"Abandoned Relic" Oil on canvas by Erwin Leano, All photos courtesy of Art Informal
Noise- background, ambient or broadcasted- bombard us on a daily basis. I wake to the shrillness of the alarm clock, wait at the bus or train station amidst the frenzied rush of wheels, pick up my work routine with the endless click of computer keys, snatches of conversation, ringtones, TV static, MP3 beats— noise has become so pervasive we don’t even realise we are tightly ensnared in its web.
There is also “visual noise.” The clutter of advertising billboards, posters and graphic signs are ubiquitous fixtures in our modern lives. We read food labels, warnings, contracts, follow directional signs, go through our typical day always with an endless stream of symbols and codes that we are oblige to cipher and decipher.
"A New Day" Oil on canvas by Erwin Leano
In monitoring the visual arts, I also get into the daily habit of absorbing the ebb and flow, the constant flood of manufactured images. Call it occupational or ‘vocational’ hazard, it’s similar to facing a long banquet table where one is expected to gorge oneself to the fullest.
But in rare times, I do encounter gems of art that provide a space of silence.
Erwin Leano’s recent one-man show “Still,” at ArtInformal (Mandaluyong City, Philippines) is one such example of a clearing in the visual (arts) forest. Movement is arrested in a painting by Leano and a scene is framed with meditative contemplation. The horizon in his landscapes is often low or highly elevated, positioning the viewer at a distance, where unoccupied space is as vital as movement.
Strangely, Leano’s nearly empty landscapes are robustly alive, a place where one is drawn to reminisce, and wait for the cue, not to speak or move, but to contemplate.
"Shelter from the Storm" Oil on canvas by Erwin Leano
In the piece “Abandoned Relic” the shell of a car is reflected on still waters, the soft mossy green hues lightly saturating the background landscape. This is a scene of a journey halted or abandoned mid-way, as if the traveller was seduced to leave the vehicle.
But to Leano a journey is never completely abandoned, as he prompts or invite us to move in other directions. “Shelter from the Storm,” presents a prairie-like landscape, showing the viewer the back of a barn, an old one where the passage of time has obviously made its mark or have taken its toll. The invitation, as implied in the title, is to occupy a space of comfort, a fair warning to seek a place of refuge.
"Tumba-tumba," (Rocking Chair) Oil on canvas by Erwin Leano
With his sepia-like palette of light olives, tans and mossy greens, Leano attempts to beguile the viewer into a place and time where the sun is shaded, where afternoons have a soft glow and feel of being tarnished by the slow ticking of a clock.
But Leano’s latest oeuvre is not totally silent. It murmurs, coaxes, whispers. It gently pats us on the shoulder and leans to us with the easy manner of a confidant. Leano’s work may not stun with spatial flourishes. But one thing is sure. Once you draw the curtains to a work by Leano it subtly reveals to the eyes not only what has gone by, but more importantly, what pleasures you can encounter in the unwavering stillness of a moment.