Oil on canvas
Through interplay of light and dark, John Marin bends the idea of portraiture by concealing identities which are otherwise readily revealed by visible faces in portraits. In this new collection, the pieces feature figures emerging from dim lighting, with shadows cast upon the subjects creating among them a shroud of mystery and anonymity. As faces are unseen, the viewers’ eyes shift to other hints at recognition present among the works—from physical form such as silhouette, built, or stance; to gesture, habit, clothing and accessories. In doing so, he draws attention to signs one uses to express individual identity, an invitation to probe deeper into the character, essence or soul that defines each subject. A video installation further dramatizes the way sharply contrasting values bait imaginations and curiosities: light swinging back and forth a quick succession of subjects. Here, the element of movement adds more challenge in discovering the individual that lies beneath the darkness.
These interventions are captured by the Filipino term Aninag, a word that suggests partial visibility and the tendency of human vision to adjust and make sense out of faint light. It also connotes the sheer and translucent: the presence of a barrier that filters the crisp and distinct register of images to our sense of sight. The exhibition may well be an exploration of these concepts as the eyes scan each piece, navigating from pitch black to brightness and the dynamic gradation of shades in between. A visual confusion or disorientation may arise, only to dissipate as vision starts to anchor itself to the source of light. With this, Marin once again demonstrates his skillful handling of light and shade in rendering the nuances of forms in monochromatic compositions. Partly hidden and partly visible, the portraits reveal as much as they conceal.
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