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Artist Statement: The Marks We Leave Behind

by Sio Montera

A Solo Exhibition at Renaissance Gallery

Adversity strikes when you least expect it. Adversity by definition is a state of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune. As an artist, creating art while facing difficult challenges in succession can be defeating, however, it can also bring out the resilience and ability for someone to get back on one’s feet. It is within this context that my recent collection of abstract art is framed upon.

The first strike. The death of a parent is always tough no matter what your relationship in life was. The passing of my late father, after an extended bout with cancer was made more difficult due to an alert level-3 from a surge of Covid-19 infections during the third quarter of 2021. In compliance with local government guidelines, non-Covid deaths were given a maximum of three days to hold a wake. As such, only a handful of relatives and friends were able to pay their final respects. My only sibling, who lives and works in the USA, decided to forego the trip home because of a mandatory quarantine upon arrival in the country. I too, was unable to mourn properly since legal papers had to be filed and burial preparations needed to be arranged in such a short time. Creating art had to cease during this time to address burial customs.

Strike two. In the last quarter of 2021, the onslaught of super typhoon Odette ravaged Cebu and most islands of Central Visayas. On the night of the typhoon’s landfall in our region, the majority were unprepared for the devastation the storm brought. Massive destruction prevailed over the entire region and the highly urbanized city of Cebu looked like a wasteland when the sun finally shines the morning after. My studio, along with several artworks were not spared and the artist in me felt a knife piercing my heart. There was also no roof over our house for a month as carpenters and contractors had to rebuild their own homes first. Our family endured Christmas and New Year’s day under the stars and without electricity and running water. Rebuilding the house damage and clearing the debris took its toll financially and emotionally. It was not until the end of the first quarter of 2022 that a sense of normalcy finally prevailed after the ordeal. I was able to paint again after six months, albeit slowly to begin the process of regaining my painting touch.

The third strike. The Covid-19 virus finally caught up with me in the second quarter of 2022. Despite being vaccinated and boostered, the latest virus subvariant also infected my wife and two children. My doctor insisted that I already belong to the high risk population due to comorbidities and must be admitted due to low oxygen saturation. Spending a week in the hospital for round-the-clock Covid treatment again suspended my art production, however the thought of finishing my works became a strong motivation to beat the virus.

Life is bigger than art. The series of natural events which I encountered are all part of the wheel of life no matter how painful, devastating, or life-threatening. As an artist, the ability to express profound experiences in art can be passionately intense. To appropriate personal adversity (and to recover from it) through visual form is consumingly physical and spiritual. Creating the collection was akin to inflicting the pain of the experiences on the canvas and building the layers to conceal the scars. The process is the reverse of previous collections that excoriated the layers underneath to reveal the histories of the painting process.

Overall, this exhibition consistently applies the artist’s strengths in texture applications, color harmonies, and powerful gestures. Symbolically, the artist acknowledges our mortality and how the true Source of Life and can taketh away all things that humans hold dear. Furthermore, the works in this exhibition collectively represent the resiliency of the human spirit to continue with living our lives while it is still given. As the American writer V.E. Schwab appropriately set down, “What is a person, if not for the marks they leave behind?”


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