At Bahaghari Gallery, Museo Dabawenyo
Pichon and CM Recto Sts., Davao City
January 25-February 25, 2013
Walking across the space of the Bahaghari Gallery, contemplating on the more than seventy paintings of Elenita Dumlao, one is struck by the millions of dots – mostly whites – spread across the art works. There are the tiniest of dots but the dots expand to images of bubbles, eyes, the sun and the moon.
No, Dumlao is not going the way of Yayoi Kusuma, the very famous Japanese Princess of Polka Dots whose works now – mainly of all kinds and colors of polka dots – are exhibited in the most prestigious galleries in the key global cities. Neither is Dumlao pursuing the school of pointillism, pioneered by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac in the late 1880s.
In Colors and Moods – Dumlao’s first major art exhibit now ongoing until February 25 – she asserts her own distinct artistic identity as a visual artist. Hers is a most original artistic undertaking and lucky are those who have the rare chance to view her paintings.
This exhibit is a major breakthrough for a woman artist in the burgeoning Davao visual art scene. At a time when an expanding circle of visual artists – including Kublai Millan, Vic Secuya, Anoy Catague, Jun Cayas, Boboy Buenaventura, Reagan Deiparine, Victor Dumaguing, Jester Oani, Abe Garcia, et al – are regularly exhibiting their works either in solo or group exhibits, Dumlao’s exhibit further enriches the current dynamic visual arts scene of the city.
As one enters the Bahaghari Gallery, one is immediately confronted with the vibrant colors covering the hues of the rainbow. These colors in the paintings are strikingly bright, fully manifesting life’s pulsating energy! The viewer is lifted up by the buoyancy of the images for almost everything is in flight. The viewer can easily imagine levitating in the room as one’s response is to flow with these paintings’ collective energy.
This is not surprising because Dumlao generously welcomes the viewer into her phantasmagoric world. Her art is one of fantastic symbolism; the sequence of associative imagery is breathtaking. One is reminded of the colors and images in the paintings of Juvenal Sanso, although Sanso veers towards expressive surrealism. Where Sanso have landscapes in tropical colors, Dumlao also utilizes such colors but she moves beyond landscapes. For her world expands to cover the deepest seas, the highest skies and the widest plains. Which is why the Bahaghari Gallery is too small to contain this world.
The ethereal beauty of Mother Nature is celebrated in these paintings, which is why all of creation is represented from wind to water, reefs to schools of fish, birds to dragonflies, trees and tribal dancers. The paintings titles say it all: Bubbles Up, Deep Down the Blues, Seasons, Waves, Flight, Battle at Reef, School, Bonn’s Dragons, Torrid Zone, Nature and Nurture, The Maid and the Cow, Fish Eye, Tribal Lasses, Tribal Dance and so many others.
One can tell that this exhibit is a very personal project of the artist. One can immediately sense this upon seeing a tarpaulin notice on the wall where Dumlao presents her creed beginning with these words: “I am a homegrown artist.” And it ends with – “Each of my works is an expression of how I feel about the real world, and what I think about it. Each contains my mind, heart and soul.”
Thus some of the paintings have these titles: My Familiar Land Scape, My Paper Tree, My Personal Point of View, Inside My Universe.
Those who know Dumlao as a theatre artist and have seen her stage productions performed by the Kathara Collective are not surprised with the unleashing of her visual talent. The palette is but an extension of the stage; she now captures the vivid images of her imagination within the confines of paintings the size of which ranges from a mural covering an entire wall (the Sinalimbas cover 6 X 6 feet) to delicate 28 X 40 cms.
Dumlao’s friends and colleagues who knew what she has gone through in the past few years are taken aback by the moods of the paintings. Tragedy after tragedy – including her own health issues – has assaulted Dumlao and so they thought the paintings’ moods would be in the black and bleak shades of color. But no, the moods are bright, euphoric, joyful, hopeful, optimistic. One painting – Warm Embrace – manifests this strongly.
The shimmering abstractions of the paintings are a celebration of life. But they also have a contemplative layer because if one distances oneself from the paintings – alas because of the gallery’s tight space, one can only move back a few inches – there is a mysterious overall effect.
This is rather surprising since these are paintings resulting from Dumlao’s experimentations with digital art. The first step was Dumlao’s exploration of the computer and ended with the artwork printed on tarpaulin. How plebeian – as opposed to elitist – could you get! The technique could lead to mass production if pirated. But the paintings on tarpaulin – which constitute the bigger ones – still uplift the viewer’s spirit.
However, the paintings that really grab the viewer’s gaze are the digital art printed on canvas to which Dumlao painstakingly added layers of paint and/or added clay and other mixed media. Dumlao has pioneered the technique in this part of the world and the result is mesmerizing. The paintings are embellished batiks, very Oriental in their conception and truly Mindanawon in their orientation.
Dumlao’s major contribution to the Mindanawon visual art scene is that she has connected the dots!