Audrey Lukban transforms ordinary articles of life into personal expressions of the uncanny and the surreal: the mattress doubles as decorative wallpaper, a set of pillows resembles the configuration of a four-pane window, and the sheets of blanket function as curtains. In Lukban’s second solo presentation, the act of looking is ever-present as she directs the gaze back to herself and to the viewers of the works; they become prying observers who are then transported into the artist’s imagined and self-made seclusion within a white cube, an eerie padded room similar to an asylum.
Lukban’s series of work is a compelling yet subtle externalization of her introspections while confronting the reality of solitary confinement. Throughout the history of global pandemics, the use of bed as the main object of contemplation conjures thoughts of isolation, relationships, and existence. The extended period of time spent alone has altered not only our connection to supposed spaces for rest, but our capacity to be intimate with the self.
Her unusual combination of objects and the substitutions she makes in terms of their materiality, essence, and purpose correspond to a wide range of emotions that transition from comfort to discomfort, ease to uneasiness. The substitutes she made are visual stimuli that fulfill a certain psychological function. For Lukban, the representation and reinterpretation of the objects’ external form captures the sort of “delusions and the mid-transformation of initial contradictions into likeness.”
In a triptych that can be viewed as stand-alone works, she visually orchestrates a theatrical setting by conceptually splitting an image into three different sections. Both outermost paintings depict a hand that is in the act of parting the curtain, consequently revealing the subject of the central painting, a confession panel that appears to be a frame embedded on a wall. Upon entering the fictional room, one is immersed in the creeping feeling of isolation, as if prompting the viewers to make their own confessions.
In another work, she intricately paints the translucent quality of capiz shells that are traditionally used as window panes in Philippine colonial houses. The choice of subject relates to her fascination towards the presence and absence of gaze, speculating whether someone is totally imperceptible behind the capiz window or its translucent quality divulges things that are meant to be concealed.
If these walls could see, they would bear witness to the complexities of living and deep sentiments of being human. Her works, in their truest form, are confessions that she no longer wants to keep to herself— a kind of unburdening that she handles with utmost self-awareness, without guilt.
James Luigi Tana