Although the act of turning one's back against another may elicit an impression of remaining detached, disinterested, cold, or even irreverent to some extent, it is precisely this kind of image in our daily grind we have become more intimate with--when walking hurriedly in a crowded street, when lining up to the cash register, when seated on a bus or when gathered in an auditorium or in meditation in a religious assembly. It is the unheralded symbol lying in the outskirts of consciousness as our representation of the other, who, may be an entity that we follow, we share the same view with, or as someone who stands in our way. In Nona Garcia's painting series called Sitting Still, the image of a person's back becomes the frontispiece, the reverse side of what seems to be a portrait as to how the sitter arranges herself pictorially, only negated by a camera that was set to the opposite direction. No likeness, no face, no identity. Yet a portrait, unmistakably; or at least, a manifestation of the same attention possessed by a portrait-maker in capturing all the nuances to bring out the essence of a persona: the intricacies of a bobbed hairdo, the contours of a spine, the straps and ribbons that prop the dress onto the body--all rendered in detail to force an identity, to illuminate an eclipse.
Aside from an objective view to render all parts equal and maintain that all sides and angles can throw deep revelation on a given subject, depicting a casual stance whose image plagues us only in our periphery through mass formations and assemblies and placing it suddenly into the center of our attention becomes an invitation to contemplate on a mystery. Is it through the unorthodoxy of portraying a subject, if it is indeed or can still be called a portrayal with its anonymity? Even for the actual model, the sitter, the uncustomary positioning of the portraitist may have also felt that something was kept away from her--the gaze of an audience, moreover, the actions of the painter. And all the unease is extended outside the frame when one decides to sit still against the image. Viewing becomes a powerful display of having both object and life on the same directional plane. A pattern takes place. A kind of loose continuity is generated that mimics organization: One's back turned after another.
- Cocoy Lumbao
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