You are on page 1of 36

Yet within it is an image. Yet within it is a substance. Yet within it is an essence.

This essence is quite genuine And within it is something that can be tested.
-The Tao (The Way)
The teeming things All return to their roots. Returning to ones roots is called stillness. This is what is meant by returning to ones destiny. Returning to ones destiny belongs with the eternal To know the eternal is enlightenment. -The Tao (The Way)

S U B S TA N C E
By Cid Reyes

The Plenitude of Emptiness

Notes and Reflections on the Art of LAO LIANBEN

1.
Mondrians convictions can justly be called religious. He saw art not as an end but as a means to an end spiritual clarification. .Nothing but abstraction could do justice to the imminent dawn of the spirit
Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New Professing to no official faith or creed, Lao Lianben creates an art steeped in spirituality. This in itself is something rare in Philippine contemporary art, which is in the main attuned to either a celebratory mode (fiestas, folks customs, traditions, values) or a social realist temper (decrying poverty, injustice, inequality, economic vicissitudes). The central theme of Laos works cannot be found in either of these dispositions, but rather in a metaphysical place where the usual discourse is rich in spiritual content and the attainment of enlightenment. His art is thus rooted in the beliefs of Zen Buddhism, at the heart of which is the emptying of the ego.

2.
Together with Gus Albor, Lao Lianben was, in the late sixties and early seventies, a student of the late Florencio Concepcion, dean of the University of the East School of Fine Arts. Concepcion, an ardent abstractionist and contemporary of foremost Abstract Expressionist Jose Joya, (posthumously declared National Artist), instilled in his students the disciplined rudiments of classical painting. Life class was an enforced requirement that exacted the full potential of Concepcions students. As was the custom of most students, Lao did join art competitions. Early on, his talent was recognized. At the Shell Student Art Contests, Lao won First Prize in Graphic Print in 1968; and thence Second Prize, also in Graphic Print in 1970. In these prize-winning works, Lao manifested an early fascination with the nature of materialin this instance, the woodblocks. Wood seemed to him a primal product of nature, exhorting humanity to an awareness of the impermanence of things. The interrelatedness between man and nature finds expression in Laos inspired penchant to incorporate wood in his works. He subjects it to a variety of treatments: gouging the wood and plowing its surface with cross-hatched patterns. The work has a blanched, unnerving quality, like a stifled scream.

3.
Abstract Expressionism was the banner which the late National Artist Jose Joya introduced to the country, as a practicing exemplar, inspiring succeeding generations of Filipino artists. The so-called New York School from whence originated Abstract Expressionism, engendered two directions: Action Painting (as exemplified by Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock) and the Abstract Sublime (notably the works of Barnett Newmann and Mark Rothko). In the Philippine brand of abstraction, Lao Lianben would be closest in spirit to Mark Rothko, whose blocks of luminous color embodied serenity and stillness.

ELEMENTS mixed media and acrylic on canvass 72 x 84 inches 2008

HEAD AND ZEN mixed media and acrylic on canvass 96 x 72 inches 2008

4. The first step in finding such a contract with God is learning to be alone and quiet. This is the beginning of silence, of the process of introversion. There is just one aim to start with, to still the tumult of activity in mind and body and center down in a state of recollection. And this means shutting out the invading noises from both the outside world and the inner psychic one. No one in Eastern religions doubts the value of silence. The practice of being alone in stillness is certainly central in Hindu religion. Yoga and various forms of Buddhist meditation begin and end in silence. Throughout Zen the value of utter stillness is emphasized; the goal of satori is to reach the ultimate peace, and the novice begins searching while sitting still in the lotus position. There is a strong tradition in Chinese religious thought that the way of coming into harmony with tao, which is the ultimate principle of reality, is by inner quiet, by stilling the inner confusion so that one comes to peace and harmony within.
Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side Of Silence: A Guide To Christian Meditation

