BY RAUL G. RODRIGUEZ
Place of Sonority: On full view at Galleria Duemila, the latest works of Jay Ticar and Amy Aragon are spellbinding visual constructs emanating from the nooks and crannies of an imagination latched on an archetypal locality. This archetype of the home has been chosen as an endearing topic of the artists for more than two decades. Home is the residence from which metaphors of domestic wakefulness begin and to where areas of the unconsciousness find momentary berth. This is where this Ticar-Aragon vision takes us to–simulations of interiors of a deconstructed domicile groomed with swathes of color, texture and hyperrealist inflections. On a surface reading, the theme of the household and its customary furnishings ascribed through the use of acrylic paint and deconstructed by intent has become idioms of the psyche much akin to the Cubist simplifications of Georg Braque and much in step with the surrealist subjectivities of Max Ernst. We all know that Braque broke the formal space once venerated by the Academy and by doing so tickled the eye of Picasso. Moreover, art theorists attest to the investigations of Ernst into the peculiar workings of the mind which left a benchmark in his era when surrealism held influential sway in the early decades of 20th century art. The otherworldly realms of Ernst of Freudian bent simultaneously had a music corollary to the experimentations of Arnold Schoenberg, Edgar Varese and to the birth of jazz. The broken atonality you may hear from the disjunctions of Dada and the creeping dissonance in the dream state scenarios of Ernst’s canvases suggest that visual art has its moorings in music. In the case of “Sounds Like Home” Jay and Amy rendered their paintings as conceptual art equivalents to sound art. If art has the capacity for the invisible to become seen as well as the inaudible to be heard, the present works function as concrete sound notations in the guise of paintings. Maximizing the chimera-like properties of art, paintings like “Monster House” and “Quietly Boiling” by Amy Aragon directly allude to sounds produced or unproduced by early morning haste of chore activity while the mood of “Land of Silent Vessels” and “Upside Down” describe a cessation of hurry toning down to a hum as one stretches over a sofa. Switching to a calculated discord of sonority Jay’s canvases somehow buzz like chainsaw cutting through disjointed walls (“Fragments Coming Together”), thump like sledgehammer hitting concrete (“Edges Off Suzy”) and whirl through vibrating air (“Waves All Around”) as we survey in ocular scrutiny the intonations amplified by these unfolding images.
Clues From The Past: We can find clues more than 10 years ago. To fathom where we can see Jay Ticar and Amy Aragon’s “Sounds Like Home” exhibition as their latest art evolution, let’s backtrack circa 2007. Jay assembled “Frangible Armor Piercing Inside A Single Round Bold Action Bull Barrel” installation work in Mag:Net Katipunan to reimagine the fragmentary explosion occurring inside a barrel chamber of a gun. Using hundreds of wooden arrows and colored feathers as if flinging to space, secured by strings attached on the ceiling and gallery walls, this work captured in freeze frame the splintering blast that also fill one’s sense of peril. The Ticar-Aragon art duo produced decades ago oil paintings in large formats portraits and sceneries fragmented by simulated broken glass reflections that dissect the pictorial plane in quasi-Cubist fashion. Then there’s this series of photos in blogspot.com documenting Jay performing an art action in Japan entitled “School Yard Fight AK.A. Vision After Vision” (2005). In this performance piece, Jay, donning only a pair of shorts used his entire body to wrestle with a paint-drenched canvas lying on a ground clearing in the middle of a forest, rolled with it and breaking its wood frame in the process. With upper torso and limbs smudged with wet pigment, Jay strode off the scene back to a well-lit building leaving a brood of students playing violin.
In all of these episodes we are hinted with the question, “In all of their works in exploring images marked by elements of pictorial division, danger and discontinuity that stimulates self-introspection, how would these visual interventions sound like?” In this current Duemila foray, Jay and Amy showcased a newly-evolved version of their works in progress. They rediscovered the missing ingredient to organically imbed and crucially position their art in an inclusive sphere of reference. This is the component of sound art. This missing link is key to create a full range experience into what they create. Art as sound is now a systemic component to understand a more comprehensive meaning of the subject matter close to their heart.
