Form | Kata

06 - 27 MAY 2017

Exhibition Notes by Lec Cruz

Beyond an inscription found on a statue or a headstone lays traces of memory; a journey lived in a lifetime: an idea that surpasses the person’s transience. The inscribed name and date bears a weight tenfold the heft of an entombed marble stone. These ‘footnotes’ parley an entirety of the past to be relished in the present and to be discovered in the future. In each cast concrete is groundwork to personal and collective history.

In Form | Kata, Roberto M. A. Robles showcases works that highlight the simplicity and rawness of forms. Their facile feat is a testament to Robles’ immersion to traditional oriental sculptural practices in which forms are carved down to their essential forms. Within each block of forms is a historically charged narrative, a personal biography condensed to its basic materiality. His integration of texts on each object serves as a hint, a provenance of idea behind every piece. Devoid of color and ornamental designs, their minimal and abstracted forms invite viewers to engage with the sculptures in an introspective manner.


In most of his sculptures for Form, Robles uses his 2013 solo exhibition entitled The Calling of Saint Matthew, Images into Metaphor as a starting point. His abstract paintings and sculptures from his previous show are now further abstracted and take a sculptural form.

In Matthew Work No. 3 (St. Erasmus) Robles alludes to his painting referencing “Wright Cycle Co.,” a company owned by the Wright Brothers, where he painted an abstract image of geometrical shapes. The images somehow resemble the sculptural figures in his current piece. Atop the vertical rectangular piece is an object inscribed with St. Erasmus inspired by Poussin’s painting of “Martyrdom Of St. Erasmus.” A mere acquaintance to Poussin’s depiction of the scene opens a clear view on how these two works are related. The picture depicts a stripped naked Erasmus lying on his back while being tortured by a man standing beside him. Robles’ creation of an abstract form of the same scene resulted into a two level platform, forming an L-shaped object that seemingly relates to the position of Erasmus and his torturer. The story of Erasmus is a story of triumph of faith and unyielding will of man to defy a colossal obstacle. This theme is echoed by the Wright brothers’ invention of the first biplane. Their understanding of wheeling a bicycle and experimentation allowed them to one day defy the force of gravity. The assemblage of these three sculptures now serves as an anecdote that looks back at Robles’ artistic history and a memento of man’s technical and moral accomplishment.


In his work Matthew Work No. 8 (Laocoon and his Sons), Robles uses his previous painting of a ventilator-duct with industrial attributes highlighted with gray hues to advent his sculpture of a single air duct. The view of the painting suggests homage to the Greek sculpture of the ‘Laocoon Group,’ an iconic image depicting human agony. The mythology of Laocoon entwines with Robles’ personal experience at a gas station in 2011 - of being disturbed by the ventilator-ducts’ clattered noise. The once painted cluster of ducts reminiscent of the Laocoon Group sculpture is further transformed into an arresting object made of cardboard. The unraveling of the sculptures’ detail circles back to the Greek mythology of the priest Laocoon’s tragic story, who met his fate during his attempt to expose the truth behind the Trojan horse. The piece showcased, can be viewed as a version of the Trojan horse with its deceiving external attribute of an actual ventilator-duct and a completion of a narrative foretold through the subconscious.


Matthew Work No. 9 is a nod to Michelangelo Carravagio’s painting ‘The Calling of St. Matthew’ where a ray of light touching the pavement is directed towards St. Matthew. Removing the human figures in his 2013 work, Robles painted the same scene accentuation the ray of light, inducting its importance to the picture. In its sculptural form, the rectangular white object denotes the end point of the painting light, where it touches St. Matthew’s awe-struck expression.

The cone-shaped plaster cast object entitled Matthew Work No. 12 ruminates around the concept of foundations of figurative sculpture. Robles recreates a ‘joint’ used in large-scale figurative sculptures inspired by a photo of French sculptor Auguste Rodin working on a sculpture of a famous person. An initial version of the joint connotes assemblage – the single unseen part of a sculpture that allows it to be erected. The recreation of another joint holds a different meaning as Robles attempts to encapsulate the visceral image of a disassembled sculpture of the Socialist leader, Lenin during a protest rally in Kiev, Ukraine in 2013.


Embodying Robles’ vantage point on local social struggles and issues is his Homage to Plane, the Ass and the Old Shepherd. Providing an abstract image of a flat plane object, we find a negotiation between Aesop’s fables, the state of the Filipino masses and their relationship with the change in our government. As each changing head of state, there retains a status quo of the poor, providing a ‘nominal’ kind of change.

In an isolated room, we find a three-layered sculpture of Mindoro marble, with three sides partially refined to reveal the marble’s natural streaks of color; and on one side, rough edges are retained, conjuring the Japanese idea of ‘wabi-sabi’ or art revering the imperfect. The massive volume of Robles’ sculpture and his minimal intervention reflects his artistic vision of ‘Kata’ or form. In it, he allows the marbles’ stained surfaces and crevices relay a story of nature and an interconnected history between man and nature. In it, we see a fossilization of the metamorphic rock’s unique characteristics that leaves poetic undertone promoting conservation of our own Filipino heritage, culture and identity. •

Press Release

Roberto M. A. Robles, returns to the basicity of form and examines a piece as a post-sculptural work. He rediscovers light and shadows through tones of gray, black and white that result in a new dimensional angle.

An accomplished artist, Roberto M. A. Robles is both a painter and a sculptor that has been educated in the Philippines and Japan. His work has been exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Vargas Museum, 17th Asian International Art Exhibition Daejeon Municipal Museum of Art, South Korea, Jiyu Group Exhibitions Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, Japan. He has also had a retrospective in Ateneo Art Gallery in 2011.

Form | Kata runs from May 6 – 27 2017 in Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St. 1300 Pasay City.

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