5.
As of this writing (2008), Lao Lianben has just turned sixty. Should one consider him past his midcareer? For certainly, he is far from being in the autumn of his years. Shall we say, early autumn then? What is incontestable is the fact that at this life stage, Lao has already created many of his major works. In the field of abstraction, at least, he is regarded to be in the top tier, as evidenced by his numerous collectors. Indeed a few have designed their art collection around his works. Were one to depict the artist in consumerist terms, Lao Lianben is already a brand; that is to say, possessing an individual, immediately identifiable style of painting. For instance, this artist, bar none, has unassailably preempted or usurped the virtue of an obsessive simplicity and purity, the oriental purpose of art: to create metaphors for the spirit. (Inarguable also is the fact that Occidental art is focused on the depiction of form.) Was it preordained then for Lao Lianben to be the primogenitor of the art of the spirit in Philippine art?

6.
Like the late National Artist of an earlier generation, Ang Kiukok, Lao Lianben was born in the Philippines, of pure Chinese descent. And yet no two artists could be more dissimilar in subject matter, imagery, and tonality of work. The art of Ang Kiukok is formidably figurative, charged with anguish and torment: sharp, angular, cubistinflected images of Crucifixion, gladiatorial dogs, junkyards. I cannot think of, nor have seen, a purely abstract by Ang Kiukok. Perhaps the nearest to abstraction would be the junkyard works, where the fragments of disjointed metal parts and other industrial ruins look like scrambled, interlocked constructivist sculptures, which were then painted on canvas. The Yuchengco Museum once featured the works of Ang Kiukok, Lao Lianben, and Charlie Co (of Bacolods Black Artists Group) in a three-man show. Though all three are of Chinese parentage, each showed individual artistic concerns, unrelated to the other.

7.
From the start of his professional career, Laos works have been resolutely and insistently abstract. (To ones knowledge, he has never exhibited his student work, presumably landscapes, which some artists doperhaps, to suggest their precocity, or to afford a tantalizing glimpse of their pupal stage, before the caterpillar-artist sprouted butterfly wings and took flight to some astronomical region, as reflected by their current market prices). At any rate, through decades of abstract production, Laos art was re-energized by his introduction of the human figure, with the felicitously edgy title of The Neurotic Zen Master. It became a collective title, as an array of variations on the rapt presence of the Zen Master, with the force of the Buddha-mind projecting its energy to the audience, appeared with regular consistency in the years to follow. It is a human image, but more of a suggestion of an illusion, that peers at the viewer, so generalized are its physiognomical features, so glorying in his isolation that he seems more like a hazy lighthouse glowing from some dark imaginary place. When finally allowing the human figure to emerge solitarily from his paintings, he did so, not grudgingly, but with a sly wit, mordant humor, and caustic (as evidenced by the descriptive adjective) tenderness as that of an indulgent father towards a willful child.

8.
Heres an early (1979) review by the late lamented critic Leo Benesa on Lao Lianbens and Albors two-man show. It is worth quoting at length: Laos first show at the Luz in 1975 mesmerized the viewer with poetic abstractions of the night, of a sublunar world, in any case emphasizing atmosphere rather than objects. Some of the works in that show invite comparisons with the black-on-black paintings of Ad Reinhardt, and the black printed assemblages of Louise Nevelson. Indeed, Laos painting surfaces tend to take on relief qualities and it is not unusual for him to construct a painting from discarded wood to which he would give a black overpaint. The color toning thus reinforces the austere, meditative strain in his works as a whole, which we have interpreted in terms of the Zen aesthetic in the past. Part of the appeal in Laos abstract surfaces resides in the filigree-like texture in the wood which he works on like a carpenter or a carver. The contrast of deep spaces and decorative texture, together with certain structural elements, make for very pleasing compositions.

HAND mixed media and acrylic on canvass 96 x 72 inches 2008

MAN AND ZEN mixed media and acrylic on canvass 96 x 16 inches 2008

9.
Lao also had a tandem show with Impy Pilapil, whose glass and stone sculptures also aspire to the spiritual. The empathy between Laos and Pilapils works is undeniable, even as their sensibilities converge in their search for a visual form that transcends material reality. Both identified with the circular form, a popular motif in Zen art, symbolizing infinity.

