Dugtong is a celebration of a new chapter in Raffy Napay’s life: a tender documentation of what he has said to be a period of continued blessing. The paintings — as he calls his work — in Dugtong are imbued with a sense of newness, from the colors of Napay’s usual material of choice to the excited rhythms of his compositions.
Each painting represents aspects of this period in time and of the future that is on the horizon. “Haligi” is the most subdued work in this series, the closest to Napay’s previous paintings, and a fit transition for what he views as a page newly turned over. It is clean: new and white, with room for new experiences, to be colored in for the next chapters of his oncoming fatherhood. “Pinakaiingat-ingatan” and “Tayong Dalawa” are twin pieces that speak to the other: a promise of protection for what he has become responsible for, where he has built a haven around them, sealed and safe from what may come.
The last of the smaller pieces is named “Sisidlan / Cocoon”, which is a portrait of excited longing. An homage to a butterfly’s metamorphosis, this painting is a mirror to their own experience, where a tiny heartbeat and a small, fuzzy seed seen in an ultrasound brings forth the promise of life. A caterpillar weaves a cocoon for itself before its transformation, and it reminds one of how all of these paintings came to be. Napay’s process requires each strand to be entwined together, connected and entangled, one by one, for a picture to be brought to life. This speaks, too, on his approach to this new chapter, a work in progress with his wife and new family, each stitch and strand woven together by each member, completing a picture that is beautiful and unique.
Lastly, “Dugtong” is a sprawling work, spanning 24 feet of space and standing at a height of eight feet. It is the centerpiece of the show, a culmination of Napay’s feelings as a newlywed and as a father-to-be. In the middle of a landscape of a rather beautiful scene of struggle, tumult and overgrowth, rests a calm, nested place of solitude, where the connectedness of family shows the endless flow of life and blessing, a continuous symbiosis, which leads to the growth of a place, a fortification of the house a new family is trying to build.
Napay’s work has always been sentimental and deeply personal, often to do with his family, particularly his mother, from whom he has learned this craft. But, there seems to be a new fire and energy here, in this new collection of paintings, that precludes what may have been expected from him. It is a clear, if small, peek into the life of someone excited by the promise of a future, recognizing the struggle ahead but hurtling towards it, filled with love and joy.
— Carina Santos