HomeExhibitions2018 ExhibitionsUnlimited Optimism


Arel Zambarrano

April 7 - April 19, 2018

The Need for Needles

After a decade of art practice, ushering into a new chapter in his life Arel Zambarrano consistently continues from where he left off. For his third exhibition this 32-year old Ilonggo hones deeper into his craft and parlays his imaginative prowess by focusing on himself and in being most personal this time. The kind of act cleanses himself further as in his own words: “to overcome his inner demons.”

Juggling many responsibilities Zambarrano does not have the luxury of time as he had before, as a new father, he now owes to his family their food and shelter and to his community being an architect yet he perceives belonging to a bigger society in humanity as an artist. For him art is not a way to make a living, rather it is a very human way of making life more bearable.

In Unlimited Optimism he renews this commitment and redefines himself more–what artistic path to take, his strengths and inner courage, dwelling more on self-discovery. His greatest ally has been his belief in himself that no one can help you except to be self-reliant to function more effectively and being true to your artistic philosophy.

At an early age when other kids were collectively playing along the seaside of Banate, one would find him drawing on the sand along the shores using a broom stick. The ethereal experience of his visual images being washed away by the waves excited him. At this early, though the living was rough and uncertain then, he wanted to create great structures of imagination and realized to be an artist someday.

Depicting needles on canvas has come a long way since 2007 when these represented all his hard-earned years as a self-supporting student of architecture in college. Needles will eventually connote his struggles, as well as triumphs in life. Being dirt poor didn’t hinder him, it is his belief that we all have needles in our lives, in many forms some too irritating to handle-be it hurdles, thorns, even in being too sensitive. Yet this too shall pass, hope remains for pain is the evidence of life.

How Zambarrano unassailably survived from the pits is like an artistic pilgrimage to him. Allowing his gut and following his footsteps, his art has been autobiographical evoking himself in every painting with resemblance of himself in allegories by constant juxtaposing and careful composition he has constantly mastered. Zambarrano visually records his milestones and journeys through these protracted often surreal images.

Flexible Nerves series are ongoing witnesses to these revelations that occurred in his short and oftentimes topsy-turvy existence. His dragonflies are often constricted by red strings is a metaphor for change as they represent energy and enthusiasm eschewing pessimism and resentment. A venus fly trap is a reminder that everything comes at a particular time and space. Everything in life is enriching and rewarding. The eventuality of the pieces is an almost disruptive, caught-in-the-moment, uneasy depiction to bear. There is an alliterated meaning justifying every happening to his life. Beneath the thick oil paint in the back ground are his inner reflections. The shaft of the needle is a sturdy and blunted straight line encouraging the viewer to be brave under any circumstance. Done in pure oil paint, with no aid of sketch, like a versed prescient storyteller all these pieces have been painted like riddles in his mind before he set out to feature them on canvas. Every Zambarrano piece is rich in allegory as it is often laden with moral values and positive vibes. He has trained us to take long and hard to look and imbibe them.

In the Black Garden with Unlimited Optimism is a fitting centerpiece for its immensity and sheer attention to details. We are overwhelmed by the volume of needles each painted with a special thought in mind. Here art is more of a process. It is more of the evolving ephemerality that ignited him to accomplish this. One can unravel the long and arduous contemplation that underwent while physically rendering it on canvas.

A committed spiritual man, Zambarrano may not be religious yet he was quite affected by the parable of the needle: it is easier for a camel to enter the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. A bleeding heart evoked at the dead center with its tentacle-like veins being entangled. Somewhat abstract in its portrayal while painting it he felt his aspirations for mankind unfolding. A brutally beautiful scene emerges for us to behold.

Those long slender tips in needles may be subversive for the fear of being pricked, or an unlikely site used in acupuncture for healing or even surgery, yet needles remind him also not to focus on earthly possessions but rather in basic human goodness. As an artist practicing in Iloilo, Zambarrano’s need for needles transcends him, making him cope with the earthbound burdens while at the same time displaying faith, joy and wholeness soaring into the end of his own quagmire. The brilliance of Zambarrano however embodies positivity as he prepares for bigger things to come his way. For him, artists are still highly valuable and constructive individuals in nation-building. Art is a revolting way of coping from life’s constant beatings and persecution. He feels obligated to foster art as his vocation in future.

Unlimited Optimism innately explores the intersection of Zambarrano’s life and his inventive interpretation morphed into relevant art. He is fulfilling himself so that others may be encouraged in attaining their new goals through his paintings. It is a genius solution to an ever bugging problem. Used to this existential routine, he just needs to embody optimism for himself firstly before others–to pay forward kindness and espousing hard-earned repurposed lessons over the years for everyone to get on his side.

Jay Bautista