10.
There is a full three-decade span between Benesas review and this writers reflections. Already a sense of history informs the genesis of Laos vision: a sustained consistency, a fruition of youthful influences and enthusiasms, a path traveled unerringly through thirty years.

11.
Modeling paste is the prosaic term for Laos favored material. It has found its way in almost all his numerous canvases, even on paper, and has perforce become the artists trademark surface. Laid down on canvas or wood support, modeling paste, with its versatile and sensuous consistency, lends itself to as many surprising effects. Primarily, the modeling paste has given his work an essential bodyindeed, a skinand sets the entire surface alive with possibilities. One can also read it as landscape of the spirit, so bountifully is the material slathered and spread. The eye can roam over it, as ones gaze ranges across the pervasive hefty impastos. Lao works his medium, aware of its capacities, extracting spiritual energy from such a humble materialwhat would really be considered as arte povera type of material, like discarded wood, newspaper, metal parts all plundered from the junk shops. With such treasured trash, many artists have hit, shall we say, pay dirt. But Laos modeling paste is of the pricey kind, such as to be junk found among brandname oils, acrylics and paint brushes. In the early years when Lao had not yet found an appreciative market, this material was among the few luxuries he had lavished on his art.

12.
The Zen Buddhist does not acknowledge chance, so everything is for him a pointing finger, a pre-determined encounter.
-Siegfried Wichmann, Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on Western Art Since 1858

13.
There is a teaching in Buddhism that tempts me into making a parallel with Lao Lianbens abjuration of color:

Many wish to put ochre and yellow robes and be venerated as ascetics. Neither the robe nor the color makes an ascetic. The man who wishes to be an ascetic without first cleaning his thoughts of anger, greed, ego and vanity is chasing a mirage.
Laos purging of color in his canvases is a first step towards the cleansing of his mind and spirit. The few, rare glimpses of color are reduced symbolically to earthen colorsindeed, smudges of huesor the sudden electric flash of red, the color of highest intensity. Color agitates the spirit, animates the senses. Thus, the need to still the soul, now in a blind rage, with the herald of black and white. The spirit then finds itself in an abyss of repose, a state of extinction, steeped in the light that is the aura of its own being. In so doing, Lao divests his art of all artifice.

14.
The example of Dr. Leovino Garcia, a devout Catholic drawing spiritual strength from an art rooted in Zen, should not be surprising. Now the East and West have found many areas of common ground. Yoga, the mantra, the mandala and the koanall practices and emblems originating from the Easthave spiritually revitalized many Christians. Indeed, there is now a phenomenon known as Christian Zen. The experience of Godor the Universe, the Higher Mind Power, the Sublime Consciousnessmust start with silence. In our encounter with the Divine Mind, we must arrest all external voices and imagesexcept that voice and image which arise within us. Works by Lao allude to this mystical stillness. Even without the categorical title In Silence, his works, (no matter the size, though some are of engulfing scale) are invested with an ethereal quality, achieved through a reverence of space, a sparse and spare aesthetic, achieved through a blazing cascade of faint graphite lines, curling and curdling, like a network cauldron of twisting, nervous squiggles poured in lush avalanche. The result is a radiant shining forth of light that is almost tactile in its luxuriance. Is this the artist as deity creating in silence from a deep void? The viewer is immersed in immense serenity.

