Love, Diaries, Tears and Sighs: Welcome Back, Ronald Caringal
The painting I Love You seems appropriately titled enough. A girl in a white-and-pink polka dotted dress leans submissively on her guy’s shoulder. The words “I LOVE YOU” float from her lips like a sighed declaration. By the guy’s side in much smaller font is the text that responds and punctuates it all.
Well, welcome back, Ronald Caringal.
Ronald Caringal is someone many young ones in the Philippine art scene are familiar with. The owner and Director of Cubicle Art Gallery, an independent art space in Maybunga, Pasig, he and Cubicle curator Clint Catalan have given starting artists multiple opportunities to stage exhibitions and events in the past six years since the gallery has been in existence.
Yet, Caringal, a young artist himself, hasn’t staged a solo exhibition in quite a while. The last ones were I Hardly Recognize You and Fuck Art, Sex Sells and The Science of Body Language both in 2005. That is until COMMITMENT reISSUES, Caringal’s exhibition at Utterly Art gallery in
COMMITMENT reISSUES used images from fashion magazines—the painted models likened to paper dolls with dashed lines running around their figures on the canvas. Text is then added to offer a humorous but insightful intake on the nature of relationships and commitment.
In Need, a woman in an elegant white coat and gold sandals states, “I don’t need a man to be happy.” The man in a trench coat and black pants retorts, “Me too. Just women.” Stay offers the same witty verbal exchange. The man: “Please stay.” The woman: “I will. You go.”
He Wears/She Wears alludes to the fashion magazines the models came from with more of the same clever commentary. The text on the stylishly dressed couple in the painting reads, “He wears: charm, humor, right choice of words. She wears: grace, wit, right choice of men.”
The use of fashion models with their posed stances are particularly fitting for the exhibition as it suggests the role play and projection of appearances that are inherent in many relationships. Yet, the models’ artifice and the texts of truisms boil down to a sincerely personal level.
The works in COMMITMENT reISSUES are, as Caringal puts it, “a few pages of my diary.” They reflect Caringal’s actual experiences from past relationships with the white background on each painting designed by him to yellow over time, alluding to pages of a diary and the gradual aging of his memories. They are the artist’s heartfelt offering of an intimate glimpse into his private life.
Indeed, all of Caringal’s works refer to something experienced firsthand. He tells me on his work, “I take something that is objective, tear it apart and merge it with my understanding, experiences and inclinations. Then I reconstruct it as I see fit and make it subjective…. At the moment, I use people as subjects but I also paint robots, dinosaurs, words, and pornographic images so everything is done with a purpose. I deal with human relationships, experiences, my outlook in life, things I fear, believe in, and the things I love. I believe that what one has to have is neither inspiration nor motivation but rather the undying and relentless need to pursue what moves him.”
This is evident as well in the exhibition Sigh, which shows a series of women after shedding their tears. “I made my paintings cry on my behalf,” half-jokes Caringal, the show a starting capsule in his own struggle to finding reprieve or acceptance in his personal hardships. “I wanted to capture the moment after one has cried. The few seconds you gasp for air, pacify a bit before you once again plunge into the thought of what took you there in the first place. I believe that moment is wherein we are taught to find peace within our struggle.”
The works in Sigh, like in other paintings of the artist, uses Caringal’s method of breaking down and rebuilding his subjects with lines and colors as vehicles for his thoughts and emotions. The effect is more computer graphic rather than expressionistic as colors sit next to each other and go unblended. This is due to Caringal’s process of questioning the construction of images if it were to be done by a machine, printer, monitor, robot and other technological devices of the age.
It seems like a major turning point for Caringal as well, with COMMITMENT reISSUES and Sigh ending his three-year absence in solo exhibitions that was caused by the perennial grapple in making ends meet and keeping the Cubicle afloat. But just like his weeping women in his canvases, Caringal is facing what lies ahead. And I hope he is reassured that whatever it is that lies in his future, it will surely be something promising.