ArtistSpace presents “A Place in the Sun,” an exhibition showcasing the works of Danilo Arriola. His method of choice: chiaroscuro, the stark contrast of light and dark.
In his solo exhibition, the artist applies the Renaissance technique onto objects both precious and ordinary—an antique chalice, a jade sculpture, deformed candles, old bottles of Choco-Vim, the humble singkamas.
There is something about the detritus of ages that fascinates, even obsesses Arriola. He is a voracious accumulator of artifacts: animal skulls and ceramics, a crown and some fruit, all have a place in his cabinet of curiosities.
Is it the interesting forms that draw his attention, or possibly their worn patina?
“Hindi ko rin alam kung bakit,” he says, “pero mas gusto ko ‘yun, na hindi ko alam.”
And so Arriola embraces the enigmatic; he observes each object intensely, allowing himself to be consumed by the daily routine of looking.
Like the objects in his vignettes, he is no stranger to darkness. Effaced by ailment, colorblindness, and a pall of self-doubt, he has long struggled with the sentence of invisibility, the curse of being unseen, or refusing to be seen.
Through painting, he challenges the shadows. Chiaroscuro is a battle on canvas, light interrogating dark. The meticulous process demands weeks of keen concentration for each work. Here, in the half-light, he strains to look at every minute detail. Scratches and decay, the intricate play of light, every layer of rust and dust, all are rendered.
If looking is a form of loving, then perhaps the tenacity of observation is Arriola’s way of rescuing these objects. As he immortalizes them in oil, he grants them the tender gaze he had once denied himself. “Painting saved me,” he admits. With the discipline of his practice, he has slowly learned to look at himself with more kindness, the way he does the objects he paints.
In the fragile dance of light and dark, Arriola draws to the surface the beauty and mystery, not only of the objects, but also within him. The clarity with which he sees things, he has also brought, finally, into his own world.
A Place in the Sun will be on view at the ArtistSpace, located at the Ayala Museum Annex in Makati, until September 6.