Elmer Borlongan’s New Paintings Are a Slice of Life Away From Home

Denizens runs until September 4 at UP College of Fine Arts.

(SPOT.ph) Elmer Borlongan’s paintings are depictions of reality in an urban setting, putting on canvas a range of emotions that are rooted in loneliness: Of getting lost, of being alienated, of (un)consciously being watched. This is especially true in his newest solo show, Denizens, which focuses on the everyday lives of men in foreign lands depicted in a variety of ways. It runs until September 4 at the University of the Philippines - Diliman in Quezon City.

"New Fortune Cookie" by Elmer Borlongan
PHOTO BY James Tana
"Miner’s Gate Foodcart"
PHOTO BY James Tana

In “New Fortune Cookie” and "Miner’s Gate Foodcart”, the subjects can be seen looking straight ahead, leaving viewers the impression that they are also being watched. Here, the spectators also become the subjects as if the canvases are self-reflective pieces. 

"Millennium Bridge"
PHOTO BY James Tana

The paintings are reflections on alienation amid crowded surroundings, which is particularly evident in “Millennium Bridge.” The line that pierces through a silhouette of a man adds another layer in this painting. 

Looking from one painting to another becomes a unique encounter, with each work transporting viewers to the moment that the painter walked down 72nd Street in New York or glanced at a busker along Westminster in London.

PHOTO BY James Tana

“Courtald” depicts a man climbing up a seemingly endless flight of stairs. The man’s head is tilted upwards, as if anticipating a hundred more steps or looking forward to reaching the end. The painting is like a depiction of things that need to be endured, and the repetitiveness of having to function, especially for the working class.

"Westminster Busker"
PHOTO BY James Tana
"Subway Puppet Show"
PHOTO BY James Tana
"72nd Street Trumpet Player"
PHOTO BY James Tana

Borlongan's paintings strip off the mundane from the daily activities of his subjects with the use of elements and details that he includes in each painting. The paintings emphasize how the fast-paced life makes humans naive when it comes to less valued moments. Who could not notice the dog in "Westminster Busker," the vibrant colors of the puppets in "Subway Puppet Show," and the play of hues and brightness in "72nd Street Trumpet Player"?

"Brooklyn in the Heart"
PHOTO BY James Tana

“Brooklyn in the Heart,”  the centerpiece of the exhibit, showcases Borlongan’s skills in blending colors to evoke a certain kind of emotion, and his playful use of intersecting lines to show the grandeur of the bridge. 

Through his signature style, he makes us notice the details in things previously unnoticeable—a reminder that life isn’t always what it seems. 

Denizens runs until September 4 at Corredor Gallery (UP Fine Arts Gallery), College of Fine Arts, Bartlett Hall, University of the Philippines - Diliman, Quezon City.

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