Who Are We in This Vast Universe: The Pale Blue Dot Exhibition
As of now, it’s been said that only four percent of space has been explored. In the vastness of the universe, Earth is just another delicate speck embraced by a universe that humanity seems to need infinite lifetimes to say that they finally know what it actually is. But at the same time, it’s also already a vast world in and of itself where various thoughts and viewpoints on humanity and everything it is are explored and interpreted in different ways. For curator Patrick de Veyra and co-organizer Winner Jumalon, they explore the both vastness and nothingness of earth and humanity through the Pale Blue Dot exhibition. An exhibition structured around visual commentaries on humanity’s relationship with the Earth and cosmos, the group exhibition features the work of 10 artists.
Namely, Sarah de Veyra-Buyco, Patrick de Veyra, Is Jumalon, Winner Jumalon, Kelli Maeshiro, Carl Loquias, Mervin Malonzo, Y.S. Sehob, Jaco Payawal, and Ian Quirante. Together, these artists touch on the themes of ecology, identity, human behavior, mortality, power relations, social hierarchies, and the rise of artificial intelligence. Alongside these artists is art writer Taco Borja who further explores the exhibition theme through a hypothetical conversation between her and an extraterrestrial voyager.
In the Eyes of the Artists ft. Taco Borja
The Pale Blue Dot exhibition tackles humanity’s relationship with the world and itself in a post-pandemic context. Referencing Carl Sagan’s reflection on human life and the cosmos, “The aggregate of our joy and suffering” lies “on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” which he continued by saying that the “Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.”, this exhibition was put together to show visual commentaries from these 10 artists who represent different processes, iconographies, persuasions, and aesthetic sensibilities.
In the graphite art piece titled “Fortress,” Sarah de Veyra-Buyco was inspired by Fort San Pedro in Cebu where she sees the quiet beauty in these ancient power structures that no longer have function in the modern era and have practically become backdrops for nature which has endured even up to now.
“She attests to the stark disparity between human-made constructs and the enduring dominance of the natural world, governed by the laws of the natural order.” – Taco Borja
Sarah de Veyra-Buyco is a Manila-based visual artist, illustrator, art educator, and graphic designer with a studio arts degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Fine Arts where she graduated cum laude. Since 2007, she has been presenting her art in various solo and group exhibitions. In 2017, she presented “Jellyfish Bomb”, a contemporary graphite drawing featuring her postcolonial reimagination of the Fu-Go balloon bombs deployed by the Japanese during World War II.
Patrick de Veyra’s archeological artifacts explore how the different generations of humanity embrace death while embellished and adorned with jewels. Through collages of prints and drawings of human remains, there’s the message that even in death there is still beauty and that its grim certainty is not something to fear the most.
“In searching for some sense in the cosmos, we can’t escape the transient nature of our existence, comparatively microscopic within the terrestrial and cosmic timescale.” – Taco Borja
A graduate of the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in studio arts, Patrick de Veyra has shown his work in various art galleries and has been invited as a Philippine youth ambassador selected by the Office of the President of the Philippines-National Commission to the 33rd Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (SSEAYP).
Is Jumalon‘s “Are We Really Made of Stars I and II” zooms in on the idea of limitlessness that exists beyond what the human mind can grasp and perceive. In this limitlessness, there’s a cosmic interweaving where people are continuously met with new revelations that fulfill curiosity while creating more questions.
“Within the boundlessness of space, our view from our biosphere is confined to distant dots and orbs. And still, we contemplate the multilayered complexity, from subatomic particles to species, to biomes, galaxies, to realities and beyond, all connected and intersecting by fundamental physical laws–the shared origins of all matter.” – Taco Borja
Is Jumalon’s artworks are drawings she uses to express the continuity between herself and the larger world where drawing is a part of life and life is an occasion to draw. Currently, she’s dabbling with oil as a medium and how it reflects her relationship with things observed.
Winner Jumalon’s work examines pursuits of dominance and how, whether intangible in form or not, the pursuit is already a form of domination in itself. At the same time, Winner Jumalon’s process is an exercise highlighting how everything falls into place, that it’s an exercise of self-discovery and a personal route to reclamation.
