MMMonsters in Our MMMidst
Carlo “Caloy” Gernale’s Mga Halimaw na Wala sa Banga presents portraits of monsters in our midst rendered in pulsating flesh, bulging eyes, and jagged maws. In this collection of recent works, the multi-awarded artist explores the darker side of human nature, fixing the lens on individuals who hold positions of power and influence in society. Using acrylic paints applied with an airbrush, the artist creates vivid and haunting portraits that bring these calculating and insatiable beasts to life.
Kids of the 80s might associate the title with a local 1986 movie hit featuring an evil spirit who lives in a jar. In Gernale’s works, however, his creatures dwell in palaces and banquet halls. They use their wealth, status, and influence to manipulate, control, and exploit others. They belong to the political elites, religious zealots, trend prospectors, and bureaucratic personages who continue to wield immense power despite their infamy for corrupt practices and dubious dealings.
Though Gernale’s figures might be uncannily familiar, he maintains that each portrayal is changeable. Indeed, it can be related to how our outlook on the political climate maintains its short-term memory loss. Each administration has a new set of main characters, but their dirty practices and intention to bleed the country dry remain. No piece exclaims this statement louder than Ang Selebrasyon ng mga Ungas, an imagined party of abominations enjoying themselves in a videoke session. Ang Tagapagligtas is a religious leader who sports Christ’s crown of thorns for effect but also has traitorous gold coins embedded in his visage. He stares with charismatic eyes and speaks words of a higher being behind choreographed smiles and razorsharp teeth. Ang Dating Pang-Gulo has the burden of his smoking guns, bat-like mask, and blubbering toxic slime burdening his legacy. Plantito 1 and 2 might go the Plants vs. Zombies route, but their drooling mouths betray the images of profiteers who preyed on the new green revolution during the pandemic, with everyone jumping on the home gardening trend to maintain a semblance of sanity. No matter how depraved they’ve become, however, they could never compare to the putrid malignance of Gernale’s Ang Unang Pamilya series, with portraits of throbbing tumors, rotting flesh, alien eyeball-bearing tentacles, and parasitic organisms posing as icons of righteousness while filling our visions with manifestations of their ravenous appetites and shameless villainy. These are the very figures who maliciously pull the strings of failed systems still set in place, directing them to serve their own interests and fill far-flung coffers with tainted riches. Unmindful of the suffering of others and strangers to remorse, they thrive on the lies of projected beauty and blatant misinformation, all the while adorning themselves with the spoils of plunder.
In Gernale’s Mga Halimaw na Wala sa Banga, the artist introduces us to a macabre set of characters that fill our most horrific nightmares, when the real nightmare is, we are fully awake. As he forces us to confront these monsters that dwell among us and magnify the repulsive roles they play in society, he seemingly poses a challenge to each viewer: do we allow them to flaunt their dominance and control, and are we complicit in this menagerie of horrors? Do we cower under the long, frightful shadows they cast, or finally stand up to them and salvage what remains of our collective dignity?