Houses in Motion: Specializing on their fecundity to unpack the theme of the home caught in the flux and flurry of migancy is likewise inadvertently reflective of the Philippine situation. Perhaps a tangential commentary of their place in this widespread socio-cultural diaspora, both of their works may reflect a microcosmic interpretation of this phenomenon. If in their past body of works one may re-title their shows as “Veiled Hysteria of Nice Things” or “Fragmentary Magic Hand Grenade” this particular show can be descriptively called as “The Migrancy of Sight/Seeing” or “The Sound of One Home Clapping.” This is to depict how the psycho-social locality of an artist can shape his/her art process. By moving the axis point where art originates such realignment will thereby move (or remove) its orientation—the manner of looking, seeing and observing will then be recorded onto the chosen art form. In this case, the Ticar-Aragon household, much more than touring Southeast Asia (Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam) and Northern America (Canada) to pursue and complete their art residencies, programs, projects and exhibitions, held a conviction that wherever they go they’ll live together and build a home and a family. This home-away-from-home setting becomes altogether their virtual art studio.
Morph With Geography: This premise then makes their output more palpably real and time-tested. All these aspects that encircle and define a home would be perceived germinating in different permutations in their varied art expressions. It’ll be dictated by constant change of geography and dialect under the burden of painstaking adjustments and creative surprises. As far as one would survey the development of imagery of their paintings one can discern the shape-shifting characters and locations in their theme of domesticity. Relishing images of a secure abode, they sometimes inject this device to unsettle a seeming cushion of comfort on the home front. There’s this strange suspense of surrealism pervading in their canvases while an uncanny device of abstraction that spawn wanton fragmentation in the picture plane happens. All these takes place by the guise of their delectation in texture and detail by the flick of their hyperrealist brush. You can almost hear how their artistic vision embattled by geographic displacements sound like.
Sonic Architecture: Where do we locate sound within the Ticar-Aragon art nomenclature? Sound artist Susan Philipsz, 2010 Turner Prize awardee in London, in reference to her winning piece “Lowlands”, stated that “sound is materially invisible but very visceral and emotive. It can define a space at the same time as it triggers a memory.” In this winning piece she installed sensitive sound systems hidden between trusses of the Glasgow bridgeway and let passersby to unknowingly experience the ambient sounds bouncing off the upper structures of the bridge and river surface. This encounter triggered significant memories people may have had in that particular area. In the same token, the sound art/work of Jay and Amy signify a breaking of borders where the visual resides and breaking through into the significations of sound within the cavity of memory. Memory is now the audio-visual playground of their homestead. Connecting Philipsz’ audio experience to the visual constructs of Jay and Amy, a perceptive viewer may notice that sound art embodied here echoed the architectural allusion to their paintings as well as their personal memories as a couple. Virtually a house under the roof of aesthetic endeavor is a collection of a shared past structured as experiential vision and sound.
To Hear Is To See: Inspired by the Merzbau cavern-like interior designed by German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters, the Ticar-Aragon art tandem drew heavily on the possibilities of concrete poetry and unpredictable sound sources as textual strategy so as to let their works speak a gamut of tongues. For Jay sound art is not music per se. Music sets boundaries that separate other life realities. In sound art an all-embracing ethos comes into play wherein every aspect of human experience and knowledge production is taken into consideration to make sound as visual as possible. Sound art is referent to the physicality of where it is situated and in the Ticar-Aragon household it is serves as an auditory metaphor grounded on the subject of home. If traces of a house facade fractured into two or more sections and its furnishings tumbled in anti-gravitational suspensions can be glimpsed in their works such pictorial calisthenics were unavoidable in the light of sound art’s mutating features. The possibilities to form, deform and reform the visible is intrinsic to sound art. In Jay’s terms, the abstracting instrumentality of sound art to de-familiarize the familiar situates the thing objectified by paint as a being existing on its own place and merit. “Fragmenting sound from its everyday embodiment such as music or other representational/functional utility allows it to be explored in its own integrity. This is for me is the heart of sound art- to express sound in its own context,” according to Jay.
In reference to John Cage’s 1952 live performance of 4’33” silence composition (a sound equivalent of Cage when he encountered Robert Rauschenberg’s 1951 white paintings), Sounds Like Home as a whole allow their individual works to collectively function as tabula rasa for fresh soundings–to resonate new colors and hues in their palette. Within gaps between their paintings, silence may be sensed as an empty incident. Yet as one critic puts it on the manner Susan Philipsz “finds the sound of silence the ideal canvas of her creations”, those gaps like music rests serve as open spaces to placate any unrest, be it domestic in origin or not. It will soon dawn on any viewer of this Duemila show that “listening” to Jay and Amy’s art is unlike any background music. This is because their visual sound unravels a soundtrack all too familiar to one’s hearing. It’s a delight to see how sound that swept through the hearing of Jay Ticar and Amy Aragon has painted a picture of a home.