“Carl Sagan had reminded us that the cosmos knows no boundaries, emphasizing the potential for unity to transcend territorial disputes.” – Taco Borja
Winner Jumalon works tend to infuse implicit elements with strong subliminal context. Highly detailed and rugged, Jumalon’s paintings question the formation of identity itself.
Carl Loquias’ biomorphic sculptures pay homage to some of the tiniest local creatures. Though small, these creatures hold crucial roles in assuring the health of an ecosystem. At the same time, the sculptures use AI-generated descriptions to explore the influence of technology and contrasts it with the human’s limited understanding and discernment of the truth. Overall, these sculptures tackle one’s search for validation and relevance in the turbulence of the modern world.
“We live in an oasis suspended in the vastness of space. All human history–our triumphs, struggles, and civilizations–is in this tiny home. And the only known to keep us alive.” – Taco Borja
Carl Loquias is a Butuan visual artist who, in his early years of practice, has been invited to present his sculptural works in group exhibitions held at GSIS Museum, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Kelli Maeshiro’s work, ‘Fly and Never Come Down’ explores how identity constantly changes through the influence of memory, migration, and intricate connections with people, places, and other things. Through different materials, textiles, plastics, thermoplastics, and found objects, Kelli Maeshiro is able to depict calm and unburdening alongside turbulence.
“This temporal experience discloses an ambiguity of ‘belonging and not belonging’ in navigating our place even within our pale blue dot. “ – Taco Borja
Kelli Maeshiro’s work combines traditional Japanese craft and dyeing with contemporary materials like synthetic fibers, plastics, and everyday materials to address the layered feelings of both belonging and the forgetting of one’s identity.
Mervin Malonzo’s “The Lovers” explores love in its greatest form where the deepest emotional intimacy is one that exposes each other entirely despite finding the monstrosities in each other.
“With our constant hunger for exploration, we probe deeper into ourselves.” – Taco Borja
Mervin Malonzo is a multi-awarded comic author/artist and animator. Alongside his award-winning animations, he runs the indie publication, Haliya Publishing where he publishes his self-made comics and those from select artists.
Jaco Payawal’s sky and sea cyanotype prints explores humanity’s duality. How they can create and destroy, and how it has advanced as a race while destroying the earth in the process. Using discarded synthetic waste for cyanotype painting, he shows the complex relationship between humanity and nature.
“We’re showcased shamelessly in our tendency to subject ecological equilibrium to our worst capabilities, furthering the mortality of our species and biome.” – Taco Borja
Jaco Payawal is an interdisciplinary artist who delves into the intricate relationship between materiality and thought. Through diverse materials, he pursues a continuously evolving perspective on his environment.
Ian Quirante’s Pozioni explores the process of automatism where actions flow without conscious thought or intention–a mirror of how the universe moves. Here, impermanence and full immersion in a universe without a flow are also recognized.
“When we strive to find a sense of equilibrium, we ultimately embrace both the light and darkness within and around us.” – Taco Borja
Ian Quirante paints in the surrealist tradition and usually portrays his interest in the different branches of biology. From marine life to intricate human and animal anatomy, all the way down to neurotransmitters and DNA structures, these elements can be seen in his art.
Y.S. Sehob’s fluid paintings explore the famous slogan, “Live, Laugh, Love”. Though the slogan could be a case of excessive optimism, Y.S. Sehob prompts the exploration of uncomfortable truths that validate human emotions and don’t confine them to something idealized.
“There is this line–Live, Laugh, Love. Originating from a poem and then becoming a widely used slogan a century later. Y.S. Sehob approaches this in earnest while leaving some space for irony.” – Taco Borja
Y.S. Sehob is a self-taught artist and a graduate of Folk Dance in the Philippine High School for the Arts. Treating each art piece as a dance, her recent works explore certain aspects of dance through gestural brushstrokes, music-based rhythm, and choreography.
In Pale Blue Dot, the deepest intricacies of humanity are explored and reveals how complex our world is. While Earth is a reckoning force upon humanity, it’s also a solitary and insignificant thing in the middle of a universe that has a meaning that will never make easeful sense. Despite this, it’s what makes the world and everything in it much more beautiful and powerful.
The Pale Blue Dot exhibition is open for viewing at White Walls Gallery until September 27.
Photos courtesy of Patrick de Veyra