"Be like Water"
2020 Linangan resident artist Noel Elicana ends where he began - his home in Iloilo. It started with a dream where he was riding a bicycle on a road with a door that seemingly leads to nowhere. This vision is depicted in Dalanon (Road) where a sleeping seated figure rides a unicycle while a hand holding a lit light bulb in front of him guides him on the road ahead. It was a premonition of the journey he will embark on as resident artist of the Linangan Artist Residency program.
It was a rollercoaster ride during his 6 months in Cavite - the Taal volcano erupted, the coronavirus pandemic hit the Philippines, he helped organize 2 arts festivals and almost died in a bus crash in one; he was part of and helped set up 3 group exhibits, changed studios 3 times, and lost a beloved aunt - painting through all these while being away from his family and loved ones. Throughout the changes in environment and the adjustments to the quarantine situation, his practice has evolved from a very controlled and deliberate method towards an increasingly fluid and intuitive process. This conscious surrender to both the process of painting and the unfolding of time inspired the theme of his residency exhibit.
Painting was cathartic for Elicana who used studio work to reflect on these tumultuous times and purge himself of the torrent of emotions and thoughts that they stirred within him. You see this in Kulugmat (“Fright”, 36 x 48 in.), Sulod Kag Gwa (“Inside Out”, 72 x 43 in.), Suga sa Katalagman (“Light in Disaster”, 36 x 48 in.) and Bisan Diin (“Everywhere”, 72 x 48 in.).
He starts by splattering texturizing paint on his canvases to create a coarse ground where he ‘plants’ his images. He works with an initial figure then intuits the succeeding layers of imagery however his ‘pandama’ (feeling) takes him. His palette is dominated by earthy hues of sepia and ochre symbolizing arid land, which is tinged with touches of bright blue that pierces the landscape like water from an oasis or like clear skies peeking behind dark clouds after the storm.
Elicana paints from the heart. For him, life is the ultimate creative force manifesting itself through us. Nature teaches this truth. We see this as a life-giving spring welling forth from the heart of the central figure in Ilig (Flow) from where a young branch is sprouting. This belief reveals the artist’s deep spirituality and strong moral conviction which defines his worldview. He is a seeker searching for wholeness amidst the fragmentation that characterizes our current milieu.
He believes artists are light-bearers who can bring hope to other people in times of despair. Ilig is a meditation on allowing. It is a grappling for stillness amidst chaos. It is the growing of roots while being uprooted. It is the journey leading to the realization that everywhere and anywhere is home. It is learning to be like water, learning to flow with life.