Raul G. Rodriguez is a Painting Major BFA graduate (1984) from UP College of Fine Arts Diliman, participated in group shows in Manila, Berlin, Malaysia & Singapore, worked as an animator for 9 years, earned an MA Degree in a Theological Seminary, served as pastor for 17 years and currently teaching art in Feati University. He is currently accomplishing MFA at the University of the Philippines.
The white paintings came first; my silent piece came later
The development of sound art as a global interest is inspiring reaction from respective art scenes and practitioners. As visual artists, we render our active spectatorship and participation to the local scene by working on sound art as material. We began an independent initiative towards gathering aesthetics from local artists with sound elements in their works. Our aim is to be able to apply these principles in our projects with a cross disciplinary perspective. This study eventually led to the Asia Center Fellowship award that enabled implementation in a wider scope, composed of diverse fields. It covered the evolved scenes in Japan, the density and vibrancy of the Indonesian scenes, and the specific period in Vietnamese scenes wherein it is open to all contemporary practices. The fellowship resulted to eye opening ideas that contrast evolved scenes from those that are developing. These are the non musical perspective in sound art, its practices in the scope of object, installation and imagery that are linked to conceptualism and abstraction, its roots in visual art history. Our exhibition is informed by these concepts to propose a conversation regarding the fundamentals of sound art and its role in the progression of a scene.
Our current works connect to two vertices from visual art history that influenced sound art. These are the white paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, which paved the way for the silent piece of John Cage, and Merzbau, the home based installation of ongoing fragmented constructions by Kurt Schwitters. The premise wherein John Cage is influenced by painting as a conceptual embodiment relates a connection of visual art to sound art. It presents a transition from music to sound art through the intervention of visual art perspectives. It shows the importance of painting as a repository of knowledge, even for sound based practice. In addition, it presents the creative ability of appreciating diverse materials as essential for artistic audiences such as sound artists. The fragmentation in Merzbau on the other hand, demonstrates abstraction that relates to how sound can be deconstructed from existing audio forms and context such as music. The construction of fragments into abstract images, objects and installation also reflects the current possibilities by which sound can be expressed and appreciated.
Our artistic practices naturally connect to these vertices as we have been involved with painting and abstraction. This includes working on house and home as conceptual material since 2009. To further articulate the ideas at hand in our process, we began creating actual architectural models of house like structures by combining and re-fragmenting physical materials. The objects created that have installation capacities, became the primary source of imagery for the final output which are paintings. In our previous projects together, we have dealt with the idea of the house and home in a perspective informed by division of roles that were individually interpreted. In this project, we worked together to form a singular output while constructing the architectural models. We shared the images formed as a common sources for painting, like spaces we co-inhabit. Another development is that we relate to actual building materials as a form of acoustic accommodation. This is a an expression to include sound context in the spaces of imagining home.
The innate connection of our previous works to our current interest provides us the opportunity to work on sound art as material, while continuing our previous agenda that connects to evolving image of home in relation to cultural dimensions of family, citizenship and immigration. In constructing an architectural maquette, we engage in a practice of actual planning that considers the reality of fragmented states of living as choice. “Sounds like Home” is informed by the metaphor found in Schwitters home based installation for the fragmentation of sound. It also refers to the sound aspect of home, the subject we continue to work on.
In their recent exhibit at Galleria Duemila, Jay Ticar and Amy Aragon works on paintings that connect to the visual roots of sound art. The Vancouver-based artist couple articulates their response to this global interest through painterly abstractions and their ongoing theme of home.
Informed by ideas obtained through The 2017 Asia Center Fellowship held in 3 countries, the artists devised a creative structure that proposes a conversation on the non-musical aspect of sound art. They constructed house-like architectural models that are processed through the ideas of fragmentation and painting. This is to relate to abstraction and conceptualism as sound art fundamentals.
Jay Ticar and Amy Aragon has been exhibiting individually and as a tandem in respected venues and events of art here and abroad. After The University of the Philippines, Jay finished MFA at Tama Art University in Tokyo as Monbukagakusho scholar and Amy finished her post graduate program at Seneca College in Toronto. The couple is a combination of individual citations for their artistic practice. This includes being featured in publications, being Ateneo Art Awards finalists, and being recipient of Asian Public Intellectual Fellowship Awards to name a few.
Sounds Like Home will run from October 13 to November 3 at Galleria Duemila, 210 Loring St. 1300 Pasay City. For more information you may call us at +632 831 9990 (tel), +632 833 9815 (fax). Follow us also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.