S.E.A. Focus

Gregory Halili & Pow Martinez
Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore

About

    SILVERLENS is pleased to participate in the latest iteration of S.E.A. Focus with a curious presentation by Gregory Halili and Pow Martinez. Although contemporaries, these artists have different approaches in their art making, creating contrasting bodies of work. While Halili favours cool-toned miniature works executed on natural materials – mother-of-pearl shells, capiz oysters, coral, and ivory – Martinez prefers painting on large-scale canvases that exude colourful, often dystopian vibrancy. It is with great pleasure that we exhibit their works side-by-side, splendidly juxtaposing their individual practices.

    Martinez’s playful and irreverent tendencies are vividly highlighted in his new collection of paintings. In one series he presents, trouble in paradise, a set of portraits, completed in childlike fashion, of misshapen but charming figures set against a suspicious landscape. Occupying both the foreground and midground of these canvases, the subjects’ exaggerated features, their direct perspective, confront the viewer and generate a psychological tension between the two. Outside of the series, Martinez features two more paintings, ‘Social Death’ (2020) and ‘self-help guru’ (2020), both of which adopt a contemporary tone through its inclusion of allusions from popular culture, such as a slice of pizza and digital gadgets. In the former, the nude subject humorously twists her body in pursuit of a suitable selfie. The modern familiarity of this scene can be viewed as a commentary on today’s social media. The subjects of these works, engrossed in totally contemporary endeavours, are subtly juxtaposed by classical elements – in one, a candlestick, in the other, a framed painting of a provincial scene – provoking the viewer to reflect on the world’s present state, contrasting where we were and where we’ve come.   

    In contrast to Martinez’s facetious visual language, Gregory Halili’s miniature shell paintings assume a sombre and haunting temper as they meditate on life’s fragility. This is perhaps most evident in ‘Dreamer II’ (2020), a memento mori piece painted on black mother-of-pearl. Here, a human skeleton lies prostrate with glimmering stars above – a reminder of human existence, which, ‘when looking at its surface, one can imagine the universe and our connection with nature on our palm.’ (Halili, 2020) Another work that deals with the brittleness of natural life is ‘Deep End III’ (2020), where Halili utilises his medium’s inherent opacity to depict an aquatic landscape. Although ethereal in appearance, the work addresses the reality of coral bleaching, resulting from warming sea temperatures. In a similar manner, Halili tackles natural phenomena in ‘Crux II’ (2020), illustrating the Taal Volcano eruption of 2020, that occurred near his home. Working harmoniously with the shell’s shifting hues and semi-circular pattern, Halili mirrors the curves of the mountains and the soft pyramidical waves of the sea, contrasting their gentle appearance with toxic fumes and ash.

    Though their artistic styles contrast – Martinez, drawn to flat application and other modernist elements, Halili favouring faithful and classical representation – one can recognise a similar vein in these artists: they choose to depict contemporary realities, culled from their own life experiences. Their soulful, contemplative works appeal to wide audiences, earning them both local and international acclaim; and their contributions reflect the diversity of contemporary Philippine art – and by extension, Southeast Asian art.

    Pow Martinez's (b. 1983; lives and works in Manila, Philippines) paintings belie their grotesque subject matter with the indelibly beautiful surfaces and a wide-ranging, daring use of color. Mutants, monsters, demons, deviants, and freaks lurch, sit, and appear to transform amidst weirdly lit landscapes or disintegrating urban scenarios, or emerge from a painterly graffito mess, but, as his more abstracted works insist, Martinez’ ability to render intriguing relationships between forms and surfaces ensure his works are endlessly compelling—an experience akin to a beautiful nightmare.

    Martinez is a recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards for his exhibition 1 Billion Years at West Gallery, Philippines. He exhibits internationally and has worked with different media, including sound. His recent exhibitions include City Prince/sses (2019) at Palais de Tokyo in Paris; 50 Years in Hollywood (2019) at Pinto Art Museum in New York; WASAK! Reloaded (2016) in Arndt, Singapore; and WASAK! (2016) in Arndt, Berlin. Martinez has also held a number of solo shows in major galleries in Manila, the most recent of which is Sustainable Anxiety (2020) in SILVERLENS. Early in 2018, Martinez had his first solo exhibition in Indonesia. Titled Aesthetic Police, the exhibition is an outcome of his month- long residency program at OPQRStudio in Bandung.

