MAKING PLACE IN A SPACE, DRAWING UP SPACE IN A PLACE
In Splace, Jonathan Joven’s eighth solo exhibition, he furthers his scrutiny of dwelling and making space by situating elements associated with labor and cultural markers into unexpected places.
His biggest piece for the exhibition centers on an image of a farmer planting which hangs on the showcase wall of a well-appointed living room. However, two bulky vehicles fight for center stage in the room: a payloader used to move or load heavy materials such as earth, and a roller used to compact soil, asphalt, and other construction materials or debris. Instead of evoking a feeling of comfort, the jarring realities of agricultural lands repurposed for constructing commercial centers, subdivisions and memorial parks arises. Given the title Have A Seat, one might question who the artist is inviting to sit where. Is it the viewer, and he can choose whether to relax on the sofas as a witness to this spectacle or the driver’s seat of either vehicle for more active participation in the scenario, or the farmer in the image, whether to rest from his backbreaking work or to stop working altogether, with the futility of his labors neglected for progress?
Mine, the smallest piece in the show and the only charcoal pastel on up-cycled tracing paper work not stretched on canvas, went the minimal suite, with only an excavator and a balanced column of rocks vying for space and place amidst a bare concrete hallway. Digging deep into building construction shouldn’t subtract from being in awe of natural wonder. Ephemeral sets a shabbily-put together home in the middle of Malacañang Palace’s Reception Hall, with its elaborately carved ceiling, lavish Czech crystal chandeliers and official portraits of all Philippine presidents. The contrast between the very best in interior architecture and design and the dilapidated do-it-yourself structure presents the chasm between luxury and poverty while seemingly scrutinizing which administration is at fault for the extremes in social classes and economic standing.
Caution sets a caretela, or a horse-drawn caravan indoors and behind safety cones, signifying this trade being “parked” due to today’s obsession with malls and convenience stores. Same goes for Essentials, where Joven places a bull-drawn carriage with goods for sale amongst grocery aisles. Antique boasts of tastefully curated muebles in either a dining or sitting room,, with an old wooden kariton as table centerpiece, which questions objects and collectibles’ age and the value we place on it. Can the kariton be a fitting icon placed on a pedestal for bragging rights and viewing, with us knowing that it is associated with scavenging, hard work and poverty? Does it fit the seemingly relaxed interior setting with its hardwood tables and chairs?
Perhaps the artist intends these images not to be a perfect fit, but to be clashes of visual components clearly associated with the haves and have nots. By presenting these pieces, Joven still pays respect to his humble beginnings, while examining accountability and responsibility. While showing snippets of comfort, he always injects reminders of the hard work that went into it, creating space for the familiar and putting them out-of-place—to seek answers, solutions, and make splace.