Artist Nolet Soliven believes two heads can be better than one, inviting former student, Sherwin Villano, to collaborate with him in Words I Never Said, which is on view at West Gallery from June 21 through July 6. In the exhibit, both artists use texts contributed by the other as a starting point and as a visual element at the same time, weaving randomly picked phrases and symbols into the abstract forms that flow through their canvases.
Soliven notes that this exhibit is quite a departure from his last show, Chaos Works. This time he is not only working with canvases and paintbrushes, but with stencils and palette knives as well. And he has some outside help, using Villano’s words to detach himself from any preconceived notions he might have toward them prior to painting. The words sound strange, and perhaps even nonsensical to him, giving him a free hand as to how to fit those texts into the whole composition. “The text’s recognizability draws the viewer to the painting, and allows them to see the painting in a different light. It didn’t matter if the words made any sense,” says Soliven, preferring not to put titles on the works so that viewers could make their own interpretations as they see them. “They are all equally new to me,” adds Soliven, when asked if there is one work that spoke to him louder than the rest. “Each one is an experiment. I want to keep it fun.”
In turn, Soliven lets Villano work with the Arabic translation of “Our Father,” and observes how the younger artist merges such foreign language and script with his own ideas. Villano says such unfamiliarity with the language allows him not to be distracted by their literal meanings throughout the creative process. Soliven notes Villano, who hails from General Santos but studied art in UP Baguio, is different from other Baguio-based artists, choosing to concentrate on abstraction instead of figurative or representational subjects.
Villano’s minimalist style complements Soliven’s more flamboyant, colorful strokes. Villano says that the works may be collaborative in concept, but his and Soliven’s individuality remain evident in the finished pieces. It has been a two-way learning process between the mentor and the student: Soliven says he’s learned to exercise restraint in his approach, while Villano hopes he can continue to push himself to keep focused on seeing where his works are heading.