January 9 - 21, 2021
The Moon’s Watchful Benediction
Night Watch by Jeff Salôn
Jeff Salôn positions the moon as a central image in his solo exhibition, Night Watch. Its quiet presence and fierce illumination serves as a counterpoint to a dark night, which was how last year, 2020, seemed like with its share of natural and man-made calamities, not to mention the pandemic which still continues to ravage globally and alter our sense of normalcy and day-to-day living.
The year, as one may recall, began with the explosion of Taal Volcano, which appears now in retrospect as a bad omen. Salôn chronicles the event in the work, “The Falling Beginning,” where a boy, his back turned to the viewer and accompanied by his pet dog, watches in rapt attention the expulsion of pyroclastic materials that bear the images of horses, among other animals. The artist, who personally witnessed the explosion of the world’s smallest volcano from his studio, thought of the animals who lived in and near the vicinity of Taal and saddened by the realization that some of them instantly perished. The work is a remembrance of these helpful companions.
The moon, the “night watcher” alluded to in the title, makes an appearance in the works, “Silent Surface” 1 and 2. In both works, the moon is a vehicle that bears an image of a boy, sailing over tempestuous waves. In the first work, the waves, on which a paper boat mightily sails, convey the sense of isolation connected to stay-at-home and social-distancing orders connected to the pandemic. The artist, so long attuned to solitude, essays what has become a reality to many. The second work, on the other hand, features fiery waves conveying skulls. The year 2020, bleeding into the current one, is characterized by countless lives lost, primarily to COVID-19.
Night Watch offers a sense of renewed expectation for the future in the works, “Little Hope” and “Dream and Sentiment.” In “Little Hope,” a tiny chair is perched upon the shoulder of a little boy, which represents online learning that has replaced traditional education in light of the pandemic. A moon hovering in the sky, the child smiles at the possibility of the coming days despite the challenge of adjusting to an entirely different learning paradigm. The girl, in “Dream and Sentiment,” shares this tone of hope as she waits out the rain issued by voluminous dark clouds, the windows safely closed against the passing storm.
Complementing this suite of paintings is a collection of sculptures, titled “Guardians in the Sky,” evoking a fleet of World War II planes, which resembled what Salôn would see as a child, their house being in close proximity to the Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas. The surface of the sculptures is painted with images of animals, as if inflecting their ferocity onto the planes. For the artist, the planes represent a high achievement of man who, by extension, is equipped with the ability to protect and conserve nature if he so chooses.
The exhibit is Salôn’s tribute to the next generation as they inherit a planet that would be plagued by a pandemic and made more perilous by global warming. The children of today will be performing the difficult task of undoing centuries of abuse of nature and indifference to other creatures and trying to control the rising temperature of Earth. It is on them that the artist rests his greatest hope.
-Carlomar Arcangel Daoana