15.
How are we repaid for the time, the hours that we spend for the intensive contemplation of Laos paintings? There are no instant gratifications. His works challenge the viewer to comprehend the aesthetic reaches of emptiness. Dr. Leovino Garcia confesses to waking up in the early hours of the morning to meditate while gazing at one of his several Lao Lianben artworks. (A first of its kinda collectors focused personal assembly of one particular artists workwas the self-published book by Dr. Garcia. Titled Passion and Compassion, the book traces the collections genesis and evolution. The collector continues to draw meaning and spiritual sustenance from Laos works. Dr. Garcias spirit is daily nourished and nurtured by the works astonishing depths of feeling. For him, the quietude of expression that floods his collection is the perfect antidote to an aridity of spirit. Tension gives way to a sense of repose. Infused with a remarkable imagery as evanescent as the dawn arriving, Laos paintings are a spiritual refugeand a never failing aesthetic delightto Dr. Garcia. Certainly, these are objects for spiritual contemplation as well as aesthetic delectation, for they conform to all the formalist requirements of a good painting: elegance of design, harmony and balance of tension, majesty of light and space. They are all the more remarkable for their subtlety and lack of affectation. And if poetic is not too rosy a word, then that quality must also be ascribed to Laos works. Did not Wordsworth declare that poetry takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquilitythe emotion is contemplated till by a series of reaction the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced and does itself actually exist in the mind.

16.
At first sight, one is reminded of Andy Warhols figure in Suicide (Falling Body). But Laos work titled Levitationof a descending or levitating bodyseems suspended in midair, referencing the body as a voluptuary of buoyancy or a victim of gravity. Its almost a heartbreaking image, a view we held onto, until a reading on Zen Buddhism delivered us from this darkness of ignorance. It is an account of a Buddhist Nuns peculiar experience: Suddenly one night she was awakened by a loud noise, and her feet began to stretch and dance under the covers by themselves. An indescribably intense feeling of pleasure rippled throughout her body. Later the other side of the experience showed itself in sharp pains. Parapsychological phenomena like levitation and cessation of breathing followed her all the way to enlightenment. A researcher, by the name of G. Schuttler, obtained much information from the Zen masters he questioned on such bodily sensations as levitation, extension, falling, etc.

BUDDHIST TELEVISION mixed media and acrylic on canvass 60 x 48 inches 2008

BUDDHIST TELEVISION mixed media and acrylic on canvass 60 x 96 inches 2008

17.
Mock-satiric is the inspired title which Lao Lianben invested on a suite of works. Buddhist Television is its enigmatic appellation, alluding to the boobtube, perpetually flickering as the television channel goes off-the-air. To stare at it ceaselessly is to invite a malignantly mesmeric experience, guaranteed to grate on ones nerves. Certainly Lao Lianben was aware of this conundrum. He knew the challenge of transcending such an experience and uplifting it to a level that approximates an ecstatic spiritual splendor. In the Buddhist Television series, the seduction starts with its structure. An aperture, a rectangular viewing glass is a luminous orifice, through which we may look into an abyss of glowing light. Its very simplicity is the apparatus of the artists wily seduction of his audience. Indeed, through a glass brightly are we enveloped in a radiance as awe-inspiring as a Gothic Cathedrals rose window. Alas, no polychrome prettiness lures us, but the sheer exhilaration of light and space totally absorbs us.

18.
Conversations With A Wall, in the Leovino Garcia collection, is a powerfully enigmatic work made of found material: wooden blocks encrusted with embedded stones, are lashed together, weathered and worn, like the detritus of urban decay, now roped together and decked with the hacked-out grid-like patterns of their wounding. Bruised and battered, these woodblocks nonetheless retain their quiet dignity, displaying the clawed scars of the artists artmaking process. An underlayer of black insinuates like distressed pentimenti through the interstices of wooden ridges that have evaded the all-over splashes of white pigments. Strangely, the seeming brutality that attended the works creation has given way to an almost ghostly figural presence. The ropes, pulled tightly and now stiffened and taut with paint and woven through holes, transfigure into human bones. In the Buddhist tradition, Sakyamunithe Enlightened Onefaced the wall in meditation for nine years.

