For some time now Ernest Concepcion has been going back to his drawing roots on aggressive drawings and line wars, a definitive phase of his production verily inspired by comics and great comic artists like Alex Nino and few contemporary collaborators, pop culture,music and nowhere is this clearer than this collection of work mounted the 2020 Art Fair Philippines. Armed with his illustrative guile and drawing skills, the artist pays tribute this time to the art of storytelling through these recent works. Whether, a battle stage, there is always a cacophony of images that cohere together and punctuated by some comical and quirky interjections in which he manages to prompt questions and ideas. Visible too, are surge of people in a flux as in a war or in state of attack thereby suggesting Concepcion’s conspiring ideas of invasion and infiltration or set in some dismal locations which certainly share some biting psychogeographical and spectral resonance. They could just be a mass-up of people nestled or juxtaposed with larger visual elements but there would always be a frenetic sense of attack and a frisson and excited energy and bleakly comic wit. While invasions are planned, he works very organically and his habits are ruled only by accidents, afterthoughts, happenstance.
With a constant yearning to tell and retell stories, Ernest Concepcion has always been nurtured by tension, conflict and discord. His works manifest these themes simply because he deeply understands that conflict is a catalyst for everything. In whatever medium, his art would always be informed by frictions which he examines sensitively and provocatively. They not only bristle with subtle rage and transgressions but pulse with such punk and outlaw sensibilities and for him, they are effective counterpoints and vehicles of thought. While he ponders on subjects that can be grim, he presents his ideas and dark humour with such wit, easy vibe and comical qualities and yet they remain as perturbing as they can be.
Years ago in the United States, he thrived in producing drawings and line works which have been well received by his peers in the art scene of New York. For a while, he was known as the novel Asian guy and he worked around this marginalized position as a platform and tactic for breaching territories and intangible limits before him. There, he created much of his art in this particular strain and style. In the process, he was also identified and read as someone vaguely Asian, vaguely Filipino in the frame of his artistic style, tendencies and overall demeanor. In New York where punk culture also thrives, his works indeed fit in and so this neither-nor flair and his unique idiosyncrasies apparently worked for his benefit and served well his artistic concerns and themes that meant skew and disrupt.
But his return to the Philippines many years later has become more than a relocation but has also been a profound source of many realizations including the way he produces his art. It has grounded him further distilled his notions of conflicts and invasions, ever keener on their charms and possibilities. Sadly, drawings and its related forms types of work are still given disappointingly scant attention in this country, however, it becomes another interesting risk and conflict to tackle.
Concepcion mines the power of narratives and stories but his works allow audiences to predicate and complete meanings to his work. He paints from a personal space with nuanced observations of the larger spaces where he moves and thrives while concomitantly decoding his personal relationship to these settings and locations where his works are processed and done. It is good to point out that he is never a distinctively political artist but just someone with relentless curiosity and likes to mock something here and there. For him, it really has been most effective when he marries his own struggles, misadventures together with larger social contexts to fodder his art.
Drawing has always been significant to this artist. He celebrates its artistic purity, graphic verbiage as a medium and its sublime dexterous tradition. This time though, he transposes his usual works in paper into canvases with the usual invasive technique and process by reworking finished surfaces. These works are effectively encouraging exploration of its formal, conceptual, and material progress.
Text by Philip Paraan