Paws and Reflect
by Jay Bautista
In the Beginning Ejem Alarcon strips down all complexities possible in a painting. Against a stark gray background, he leaves out only the barest essentials espousing the most basic core of human nature–love for one another, nurturing our family, and how simple kindness still matters. A fine arts graduate Alarcon had to unlearn what he was taught in college by breaking conventional artistic norms paying little attention to perspectives and perceptions. His canvases are void of people as outsized animals relate to one another, blurring realities as subjects are depicted in direct visual impact. For Alarcon, in a blatant reversal of fortune, furry creatures—some endangered, endemic and even personal–are his preferred images. Devising his own visual language, he concerns himself more with what they signify and how their inherent character relate to daily aphorisms.
In this third solo exhibition, Alarcon continues to be fixated with animals endearing to him as they are better in expressing what seems concealed and obvious in our outlook in life. These paintings were also inspired by lessons learned from watching documentaries and real experiences marked by imagination, memory and longings.
As early as seven years old Alarcon’s fondness for dogs started to grow. He even opted to become a dog trainer himself and has multiple bites as badges of honor in keeping them. Canine for him symbolizes guidance, faithfulness, loyalty and alertness. He extended his passion by illustrating them on canvas.
A Doberman is morphed into a father who protects his home, as guarded under the stability of a wooden stool. For Alarcon the game changed when he became a husband and father of two girls himself so did his approach to life as his family became his utmost priority. An omnipresent eye remains a constant as it symbolizes love, reality and respect in Greek mythology while some cartoon character like Donald Duck and Tom and Jerry make cameo appearances, adding a bit of pop while endemic birds from Palawan flutter to decorate and complete the picture. Evident by his being aggressive as he is king of his abode, this fiercest of dogs wears a crown.
Depending on his intentions the sizes of Alarcon’s dogs vary. Humility is emphasized as such that Bloodhound is bigger than a St. Bernard. The Cocker Spaniel, which is the Queen of England’s pet is evidently unmindful of his royal lineage is permitted to interact with them. Alarcon wants his canvases light and fun to the hilt. Notice how his signature party hats put smiles to his subjects–life is a gift and every day we should use it to spread the good cheer that we are alive and well. Fond of nostalgia, as a bringer of happiness, he fills in his canvasses again with animation of yore from Bugs Bunny, Garfield, even two of Snow White’s dwarfs are featured on another canvas.
Contemporary art has the power to observe life in another dimension and step back in candid defilement as an alternative viewpoint. Alarcon’s sizeable pieces are more like graphical parables. Each scene has a lasting positive effect for viewers. Only Alarcon can come up with a kaleidoscope gathering of the vulnerable Zebra, the endangered reindeer, the care-free butterfly, the pristine stork, the playful whale, the stubborn goat and the critical cat to co-exist harmoniously with each other, reminding us that we all breathe and share as one brady bunch. All must adopt/adapt with one another in our common habitat.
Of the four brother who are all practicing artists, Alarcon is the most senior and a natural initiator. He wanted to be a trailblazer on his own, away from their conventional modes. He even invented his own paint brushes sourcing from make-up kits and construction tools to satisfy his precise strokes and translate his bespoke iconographies.
Inspired by documentaries Alarcon sketches his studies as big ideas strike him. Upon translating them on paper he composes further on the computer before finalizing his images on canvas. Of his long and arduous process he finds painting his subjects’ diverse furs most soothing. Alarcon certifies each artwork with a seal-like vintage coin as signature.
In the end although humans have bigger brains than animals it is their gift of language to communicate their immediate joys and fears that makes them different from us. Although we allow the development of reason and morals, animals appear more ethical in most considerations. Alarcon has clearly proven that we even can learn more from animals than we are from ourselves.
These pieces are wrought with behaviors and attitudes similar to amalgam of virtues. For the viewer they may be of unstructured pop surreal imagery, for Alarcon each canine and other creatures were carefully chosen amplifying values worth emulating. The strength of Alarcon’s imagery is how easy for the viewer to imbibe his messages like it is offered in-your-face for the taking, leaving the exhibition more learned and feeling better about yourself.