19.
How does one savor emptiness? How do you extract the maximum aesthetic pleasure from the most economical means? How do you make silence ring with the most resonant emotions and meanings? What visual language can eloquently communicate the inexpressible? When does matter turn into vapor and mist? Can you physically touch the ineffable? Imperceptibly, such questions I posed to myself reverted me to the impenetrable Koan:

What is the sound of one clapping? What was your face like before you were born?
Oh, if only one can catch a glimpse of the Buddha-mind.

20.
What is koan? One finds an enlightening answer from Ruth Fuller Sasaki, an American Buddhist who was married to a Japanese Zen master.

The koan is not a conundrum to be solved by a nimble wit. It is not a verbal psychiatric device for shocking the disintegrated ego of a student into some kind of stability When the koan is resolved it is realized to be a simple and clear statement made from the state of consciousness which it has helped to awaken.
Like mystical puzzles, Lao Lianbens paintings arouse more questions than answers. The questioning mindthe rational inquiryis stunned into searching for enlightenment.

21.
The paradox in Laos most recent incursion into the nature of spirituality is closely bound with the nature of matter. Indeed, it is the intriguing question of how two conflicting concepts can find a common ground of expression. Thus, the sheer physicality of his material opens up the conceptual possibility that spirit is in fact inherent in matter. Propelled by this direction, the artist conspireswith his material?to transcend its limitation to a level that reaches spiritual buoyancy. In the landmark work that lends its name to an entire exhibition, Substance, the artist wrestles with his material and achieves resolution into the dense, impacted spectral mounds that seem to defy gravity with its obdurate weight. That this result was achieved not by trowelling but by the artists bare hands, affirms the belief of the German conceptualist Joseph Beuys that works of art are materialized fields of energy and that matter has an inner meaning which can generate a transformative spiritual atmosphere, an alchemical spiritual art From such coarse material and hardwon craftsmanship, a work of palpable and near sculptural presence emerged.

22.
It lies across the canvas like a centerpiece, a decapitation of a glacial monument. It fills the space with an overwhelming presence and leads the viewer to a blurred encounter with a mystery mans visage. Lao turns the silhouette every which way, reveling in its abrasive surface. Fragments of a head litter the canvas in a grand guignol display of skull heads, voluptuous in the arching of the neck, a forehead reminiscent of a bald mountain peak. Cropped views of a faceless entity dare us into perceiving the impenetrable gaze. Floating in space, it is nonetheless buoyant and bleached-out. These life masks lie as on a battlefield, exhumed to our ghoulish delight. The human head turns out to be a most felicitous shape. In the series of works titled Head and Zen, Lao introduces a lightning device to symbolize sudden enlightenment. (There is another belief, which is that of gradual enlightenment.) The head tumbles down as if decapitated. Zen master Yasutani explains the essence of Zen enlightenment: Enlightenment means seeing through to your own essential nature, and this at the same time means seeing through to the essential nature of the cosmos and of all things. For seeing through to essential nature is the wisdom of enlightenment In Buddhism, from ancient times it has been called suchness or Buddha-nature or the one mind. In Zen, it has also been called nothingness, the one hand, or ones original face. Still, another Zen disciples enlightenment was described thus: like a bolt of lightning going through my entire body. Heaven and earth dissolved like the roaming surf, great joy burst forth!

LEVITATION mixed media and acrylic on canvass 120 x 60 inches 2008

23.
When a feeling reaches its highest pitch, we remain silent, even 17 syllables may be too many. Japanese artists influenced by the way of Zen tend to use the fewest words or strokes of brush to express their feelings. When they are too fully expressed no room for suggestion is possible, and suggestibility is the secret of the Japanese arts.
-D.T. Suzuki

24.
Reflecting on the works of Lao, one is inevitably led to the Japanese poetic form, the 17-syllable haiku. In the haikus disciplined structures, language is reduced to its barest state in order to reveal, in a flash, a meaning emerging from image and words.

Summer moon Clapping hands, I herald dawn. 25.


So the poet presents an observation of a natural, often commonplace event, in plainest diction, without verbal trickery. The effect is one of spareness, yet the reader is aware of a microcosm related to transcendent unity. A moment, crystallized, distilled, snatched from times flow, and that is enough. All suggestion and implication, the haiku event is held precious because, in part, it demands the readers participation: without a sensitive audience, it would appear as unimpressive.
-Lucien Stryk

26.
One thinks, too, of Basho, the poet Matsuo Kinsaku (1644-94), who restored the haiku to its freshest state. In one of his autobiographical writings, he describes what poetry meant to him. If one were to read painting for poetry, a portrait of Lao, the artist, would, in a flash, appear. In this poor body, composed of one hundred bones and nine openings, is something called spirit, a flimsy curtain swept this way and that by the slightest breeze. It is spirit, such as it is, which led me to poetry, at first little more than a pastime, then the full business of my life. There have been times when my spirit, so dejected, almost gave up the quest, other times when it was proud, triumphant. The most famous haiku of Basho reads:

The ancient pond A frog leaps in, The sound of water.


Lao translates this imagery into a painting (titled Pond) that is barely therea scrim of light, a haze of water and mist that faintly covers a string of pencil-drawn vertical lines. Are these the lotus stalks without their blooms? We can perceive this weightless and sparse painting either before or after the moment the frog leapt in. Stillness interrupted is time coming to a halt. Stillness restored dissolves time itself.

27.
There is an image which blissfully floated, literally, into Laos field of vision: the cloud. This should not be surprising as the cloudtogether with mountains and trees, ravines and streams, lakes and rock formations - is a staple in oriental landscape painting. Thus, the cloud-capped mountains are a luxuriant presence in many Chinese silk paintings. Indeed, instructions abound as to the perfect execution of natural glories.

28.
You love to paint clouds and forests and hills and rivers. You should understand clearly why things look a certain way. Trees, for instance, grow each according to its nature. The forms of landscape grow from a variety of forces. There are the sharp peaks, the flat tops, the rounded tops, the connected range, the notch, the bluff, the overhanging cliff, the valley with footpaths, the rugged, roadless terrain, the river, the gully. The hilltops may be different in shape but the main range moves in a continuous line. Forests and springs are hidden, suggested here and there.The clouds and mists are light or heavy according to the moment, and they drift with the movement of air and have no fixed forms.
(Ching Hao, A.D. 920).

29.
The clouds and mists of a real landscape vary according to the seasons: tranquil in spring, flamboyant in summer, sparse and thin in autumn, and somber in winter. To catch the life of the clouds, one must draw the general outline, without too many surface strokes
(Kuo Hsi, c.1020-1090).

POND mixed media and acrylic on canvass 120 x 80 inches 2008

HANDS mixed media and acrylic on canvass 72 x 84 inches 2008

30.
I have been of the opinion that men, animals, houses and furniture have a constant form. On the other hand, mountains and rocks, bamboos and trees, ripples, mists and clouds have no constant form (hsing), but have a constant inner nature (li an inner law of their being).
Su Tung-po, 1036-1101

31.
The delicate, amorphous beauty of the ever-changing cloud hovers in many a haiku:

Stubble; Autumn clouds Over the water of the rice-field No house more to beg from; Clouds over the mountains After thunder, The freshness Of the evening clouds!
Cezanne once said: Look at that cloudI would like to be able to paint that. Now Monet, he could do it. He has the muscles.

32.
Lao had the natural instinct to render his clouds as shreds of cotton, strung across a darkened canvas in a calligraphy of billowing forms. I like to think of that work as a visualization of the cloud of unknowing, a Christian mystics journal and reflections on the Divine.

33. Mysterious loveliness! Buddhist statues Covered in fallen leaves. The winter sunlight He moved from the Great Buddha To the hill. 34.
Shakyamuni is venerated by the faithful of all Buddhist schools as the Buddhathat is, the Enlightened One. He was a historical figure who lived in the fifth century B.C. Through him a new category namely that of the Buddhaentered the history of religions. The experience of enlightenment counts as the central event of his life.
-Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Enlightenment: Origins and Meaning

35.
In the Buddha collages of Lao, the image of the Enlightened One is the very spirit of self-effacement. The artist keeps a respectful distancefrom himself and the self-consciousness of artmaking. These works emerge from a deep, devouring darkness, with light emanating through the appearance of the Buddha. He is at the center of nothingness.

