Aba Dalena

April 20 - May 13, 2017

Gallery 4

On and on
There is a lot of red spilled here.

Amidst the violence strewn across the canvases and the sculpted forms of the dead and severed, two popular Biblical scenographs in terra cotta convey hope and the transformative energy of love. Aba Lluch Dalena, in her 15th solo exhibition, molds the Fragile theme in her abstracted and figurated art pieces consisting of eight paintings and four sculptural works.

Some of Dalena’s works in Fragile call to mind paintings in her sixth solo show Liquid Love in 2008, which was also a statement against extrajudicial killings. This type of bloodletting in the country which started even before the artist’s 2008 exhibition timeline is somehow captured in the lyrics of a song:

“On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are
How fragile we are.”

The exhibition title, inspired by and derived from Sting’s Fragile, proffers a purview of meanings. As it relates to the material, fragile means something that easily breaks; as it refers to the moral – not strong or sturdy; as it pertains to the individual – delicate and vulnerable; and as it refers to the general – easily destroyed or threatened.

Guided and grounded by her Christian faith, Dalena’s meditation on the faces and facets of fragility was the takeoff point for the artist for this exhibition. There is no contradiction between the artist’s beliefs on one hand and her art practice on the other. Both hands support the messaging she wants to deliver.

This is Dalena in her own words: “Art making could be a good release for one’s brokenness and rage. It could also be a delicate and sincere expression, or a confession of love or madness, struggle and fears. My solitary and collaborative multi-media art pieces for this recent selection are my personal reflections and conclusions on the human condition and existence in our present world. We are fragile because we are human. God, the Author of Life, created us as intricately and complicatedly beautiful. Yet, we are prone to err and therefore need much understanding, love, and salvation.”

Form-wise, the artist’s rage on the ongoing spate of killings is shown on two of her paintings, the spillage of her paints and emotions are caught by the smaller canvases attached to the main canvas.

Stop the Killings.

Dalena joins the collective voices that demand this action. “What has become of us? Why have we allowed all these violence and killings? Why are we addicted to wars when this will never solve deep, human problems?,” she muses. “I express my grief, protest, and condemnation of the recent surge of violence and killings in my own beloved country where more than 8,000 people (and still counting according to official media reports
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Drug_War) have been killed within six months since the new president of the Philippines took power and declared his ‘war on drugs’. While it is true that drug addiction and the drug trade must be stopped for its evil effects, it is not an excuse for (the evil of) killing an erring human being.”

Worse, Philippine lawmakers passed the bill in the lower house for the return of the death penalty, and they are also pushing for lowering the age for criminal liability to nine years old (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/13/philippine-bid-to-jail-nine-year-olds-is-a-great-child-violation-unicef-says).

Beneath the layer of anger, Dalena is coming from a space of love: the greater love for humanity and the more specific romantic kind.

The artist quotes a verse from Romans 13:10 encompassing her love treatise: The commandments: “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and any other commandments, are summed up in this one decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law.

Following this trail, Dalena expounds on her two sculptural pieces. “Jesus Christ came to rescue an adulterous woman about to be stoned to death by violent minded, self-righteous men. He turned to them and said, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ This biblical story made a great impact on me. Another miniature Biblical story piece in terra cotta I made is about a corrupt government official Zacchaeus who repented and vowed to return what he stole from the people when he met Jesus. Jesus taught us how love truly abounds, and it is indeed the fulfillment of all laws. No more condemnation. If only human beings would reflect more on love, healing, and kindness.”

Dalena’s painting Ya Tebya Lyublyu, which is Russian for I love you, expresses that love is for everyone. It is beautiful to love and be loved regardless of sexual orientation. The artist laments that there are still places in the world where being identified as a member of the LGBT community is dangerous. Barbaric beliefs are still propagated that lead to judgment and condemnation of homosexuality, clouding the views of people. Same sex, loving couples in these places are not seen as humans worthy of love, equal honor, and respect.

Even the popular Philippine boxing icon turned senator Manny Pacquiao quoted bigoted statements describing homosexuals as “worse than animals” inspired by his out-of-context interpretations of Biblical verses from the Old Testament.

The artist sums up the Fragile exhibition with this: “To conclude my thoughts on how to strive to become a good human being, though imperfect and fragile, let me quote Vincent Van Gogh: There is nothing truly more artistic than loving people.”