Published April 16, 2021
Filipina artist Pin Calacal’s paintings and drawings display an awareness of the body and it’s potential to generate layers of meaning. Strands are used to obsessively craft balls or paint tufts of hair, jarring mementos of the lingering body. They suggest the gathering up of persistent bodily debris collecting on floors, corners, and drains of the home, an index of the body’s movement and decay. Paintings of cast-off clothes similarly suggest fleetingness as body parts are only partially present. Their circular configurations are mirrored in Calacal’s recurring paintings of nests, also a gathering of what’s lost and shed. They seem to be metaphors of the instinctive collecting and reworking of items, images, and ideas that figure in artists’ practices.
Cacti are among those reworked and repeated images. Voluminous, watery, and taut, they could just as well stand in for human anatomy. They fill the canvas and engulf persons, skin pricked and bleeding or growing the same thorns. So while each painting suggests a sanctum of intimacy for naked flesh, there is also the anxiety and discomfort of fragile skin. Tenderness is something problematic and painful.
Her “Sick Drawings” are experimental drawings of branches and plant tendrils melded with disembodied arms and hands, psychological imagery of immobilized or possessed limbs that seems to match the drawing process. By timing herself off medication for an illness that affects muscular coordination, Calacal produced involuntary drawing movements exerted by the body's carefully controlled trauma. It becomes a way to expand the boundaries imposed by habit and discipline and yield drawing results to chance. One could connect it to the use of I-Ching by John Cage, the drop of strings by Duchamp, or the tears and random toss of scraps to generate collages in a Chabet class.
Pin Calacal is a Filipino contemporary artist who has already held a number of solo shows since becoming the first summa cum laude to come from the University of the Philippines’ Studio Arts program. Her latest solo show is “Quietly Going Feral” at West Gallery.