Never for what it is


Subjectivity in art applies not only to how the audience consumes artworks. Artists, even in the infancy of the artmaking process, often perceive inspiration in ways other than what it simply means.

In Mono8 Gallery’s exhibition lineup this October, one artist attempts to interpret a cryptic message. Another draws sociopolitical parallels from a decade-long fascination. A third presentation, meanwhile, gathers a collection of artists that showcases purely abstract works.

‘Every Year Dogs Love The Sea’ by Teo Esguerra

Visual artist Teo Esguerra regularly explores themes of beauty and imperfection, of impermanence and transience, based on the Japanese concepts of wabi-sabi and mono-no-aware.

Three years ago, an indelible dream came to the artist. In it, he remembers reading the words: “Every year dogs love the sea.” Esguerra was clueless as to where the phrase came from or what it meant.

In his attempt to understand the mystery, the artist has produced artworks that he now presents in the exhibition named after the peculiar line. Photography figures prominently once again in Esguerra’s most recent pieces, as he uses vintage

Sverkhov’s Bloom (Makahiya Series), Ronyel Compra, 2011, oiI paint, charcoal, acrylic on canvas,

film equipment and a makeshift darkroom to create his signature misprints or markings. These are in

full display in works, such as A Dream Upon Walking and Nth End the World, wherein photographs of the beach and sea are overlayed with ghostly figures and texts.

While these works concern the indirect object of Esguerra’s enigmatic phrase, the artist explores the idea of the dog in artworks using watercolor, acrylic, and cut-outs on strathmore paper. In Dog Years, for instance, features a sketch of a furry dog’s head and a canine skull.

Perhaps the phrase that Esguerra has tried years to decipher was not about the message to be decoded, but the pursuit it has inspired.

‘Pagkalimot sa Laing Paaging Pagtalidhay (Forgetting a Different Way to Laugh)’ by Ronyel Compra

Like most who has come across makahiya, a perennial flowering plant with compound leaves that fold inward upon contact, Ronyel Compra has always been fascinated by its reactive quality. So much so that the artist has spent more than 10 years working on a series inspired by the pantropical weed.

Experimenting with indigenous materials is nothing new to Compra. Throughout his artistic career, he has utilized everything from non-commercial charcoal to twigs, pebbles, cow bones and skulls to create in different formats, including painting, video, sculptural installations, performances and printmaking.

In Pagkalimot sa Laing Paaging Pagtalidhay (Forgetting a Different Way to Laugh), Compra presents his makahiya series wherein he investigates the characteristics of the Mimosa Pudica, or the Makahiya/Kipi-Kipi. But in no way does the solo show feature a literal presentation of a plant. Rather, the artist visualizes the parallels he draws between makahiya and “the way we cope with the changes in our sociopolitical environment.”

Three variations of his work, titled The Last Day, suggest a human character folding inward from external pressures, leaving nothing but the feet uncovered. Hume’s Stone shows total coverage, while a flower blossoms in Sverkhov’s Bloom. There are three abstract works as well featuring scratched-out lines with acrylic and powdered charcoal.

‘Crumpled to Retain Shape’ featuring Isaac Sion, Alee Garibay, Lui Gonzales, Raymond Carlos, Babylyn Fajilagutan and Zeke Cancio

Siksikan nang matikman, Raymond
Carlos, 2021, leather, waxed thread, acrylic on canvas, 12”x12”

Six abstract artists converge to explore biomorphic forms in Mono8’s third and only group show for October, titled Crumpled to Retain Shape.

Isaac Sion and Alee Garibay present oil paintings of a pellucid skull and a chromatic fish, respectively. Lui Gonzales plays with depth and texture once more in Gig Shoes, so do Raymond Carlos and Babylyn Fajilagutan through an assortment of materials. Finally, Zeke Cancio brings otherworldly creations to life using enamel on acetate and plaster of Paris and vitrine.

The three exhibitions opened last week and will run until October 27. Previously located in Ermita, Manila, Mono8 has moved to its new location at 306 Fox Square, 53 Connecticut Street, Northeast Greenhills, San Juan City.

Gallery visits are by appointment only due to Covid-19 protocols. Bookings can be made through or 09173582164.

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