Agnes Arellano Brings Her Intriguing Sculptures to Ateneo

The restrospective runs until March 15, 2020.

( Whether we admit it or not, there are days when we just want to think about our past and take a trip down memory lane in any way we can. These personal experiences may cause feelings of anger or sadness to arise, but still we dive into this river of emotions because they’re worth remembering. For sculptor Agnes Arellano, she looks back at her journey as a woman, an artist, and a mother through her vivacious and visceral sculptures currently on display at the Ignacio B. Gimenez Amphitheater at Ateneo de Manila University’s Areté. The exhibition called Inscapes: A Retrospective by Agnes Arellano is on display until March 15, 2020.

Agnes Arellano is known for her riveting and coruscating sculptural installations with various components made connected into an absolute whole. Here, she stands in front of “Angel of Death," which was from her 1990 inscape called The Temple of the Sun God.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Arellano’s exhibitions have always been experientially consuming, allowing viewers to be in complete awe of her larger-than-life sculptures. These installations are often rooted in the themes of the “sacred Feminine, Eros, paradoxes of life and death, male and female, yabyum, and yin and yang,” according to her.

In Inscapes, viewers can freely go around Areté’s outdoor space and marvel at the sculptures scattered in the campus’ gardens. The absence of walls and ceilings evoke a feeling of freedom and openness. The images evoked by the sculptures are also made more mystic through smoke that seem to arise from the ground—with sensors that activates when viewers are nearby.

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Objects from Arellano's 1987 inscape called Myths of Creation and Destruction I: "Carcass-Cornucopia" (female body hung on top) and "Music for Making the Sun Rise" (buried human skulls).
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

The term “inscape,” which can be read as a combination of interior and landscape, refers to a collection of works that represent the artist's psyche. For this exhibit, Arellano uses her sculptures—old and new—to look back into 36 years of her artistic practice. She also attempts to veer away from the traditional 360-degree movement of the audience when viewing sculptures. For her, one walks into the sculpture, which was made possible by the fact that the pieces are not on hung on the wall or the ceiling.

Objects from her 1996 inscape Three Buddha Mothers and Eshu: “Eshu” (encircled floor piece) and “Dea” (a four-breasted woman on a pedestal).
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Most of the works on display are of cold-cast marble sculptures, some of which were shaped from Arellano's own body—blurring the distinction between art and reality. She shared that these self-portraits were done in important milestones in her life, which was her way of processing certain experiences. These are testaments to her struggles and journey through “healing and illness, love and loss, from her early motherhood to mid-life crisis.”

Guarding both sides of Arellano is her work titled “Bronze Bullets” (from The Temple of the Sun God, 1990) deduced from her experience in the 1980’s living near a military camp.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

This kind of poetics is deeply rooted in her background in clinical psychology (Ateneo de Manila University) and sculpture (University of the Philippines - Diliman), and complemented with her interest in comparative mythology, archaeology, psychology, shamanism, and other religious systems.

In "Hermaphroditic Homunculus" (from Temple of the Moon Goddess, 1983), an arch depicts a neurological diagram of the brain and how much of it is used to move the different parts of our body. Behind it is Vesta, a goddess with a bayawak on her back, symbolizing fecundity.
PHOTO BY AZ Camiling

Inscapes is one testament that we all have our own struggles and we have our own ways of coping. This is a confluence of both retrospection and introspection. For Arellano, she traces and expresses these through her vivacious and visceral sculptures that juxtapose many elements and themes. At the same time, they construct and deconstruct her personal experiences and perceptions acquired through her journey.


Inscapes: A Retrospective by Agnes Arellano runs until March 15, 2020 at the Ignacio B. Gimenez Amphitheater and other outdoor spaces at Areté, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City. For more information, visit Ateneo Art Gallery’s website.

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