APRIL 15 - MAY 10, 2018
Again, Briccio Santos moors us into his “manifold ministrations,” as poet Krip Yuson describes his myriad artistic practice. Santos’ practice as filmmaker, painter, photographer has given his works an acuity, a keenness to the nuance of, in his paintings, the fragment or the fractal; in his photographs, scenography or mise en scène. In Santos’ photographs and paintings we see formulations: in his paintings we see figures as they form, as the distinction between ground and figure sharpen, as shapes achieve clear contours, as textures emerge and come to life; in his photographs we see characters captured, in several senses: held captive—behind bars or tied, or in a sense closer to the apparatus—apprehended by the camera, as in caught in photo, frozen in a snapshot. These formulations can be considered propositions that speak to contemporary predicaments, or true to the exhibition’s title, elaborate hypotheses on the future of life or of being alive in the current moment. Perhaps it is an indirection, an abstraction that shapes these works: in the works in this exhibition, we see time as slant of sunlight, angle of shadow. We see man faceless and defaced, we see figures deformed, textures thriving.
Santos’s works speak to the sensibilities of the present. In his works we see the figurative gasping for air, as it is continually muted and made to mutate by a tendency to abstract. The photographs are defaced so that the figure is held in abstraction. The paintings in their cubistic flourish delay the emergence of figure, trick the eye to not fix itself, not to fixate on whatever figure is forming. At first glance this is all there is to it: an agency to frustrate the
logic of figuration, a preference for the process of formation over its product. If the exhibition is a proposition, a hypothesis, it is a hypothesis that risks conventional understanding of figure. What if the figure is rendered unrecognizable, abstracted from its own logic? What if the abstract becomes hospitable to figure? Santos’ works proffer a more complex account. The figure surviving in the contemporary moment is perpetually precarious—be it held behind bars or defaced or both, and ironically finds its deliverance in abstraction. As the figures in the photographs are captured, in the rhetorical (as subjects of a photograph) and literal (held captive) sense, it is the abstract that distracts, saves them from complete captivity: the men behind bars, because defaced, are incognito, no particular identification fixes them to a particular individual.
Even in the paintings, it is the abstractive aspect that redeems the figure, clears ground and makes space for it. For Santos, it is a process of keeping the figurative at bay but always finding out that is has found its way to the canvas, not fully-formed but always in the process of being enfleshed. In "Hypothesis 52" and "Hypothesis 53", for example, it is texture, in all its abstraction, that marks figure and distinguishes it from the layers of paint that constitute the works’ impenetrable ground. The figures behave like shadows, but not quite. Texture thwarts their dissolution into mere mark or symptom of something material or real, in Santos’ hand they have character, they are alive.
Santos’ works show a fondness for images already familiar to him. He likes to return to images that have captivated him in past work. He returns to a range of figures, a set of silhouette that he then continually refines, until they are in such a state that the figure that emerges is a figure beyond the contemplation of its initial instance. This figure is taken up in variations and recurs in different iterations that the end result is an almost stereoscopic account where each permutation paints a facet and the facets develop into a complex picture. Santos intimates a poetics akin to making a series of studies: these renderings portray a mind constantly processing, calibrating, a mind alert to the barest shift or tilt of sightline, keen on slight variations. It is this tendency that makes Santos’ choice of technique (cubist) and technology (the photograph) most apt.
Briccio Santos, born in Manila, received most of his education and artistic training abroad, principally in Europe and the United States. His first painting exhibition was held in 1978
in Manila. He continued to exhibit around Manila until the late ‘90s, when Santos moved to Paris. Santos lived in Paris for some years, during which time he exhibited at Galerie Duroc and Accatone. Santos’ work has been frequently exhibited in recent years. His most recent exhibitions have included: the sculptural installation “Heritage Tunnel,” which exhibited at Singapore Art Museum in 2010; “Viral Series,” a painting and photography exhibition held at White Wall Gallery in 2011; and “Numbers Revisited,” a photography, painting, and installation exhibition held at Manila Contemporary in the same year. “Mutations,” a solo show of paintings was held at Archivo in 2015. In 2017, he was awarded the honor of becoming a Chevalier (Knight) in the Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honor), one of the premier distinctions conferred to individuals by the government of France, for his work with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in developing and promoting Philippine cultural identity through cinema, particularly in the preservation of Philippine film heritage through the creation of the National Film Archives.
[Carlos Quijon Jr.]