Dekada, the latest exhibition of Demosthenes Campos, marks the artist’s 50th year, reckoning with the abstraction that the artist has produced through the years. Among the abstract artists working today, Campos attaches objects onto the painted surface to extend both the materiality and meaning of the works into the tangible world. What is produced is essentially a three-dimensional abstraction, with all the elements harmoniously conversing to evoke states of thought or feeling as well as presenting the triumph of texture in form.
The works in this exhibition continue the unique explorations of Campos. The plasticity of pigment—mottled, rough-hewn, and coruscating—mimics walls that have worn various coats of paint in their lifetime. The layers are noticeable, suggesting building-up as process. The already eventful surface gets amplified by different types of fabric, from linen to carpet to fur, as if the putative “walls” of the paintings have become the staging ground for various life forms to emerge—every work its own universe of matrix and matter.
For the artist, his works represent the accumulation of life, with its conditions, experiences, and histories. From tabula rasa or blank canvas, one’s biography thickens with detail through time. The resulting surface is a tension between the attempt to plot, organize, and systematize—emblematic of the geometric lines in the works of Campos—and the uncontrolled swell born out of the things beyond one’s control: the imperatives of biology and nature, the persistence of death and decay. Such a view is offered by the works of Campos whose geometric shapes contend with the furious, undifferentiated mass of the world.
Take, for instance, the work “Kapalaran.” A structure rests precariously on a point of a right triangle. The seeming stability of the geometric form is owed to this bold shape, red and edged with threads. This may be the pivot point on which destiny is ascertained. The rest, as they, say is history. Such a turn may be occasioned by the littlest shift: a different decision made, an alternative path taken. The background conveys the possibilities that the lines of Campos delineate. The composition, as aided by the title, may be read as the transformative bend on which fate is structured and manifested.
Dekada, as a whole, may be seen as the artist’s way of stamping the ground he walks—and paints—on, making sure that the marks he leaves behind are strong, sure-footed, and lasting. There is no doubt that Demosthenes Campos is one of the best Filipino abstractionists working today. His incendiary works present not only the reach of his abilities, but more important the gains of Philippine abstraction in contemporary times.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana