December 8, 2021
Written by Carlomar Arcangel Daoana
The subject of the genre of portraiture is exposure: here is a person with their own set of identifying features, exerting their presence, making themselves known. Almost always, the figure looks at the viewer, confident in their own skin and role in the world. Objects on and around them may provide a clue on their profession or affinity: a stethoscope hanging by the neck, a book held on the lap, a globe somewhere within the visible vicinity. They invariably strike a sense of admiration. As men and women of substance, portraits are affirmations of power.
In his first solo exhibition, Revealing, Obet Tiaño presents to us a different take on the genre. While the conventional approach is to make the sitter or the model instantly accessible (if not recognizable), here they convey mystery and elusiveness, wrapped in vaporous light, repeated across the large-scale canvas as cumulative presences—the one in many, the many in one. Whether flowing in an invisible stream or absorbed in a spectacle, with their backs turned to the viewer, these figures are involved in a transformative journey, in which a subtle gesture can irrevocably change a life.
As the figures are anonymous and strange, they may be seen as an extension of the viewer, who may see themselves undergoing the same process of discovery, growth, or change. They can be whatever the viewer chooses these figures to be, not necessarily as mirrors per se, but as archetypes in how we share common experiences, connected as we all are in the grand scheme of things, sallying forth in our moral vessels. The universality of these paintings is further underscored by the choice of monochrome—eerily soft and muted, not of this world. Locked in a dreamy realm, the figures are quiet witnesses and participants to something marvelous and spiritual.
These paintings, of course, may also be read as an extension of the painter, who has chosen to elevate ordinary men and women into figures of art to represent an internal searching. The meticulousness and devotion with which Tiaño has painted them attests to a thirst to speak as clearly and as fastidiously about things that are at once significant and profound. This is what the title of the exhibition points at: a revelation of what we yearn for in our secret wishes and deepest dreams, away from the commotions of the everyday, beyond the reach of space and time.