talked about their work. Fans familiar with their pieces would know that some of them showed a different side–some made colorful and crafty pieces completely opposite from the art they are known for, others made an effort to put color in their lives, but most showed interesting pieces that will forever amaze. Sometimes artists need not to explain their art–their work will definitely speak for itself.
This group exhibit is one any art fan or novice shouldn't miss. It's amazing how far these artists have come since their humble beginnings. I can't wait to see what they come up with next year.
Images taken by Raena Abella.