Visual artist Gerardo Tan extends his continuing exploration of collage-based paintings in “Recto/Verso: New Collages and Paintings,” a solo exhibition of recent works at Archivo 1984 Gallery. Comprised of small collages on paper and their translations into larger canvases, the works dwell on the reflexive materiality of things:
transforming archival fragments into art objects and, conversely, repositioning art objects as itinerant archives.
The terms “Recto/Verso” denote the front (recto) and the reverse or underside (verso) of bound materials and art objects identified for conservation treatment.
The entire series begins with the collages, which were constructed using materials such as pages from art books, texts, and posters. Tan makes extensive use of billboards and posters plastered across various public spaces in Berlin.
Peeling off entire sections and strips of billboards layered over the other during several encounters, Tan reconfigures these as new collages inside his studio. He proceeds to make large paintings based on selected collages from this collection, rendering their surfaces, texts, and shapes into larger painterly expressions.
Both the paintings and collages, literally, make visible their recto and verso: predominantly portraying the front sides of the works but also including several pieces showing the reverse end. These are carefully composed throughout the gallery space to help convey to the viewer that the work in front of them always conceals its other side: the revelation always hiding one aspect from view.
What is perhaps distinct in Tan’s collage-based paintings is how he emphasizes the materiality, reproduction and representation of images throughout the process of making the works.
Recto/Verso: New Collages and Paintings also underscores Tan’s history and working process as a visual artist. The series is one, which he pursues on a continuous basis, produced in spurts alongside other diverse, concurrent projects. Tan’s collage-based painting series takes up significant space within this timeline of things, underscoring how he views these works not as mere distractions or exercises but as an increasingly significant thread within his whole body of work.
Tan first made collage-based paintings during the early 1990s, experimenting with the medium through a series of annual exhibitions at the former Finale Art Gallery in SM Megamall throughout the mid to late 1990s. Tan also exhibited a succession of collage-based works between 2009 to 2012, with shows such as Doppelgangers (2011) at TAKSU in Singapore and Altered Pages (2012) at the defunct Mag:net Gallery. The last show of collage-based paintings that Tan produced prior to this exhibition was two years ago, titled “Nothing” is more real than nothing (2015) also at Archivo.
Across this timeline, Tan personally observes his increasing turn towards abstraction away from playing formerly dominant figurative elements, for instance. While he has also consistently uses art books and related magazines as materials for collage, this latest exhibition expands this range with his appropriation of found billboard posters and texts as well as the process of reversing the sides of objects as a source of new images.
‘Recto/Verso’ runs until June 24. Archivo 1984 Gallery is located at Level 2, Warehouse 1, #2135 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City, Philippines.