In celebration of Ateneo de Zamboanga University’s Centennial, the Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago veers away from the traditional aesthetics of paintings and sculptures by introducing to the Mindanao art scene an unexpectedly lovable category of art: the comic strip.
Unlocking a witty, humorous world of black and white, Ja Cabato (GS ’95, HS ’99) explores the most basic element of art. She manipulates the purity and flexibility of lines, transforming them into visual narratives. Of this creative experimentation, three complementary parts cover the vinta-colored gallery: Taliti de Palabra, Mientras Tanto and Ri.
The experiential treat Taliti de Palabra – which is to say a ‘shower of words’ – graphically portrays what it literally means. Viewers seemingly step into a comic strip where an array of plump speech bubbles hang suspended in air. While the allure of this installation lies in the artist’s hand-skilled diligence, the amusing appeal of floating words rests mainly on its dialogue content, a mishmash of catchphrases in English, Filipino and Chavacano.
Strategically strewn on the walls are Ja’s memories in pen and ink renditions. Mientras Tanto, which translates to ‘meanwhile’, takes on a parallel idea frequently used during comic strip narrations. Jetting out from the vibrant walls is a monotone contrast of childlike illustrations which project a whimsical atmosphere muddled with etched memories panning the artist’s childhood to the present. Overflowing with swirls and curly cues, these two-dimensional pictorial reflections provide a sneak peek of the artist’s wanderlust and carefree spirit.
The gallery’s reading corner holds a more detailed perspective on this personality. An on-going compilation of comic strips entitled Ri, denoting ‘to smile or to laugh’, is inspired by conversations with family and friends. A Chavacano first, this fictional autobiography utilizes simply-put drawings and quick-paced dialogue which carefully traverses and strips through the various roles the artist has played as a sister, a daughter and a friend.
What makes Strip Show most stunning is how it slowly shies away from the conventional but at the same time holds on to a culture dearly loved and relatable to fellow Zamboangeños. With every bubble, doodle, and panel, we plunge deeper into the artist’s psyche – a world manifested in creations which say so much about Ja’s quirky personality. It is this quality which the viewer will find endearing; the sincerity of the work is what warms its audience right to the bone.
Strip Show will open on Tuesday, July 10, 5pm at Ateneo de Zamboanga University’s old high school lobby. Guests will then proceed to the Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago for viewing and cocktails. Duration of the exhibition will be until July 31.
— by Regine Miren Cabato