'Equivalent/s' and 'Painting, Differently' at Silverlens

Two group exhibitions explore key questions in photography and painting
By Ian Tee

 Nicole Coson, 'Untitled', 2018, oil on canvas 160 x 390 cm (triptych). Image courtesy of Silverlens.

Nicole Coson, 'Untitled', 2018, oil on canvas 160 x 390 cm (triptych). Image courtesy of Silverlens.

Founded in 2004, Silverlens has become a mainstay in Southeast Asian contemporary art, operating an extensive programme out of their space in Manila and beyond. Its success could be attributed to the sensibilities of founders Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo, who wear the hats of not only gallerists but also curators and artists. As part of its October programme, the gallery features two group exhibitions they have personally curated which explore key questions in photography and painting.

 'Equivalent/s', 2018, gallery installation view with works by Frank Callahan (left) and MM Yu (right). Image courtesy of Silverlens.

'Equivalent/s', 2018, gallery installation view with works by Frank Callahan (left) and MM Yu (right). Image courtesy of Silverlens.

'Equivalent/s', curated by Rillo, is a photography group exhibition that pursues the ideas and methods of abstraction. Its title references American photographer Alfred Stieglitz's 'Equivalents' series (1925) where he captured images of clouds, often recognised to be the first abstract photographs. This show brings together works by Frank Callaghan, Corrine de San Jose, Teo Esguerra, Issay Rodriguez, and MM Yu.

The works in 'Equivalent/s' approach a range of themes which include the poetry of documented images to attempts at combining captured reality with interior transformations. A running thread is photography's relationships with memory, observation and image-making. The notion of abstraction in these artists’ practices lie in thought rather than non-representation.

 Teo Esguerra, 'Pull and Pry', 2018, acrylic on silver gelatin print, 27.94 x 35.56 cm. Image courtesy of Silverlens.

Teo Esguerra, 'Pull and Pry', 2018, acrylic on silver gelatin print, 27.94 x 35.56 cm. Image courtesy of Silverlens.

Complementing this line of inquiry, the parallel exhibition looks at painting as a question of material and surface. In 'Painting, Differently', Lorenzo gathers three artists from different generations and cities: Mit Jai Inn (Chiangmai), Nicole Coson (London) and Aditya Novali (Solo).

The three artists take a process-based approach towards building their surfaces, varying from plexi-glass to jute sack. The works are connected by their approaches towards repetition and material specificity. Working between reproduction and the unique gesture, Coson employs monotype printing techniques to transfer camouflage patterns onto canvas in 'Untitled'. She is also the youngest of the cross-generation trio, who had a solo exhibition with Silverlens in December 2017

 'Painting, Differently', 2018, gallery installation view. Image courtesy of Silverlens.

'Painting, Differently', 2018, gallery installation view. Image courtesy of Silverlens.

Richly textured and colourful, Mit Jai Inn’s canvases take the form of two-sided screens hanging from the ceiling, a folded drapes and even a crushed ball. By breaking out from the boundaries of a stretched, framed painting, the artist solicits touch and bodily engagement with viewers. These relational gestures stem from a deep social consciousness that runs throughout Mit’s practice, with his involvements in politically engaged art initiatives such as the Chiang Mai Social Installation which he co-founded in 1992. Notably, 'Painting, Differently' also marks Mit's first exhibition with the gallery since they announced their representation of the artist in September. Silverlens will also be presenting his works at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2019.

‘Equivalent/s’ and ‘Painting, Differently’ are on view from 20 October to 17 November 2018.