Pearl Lam Galleries is delighted to present Wild Silence, a solo exhibition by Filipino American artist Jana Benitez. This exhibition showcases Benitez!s recent work and her investigation of the countless ways that painting can inform our understanding of the human body.
Wild Silence celebrates the medium of painting as uniquely equipped to explore the complexity and mystery of our embodied experience. In the exhibition title, "wild" captures the intuitive, boundless qualities of our feelings and sensations, while "silence" connotes the deliberate withdrawal from worldly distractions required for us to be present to our immediate experience.
In the gallery space, a singular buoyant spirit runs through a diverse array of painting styles and formats. Sparse, lyrical compositions of dancing figures, for example, hang alongside more visceral, explosive, gestural pieces in dense impasto as well as calm abstractions of expansive space. Benitez employs a wide range of painterly techniques—from traditional painting with brushes and squeegees to experimental water reticulation—all in service of expressing the intensity, depth, and intricacies of feelings. Furthermore, the artist varies the pace and size of her marks, their levels of transparency or opacity, the relationship between colour massing and line, the wetness and dryness of the paint, and most importantly, the innovative manner in which these techniques can layer on top of one another. In turn, the human body is recognised in a multitude of ways: as a holistic refuge, as a tuning fork, as a carrier of memory, as a vehicle for somatic information, as a loudspeaker for intuition, as carnal matter, and as a site for energetic alchemy. This is most explicit in Benitez's series of intimate drawings, which provide clues to potential interpretations of the exhibition at large.
Rooted in the history of painting and its formal developments, Benitez's practice seeks to synthesise her visual acumen with her personal research into contemporary psychology, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Tantra. Specifically, she has focused on our reflexive fight-flight-freeze response to danger or feeling triggered and wonders whether this defence mechanism can instead be replaced by a commitment to pause-stay-soften. In a moment of increasing social unrest and racism, she is uninterested in matching aggression with aggression. Instead, her work posits the question: how can we make space for more openness and genuine compassion?
In one way or another, every artwork in the show grapples with the mechanics of energetic transformation in the human body. Often, figures are insinuated then obscured; they crystallise and then disappear. Forms exist in liminal states: in flux, emerging, dissolving, cracking open, slipping through, reaching upwards, morphing, and becoming. Through her painting practice, Benitez trains herself to "stay present in the rawness of pure feeling". For example, she deploys gestural abstraction to activate the sensation of life-force energy that radiates and rises up through the body. Many of her paintings on view read like love letters to intuition and give visual form to the affirmative "yes" feeling that we often experience in our gut. Given that Benitez relies primarily on intuition for her formal decisions, these gestural paintings are not mere exercises for celebrating freewill but are meta-manifestations of philosophical and spiritual ideals.
Brimming with vibrant colour, Benitez's paintings oscillate between gestural abstraction and figuration, chaos and order, brute force and tenderness. Simultaneously, they convey fullness and emptiness, presence and absence, contraction and expansion. In celebration of these dualities, this exhibition makes space to contain contradiction and to cultivate our capacity to be with ambiguity.
Wild Silence is an invitation for us to let go of our habitual storylines, to listen actively and deeply with our whole being, and to open ourselves to the vast world of sensation, intuition and interconnectedness. With an edgy installation that builds from room to room and crescendos in the final gallery space, the experience of walking through this dynamic exhibition in person is not to be missed.
Press release courtesy Pearl Lam Galleries.
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The gallery is open by appointment only until further notice.
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