    Gregory Halili (b. 1975; lives and works in Manila) carves and paints mother-of-pearl shells, creating memento moris. Halili received his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He returned to the Philippines in 2013 after 25 years in the United States. Halili’s work focuses on the art of miniatures with interest in the notion and idea of memory, life, death, and cycle.

    His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and shows, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden in Salem, New York; Ayala Museum in Makati City; Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City; West Gallery in Quezon City; Silverlens in Makati City and Nancy Hoffman gallery in New York City. In 2016, Halili was one of the Filipino artists who presented in the Singapore Biennale.

    S.E.A. Focus is a showcase of contemporary art from Southeast Asia. It aims to bring together a curated selection of some of the finest galleries to foster a deeper appreciation of contemporary art and artists in the region. A meeting point for artistic vision and vigour, S.E.A. Focus provides a platform to propel diverse cultural exchanges which celebrate, promote and provoke dialogue about Southeast Asian art.

    S.E.A. Focus is an initiative led by STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore. Returning in January 2021, the edition melds the complementary formats of S.E.A. Focus Digital and S.E.A. Focus Curated.

SILVERLENS is pleased to participate in the latest iteration of S.E.A. Focus with a curious presentation by Gregory Halili and Pow Martinez. Although contemporaries, these artists have different approaches in their art making, creating contrasting bodies of work. While Halili favours cool-toned miniature works executed on natural materials – mother-of-pearl shells, capiz oysters, coral, and ivory – Martinez prefers painting on large-scale canvases that exude colourful, often dystopian vibrancy. It is with great pleasure that we exhibit their works side-by-side, splendidly juxtaposing their individual practices.

Martinez’s playful and irreverent tendencies are vividly highlighted in his new collection of paintings. In one series he presents, trouble in paradise, a set of portraits, completed in childlike fashion, of misshapen but charming figures set against a suspicious landscape. Occupying both the foreground and midground of these canvases, the subjects’ exaggerated features, their direct perspective, confront the viewer and generate a psychological tension between the two. Outside of the series, Martinez features two more paintings, ‘Social Death’ (2020) and ‘self-help guru’ (2020), both of which adopt a contemporary tone through its inclusion of allusions from popular culture, such as a slice of pizza and digital gadgets. In the former, the nude subject humorously twists her body in pursuit of a suitable selfie. The modern familiarity of this scene can be viewed as a commentary on today’s social media. The subjects of these works, engrossed in totally contemporary endeavours, are subtly juxtaposed by classical elements – in one, a candlestick, in the other, a framed painting of a provincial scene – provoking the viewer to reflect on the world’s present state, contrasting where we were and where we’ve come.   

In contrast to Martinez’s facetious visual language, Gregory Halili’s miniature shell paintings assume a sombre and haunting temper as they meditate on life’s fragility. This is perhaps most evident in ‘Dreamer II’ (2020), a memento mori piece painted on black mother-of-pearl. Here, a human skeleton lies prostrate with glimmering stars above – a reminder of human existence, which, ‘when looking at its surface, one can imagine the universe and our connection with nature on our palm.’ (Halili, 2020) Another work that deals with the brittleness of natural life is ‘Deep End III’ (2020), where Halili utilises his medium’s inherent opacity to depict an aquatic landscape. Although ethereal in appearance, the work addresses the reality of coral bleaching, resulting from warming sea temperatures. In a similar manner, Halili tackles natural phenomena in ‘Crux II’ (2020), illustrating the Taal Volcano eruption of 2020, that occurred near his home. Working harmoniously with the shell’s shifting hues and semi-circular pattern, Halili mirrors the curves of the mountains and the soft pyramidical waves of the sea, contrasting their gentle appearance with toxic fumes and ash.

