HomeReflections from the Past by AR Manalo, Mark Nativo & Barry Namo



JULY 2 - 14, 2022

Summoning Resonant Remembrances

In Reflections from the Past, AR Manalo, Mark Nativo and Barry Namo’s pieces join forces in evoking memory, inspiration and introspection. As acquaintances from national art competition circuits, they realized they have a unity of themes in terms of art creation. With fatherhood looming in the horizon for Manalo, his thoughts harken back to his own childhood. It is fortunate that he hasn’t forgotten that wondrous time of life when everything seemed to be guided by happy spirits, and there were no worries other than what snacks one needed to accompany Saturday morning cartoons, or afternoon animation specials right after school. For their part, Nativo and Namo’s experience with family life bolster their support for their fellow artist and strengthen the individual themes of their recent works. 

Known for his charcoal renderings on recycled old books opened into relevant passages, Manalo injects vibrancy in his new pieces, as he portrays selected toys from his own childhood. Rock ‘Em Sock ’Em robots appear in their signature shades of red and blue in At wars end, while yellow-painted Matchbox construction trucks signify learning blocks and the creation of new structures in Build and be brave. Beyond Infinity boasts a classic Lego Spaceman with vintage toy airplanes that provide a means of reaching the sky, going up and over. These precious objects from childhood serve as markers of memory, anchored in muted paintings of farmland landscapes reminding the artist of home and hearth, the ultimate sanctuary. Muted pastels bring comfort and warmth in a backdrop of wide horizons, bringing the viewers’ eyes towards not only days gone by, but also to the promise of what’s to come.

In Nativo’s paintings, he plays with planes and objects with his conceptual photo montage-type, collage-like creations. Greyscale combinations of flowers, figures, and landscapes find themselves together in each piece, differences in elements and composition telling their own stories. A calla lily dominates Into the void, with a man in a suit awkwardly standing. In No man is without fear, featuring a man in a dress shirt who seemingly fills a box with his silent screams, a loyal companion zooms into action, hopefully avoiding collision with a chair precariously propped on the wall. History is silent and Relentless torment each offers a sweet escape from reality. These, too, may be part of core recollections that invite us to partake in scenarios that show up but do not divulge all, with more than meets the eye. 

It is a pleasant surprise, then, that Namo deviates from his usual high-detail pieces with something more intimate in his Silverstein Series 1-5, oil on canvas creations featuring different expanses of land and one presenting a very familiar structure. As the series seemingly centers on a house underneath looming gray clouds, it contrasts its stability and steadfastness amidst the freedom offered by varying outdoor paths, reminding us that all roads always lead home. Text is then layered over the images in rough handwriting, supplying different statements that apply to relationships and life experiences, offering viewers words to reflect on themselves. These additional elements prove essential to the wholeness of each painting, the message they communicate giving more depth to each two-dimensional image. They are not mere letters squished together, they have their own points to get across, creating dialogue with the reader against their own lived histories. 

As the creations of these three artists deflect our notions of old, sepia-steeped memories, they offer splices of reality presented in more color and better detail than expected. The pieces may invite pensiveness, but do not take away from our senses being heightened by varied visual expressions. What Manalo, Nativo, and Namo are so generous in sharing are not cobwebbed memories, hues fading away with time; they are images that endure, and remain, part of all our lives. 

-Kaye O’Yek