36.
I had the pleasure of being invited to Laos studioa privilege that is now accorded a few, since the onset of celebrity had made Lao the object of so much unwanted visitation, disrupting the normal rhythm of family domesticity and, more distressing, impinging on his working hours, and of course, his solitude. The purpose of the visit, was necessarily, to view his recent works whose weight is beyond the strength of one man (Lao has employed a full-time assistant). The studio is a separate property, distinct from the artists domicile, a comfortable few meters away. To have ones own space to create is every artists dream, devoutly to be wished. Laos studio is a signifier of the artists level of success. More important, the studio is a laboratory of his ideas, a veritable stage for his artistic experiments as witnessed by the soiled ground, caked with accretions of material now hardened by time. The walls have turned into a veritable mosaic of splattered paint, mostly a grayish fluid gush, as these walls have been like an innocent bystander, drizzled down by a downpour of pigment flung heedlessly at the heroically-sized canvases lined against the walls. The studio, high-ceilinged and spacious, enables Lao to relentlessly pursue his vision. He is working at the peak of his aesthetic powers. The artist is in top form.

37.
Married to Lilia Lao, an artist in her own right, the couples marriage is one of the most enduring relationships in the art scene. Lilias works, not surprisingly, also adhere to an oriental sensibility. Her still life of shells and stones are filled with a wistful starkness.

38.
A word about Minimalism: no other work has been so misrepresented or wrongly construed or made to bear the burden of a simplistic understanding. Even Pop Art had a better go of it, deriving its name from a diminution of the word popular. The onomatopoeic popping sound has the built-in energy of its sources: advertising, comics, billboards, the main media, the consumerist frenzy for food and other goodies that, yes, pop in and out, of the human alimentary canal. Can one consider Pop, the artists Man of Many Works? The pile of overlapping collages, in Chinese and English, projects the din and dissonance of Chinatown. But to go back to Minimalism also labeled A-B-C Art a tag which did not catch on: Minimalist works are characterized by a cold impersonality and detachment, involved with basic, primary forms (circle, square, rectangle, triangle), thus with severe geometric forms, slick, with an almost mechanical finish, erasing every trace of the artists hand. In short, they are not Zen meditative pieces. I fear I shall get into trouble with interior designers who insist on calling Lao Lianben works minimalist. I must admit, however: Laos artworks do look good in their minimalist space.

SUBSTANCE mixed media and acrylic on canvass 96 x 120 inches 2008

Cid Reyes is an artist-critic with a substantial body of works in both fields. As an artist, he has held 16 solo exhibitions. A prolific writer, he produced numerous criticisms, notably for his long-running art column, Gallery-Hopping. Reyes is the author of a book of interviews, Conversations on Philippine Art (from Aguinaldo to Zobel), published by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He has written coffee table books for three National Artists, namely Arturo Luz, Bencab, and J. Elizalde Navarro. He co-authored Herencia: The BPI Art Collection and Tanaw: The Central Bank Art Collection. Reyes has received a Best in Art Criticism Award from the Art Association of the Philippines (AAP).

S U B S TA N C E
Lao Lianben
S u n d ay - J a n ua ry 18, 2009, 3PM Bl an c Compou nd 359 S h aw Blvd. Mandal uyong City +6 3 92 0.9276 4 3 6 + 632 .7520032 www. b l a nc . ph info@ bl anc.ph

Essay Cid Reyes Photography & Design Gari Buenavista Design Katrina Tan

All rights reserved. No part of this catalogue may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the artist and the publisher, with exception of brief excerpts and quotations used in articles, critical essays or research.

www.blanc.ph