JUNE 16-28, 2021
CLARITY IN ALACRITY
Written by Kaye O’yek
More than a year since a global pandemic stopped world economies and brought irreplaceable losses to life and property, people everywhere seem numbed still, or have to exert extra effort to adapt to new norms that are now part of our day to day. There is no denying that the lockdowns have affected all of our lives.
For Moreen Austria, holding on to a clear vision of how things will be beyond this dystopian reality has led her to the creation of recent works that touch on images from the artist’s childhood dreams and mundane experiences as an adult. Alacrity is something to hold on to— mustering the eagerness and enthusiasm for simple things that keep us sane.
Ordinary Days, a terracotta sculpture with one figure parked on a couch with a laptop and a beloved pet, a stack of books waiting to be read, a light source for the comfortable nook and another figure with a drink in hand, tells the story of how a soft seat can be the center of activities, with to-dos and tasks hovering around it. It may as well be a scene from a doll house, turning childhood memories into physical form. Quiet Conversations freezes an intimate talk on canvas, and the audience is almost tempted to listen in. Me Time Luxury, another terracotta sculpture, shows a lady lounging and relaxing from a seemingly endless list of things to be done. Perhaps How I Wish is already forming in her mind’s eye, a tiny escape in a mini-break, imagining places to travel to and explore once things finally get back to normal. Happy Days shows leisurely bikers set against a background of wall to wall plants with an arched passageway, giving off quaint K-drama vibes. Austria also draws on her fascination for the ballet, several works featuring a central character wearing a Yellow Tutu in Answered Call and Long Drive. Other ballet dancers grace the exhibition, with a pair doing warmups in Waiting to Shine, their costume and tutus inspiring elegant outfits and a change of shoes in figures getting ready to go out in Event to Follow. Fur babies are also portrayed as allies in isolation, most prominently in The Beginning of Unconditional Love, while their loving and lovable presence appears in other works, whether two-dimensional on canvas or in the round as additional characters to the sculpture pieces.
Austria’s exploration of terracotta as a medium not only utilizes the abundant material outside her studio in Negros Occidental; it also brings the artist into resonance with the earth and other elements of nature in the process. As she combines the clay with water, leaves pieces to air dry, and finally subjects them to fire in the kiln, she is reminded of her connectedness to the space she occupies and other people’s losses and existence in the same plane, especially with the stricter enforcement of testing, quarantines and stay at home orders due to the rising number of active COVID-19 cases in Bacolod City and the whole island. These new pieces show a marked departure from her previous award-winning, large-scaled metal works. The color-filled details in her sculptures now, combined with vibrant combinations of hues in her uncluttered paintings that dwell in innocence and simplicity, carry visual manifestations of the happiness and gratefulness that still remains in these dark times. Anxiety and fear is transformed into hope and alacrity through art, giving audiences clarity on how the artist creates intuitively. There is still freedom in the movements that empower each brushstroke of paint and pinch of terracotta, and agency in Austria’s goal of seeking balance and wellness despite the darkness and chaos.