Though their artistic styles contrast – Martinez, drawn to flat application and other modernist elements, Halili favouring faithful and classical representation – one can recognise a similar vein in these artists: they choose to depict contemporary realities, culled from their own life experiences. Their soulful, contemplative works appeal to wide audiences, earning them both local and international acclaim; and their contributions reflect the diversity of contemporary Philippine art – and by extension, Southeast Asian art.

Pow Martinez's (b. 1983; lives and works in Manila, Philippines) paintings belie their grotesque subject matter with the indelibly beautiful surfaces and a wide-ranging, daring use of color. Mutants, monsters, demons, deviants, and freaks lurch, sit, and appear to transform amidst weirdly lit landscapes or disintegrating urban scenarios, or emerge from a painterly graffito mess, but, as his more abstracted works insist, Martinez’ ability to render intriguing relationships between forms and surfaces ensure his works are endlessly compelling—an experience akin to a beautiful nightmare.

Martinez is a recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards for his exhibition 1 Billion Years at West Gallery, Philippines. He exhibits internationally and has worked with different media, including sound. His recent exhibitions include City Prince/sses (2019) at Palais de Tokyo in Paris; 50 Years in Hollywood (2019) at Pinto Art Museum in New York; WASAK! Reloaded (2016) in Arndt, Singapore; and WASAK! (2016) in Arndt, Berlin. Martinez has also held a number of solo shows in major galleries in Manila, the most recent of which is Sustainable Anxiety (2020) in SILVERLENS. Early in 2018, Martinez had his first solo exhibition in Indonesia. Titled Aesthetic Police, the exhibition is an outcome of his month- long residency program at OPQRStudio in Bandung.

Gregory Halili (b. 1975; lives and works in Manila) carves and paints mother-of-pearl shells, creating memento moris. Halili received his B.F.A. from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He returned to the Philippines in 2013 after 25 years in the United States. Halili’s work focuses on the art of miniatures with interest in the notion and idea of memory, life, death, and cycle.

His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and shows, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin; The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio; The Hammond Museum and Sculpture Garden in Salem, New York; Ayala Museum in Makati City; Jorge B. Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City; West Gallery in Quezon City; Silverlens in Makati City and Nancy Hoffman gallery in New York City. In 2016, Halili was one of the Filipino artists who presented in the Singapore Biennale.

S.E.A. Focus is a showcase of contemporary art from Southeast Asia. It aims to bring together a curated selection of some of the finest galleries to foster a deeper appreciation of contemporary art and artists in the region. A meeting point for artistic vision and vigour, S.E.A. Focus provides a platform to propel diverse cultural exchanges which celebrate, promote and provoke dialogue about Southeast Asian art.

S.E.A. Focus is an initiative led by STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore. Returning in January 2021, the edition melds the complementary formats of S.E.A. Focus Digital and S.E.A. Focus Curated.

Installation Views

Works

Gregory Halili
Crux II
2020
3415
2
oil and volcanic ash on capiz shell
2.40h x 3.66w in • 6.10h x 9.30w cm
1
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Gregory Halili
Deep End III
2020
3416
2
oil on gold-lip mother of pearl
2.56h x 4.02w in • 6.50h x 10.20w cm
1
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Gregory Halili
Dreamer II
2020
3417
2
oil on black-lip mother of pearl
1.77h x 3.78w in • 4.50h x 9.60w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
trouble in paradise 1
2020
3418
2
oil on canvas
24h x 24w in • 60.96h x 60.96w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
trouble in paradise 3
2020
3419
2
oil on canvas
24h x 24w in • 60.96h x 60.96w cm
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Pow Martinez
trouble in paradise 4
2020
3420
2
oil on canvas
24h x 24w in • 60.96h x 60.96w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
self-help guru
2020
3421
2
acrylic on canvas
60h x 60w in • 152.40h x 152.40w cm
1
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Pow Martinez
Social Death
2020
3422
2
acrylic on canvas
60h x 60w in • 152.40h x 152.40w cm
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Video

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