Emard Cañedo is a Manila-based visual artist and art educator whose works probe the current socio-political conditions through visual idioms. He currently teaches Materials and Techniques at the College of Fine Arts of the Technological University of the Philippines in Manila, where he got his BFA in 2011.
The last few months of this year have become a time to reflect on the events that have transpired. The nationwide lockdown last March had put everyone’s future plans on an indefinite hold, forcing many to quickly grasp and adapt to an unfamiliar situation. In addition to this, the recent tropical storms that have hit this country have taken a huge blow on everyone’s morale. With the huge loss of life, to say that this year was a downer is an understatement.
In “Hinga”, Emard Cañedo reflects on the emotional weight brought by this turbulent year. The horizontal and vertical lines in his large paintings make the space of each composition apparent, but leave an impression of constraint. In the space between the lines there is room for a deep breath, to pause and to process things. In the spaces too, one can also find a hope to persist towards better days in spite of trying times. Cañedo’s chromatic abstract paintings started during the lockdown. His process-based approach to painting was further fine tuned during his stay at Likhaan. Although at first it appears to be spontaneous and unplanned, there is still a sense of decisiveness in each work for this show. He begins with either broad brush strokes or by pouring paint directly onto the canvas. He cycles through different paintings, carefully adding a stroke of a brush one on canvas, or glazing over existing layers on another. As each of the works begin to take shape, Cañedo eventually gains full control over the work. This process echoes the response of many during this pandemic: we are made aware of what we can and cannot control, and work our way from there. A majority of the works in this show are concealed with lines which can resemble many things. For example, in Bukas (48 x 36 in.), a shape resembling a house is cut by horizontal lines that run through the entire height of the painting. The line in their various thickness and hue give off a feeling of restlessness combined with the anticipation of waiting for tomorrow. Often, the lines in Cañedo’s paintings play with the idea of positive and negative space, how the lines attempt to conceal pre existing layers or how they may appear to be two images spliced together. Tawid (36 x 24 in.) plays on negative space a step further. The upper half of the painting is quiet, but much of the detail in this piece lies within the pale blue horizontal lines. Unlike Bukas, the lines here are quiet and resemble an empty pedestrian crossing. Although the work itself appears calm, there emanates a deafening silence from its bareness. In Cañedo’s Agos series there are no lines at all, effectively blurring the demarcation of positive and negative space.
Despite this, there is still a subtle linear quality to the works. This series of three diptychs are similar in color: half containing a pale blue glaze and the other half containing a deep dark shade of blue. The pale blue glaze’s translucency partially conceals the previous layers containing strokes of orange, yellow, and the occasional pink. The strokes of both blues are apparent, implying the thin application of pigment on the canvas that give the impression of rainwater cascading from a high place, be it an edge of a roof during a storm, or a large facade of a building. Bukas, Tawid, and the Agos series range from subtle to overt in their visual impact. They draw from the mundane everyday scenes and sensations that can be viewed through a different lens as a result of these times. An empty pedestrian crossing may lead one to reflect on the unnerving stillness of once busy street crossings. Watching through the blinds of the curtain revisits that feeling of staying at home, looking out into the window. There is comfort in silence, but along with the silence brings us a heightened awareness of our liminal state.
In Langit, the vertical lines take up nearly the entire 9 ft length of the painting. The spaces between the lines appear as the view of the sky from the Mesosphere, which are obscured by vertical lines that start from periwinkle and blend into a purple towards the bottom of the painting. In an instant, the breadth of the work is made apparent yet the lines leave a feeling of constraint. This constraint may persist despite our efforts to adapt to our shared unfamiliar situation. We can feel suffocated and hopeless knowing that many of our efforts to adapt and change may become futile. Hinga is a gentle reminder for all of us to come up for air when we need it most and to accept things we can and cannot control.