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Elemental Majica, presented by art community’s ‘bus and driver’

Guest artists Juliana and Andrey Vrady with Charlie Co and Bong Lopue.*

This year’s offering for the 43rd MassKara Festival from the artists’ community in the Orange Project is a mix of the unknown and the reality.

“Elemental Majica,” which opens its doors on October 15 is the most in-depth and wide-ranging collaborative exhibition of over 60 artists who worked ceaselessly for months to transport art lovers to a world of magic through art installations, sculptures, paintings, music, dance and an interactive AI installation from foreign artists, among other works.

At the helm are artists Charlie Co and Bong Lopue, the men behind Orange Project that has nurtured and provided space for local artists for almost two decades now.

While the arts community look at them as “rock stars” in the Bacolod art scene, Bong and Charlie allude to themselves as merely “the bus and the driver” respectively.

“Bong created the bus and I am just the driver,” Charlie said, adding that after 18 years of their partnership journey, “we have a bus-filled with artists that are slowly creating names for themselves, not just in our country but elsewhere.”

Bong hails from the Lopue clan, prominent in the business community, but his passion remains in arts, and some years ago, he went into a verbal partnership with Charlie, already an established artist, to provide a space where local artists can freely express their views, emotions and works.

Their initial venture was the Orange Gallery but eventually, Bong expanded this into a state-of-the-art Orange Project gallery and converted the entire complex into what is now known as the “Art District.”

Depending on the entry point, two massive sculptures will greet visitors. Rafael Paderna’s towering sculpture entitled “Rock on” and the “Atomic Love” installation art, which is a collaborative work from Tristam Miravalles, Micki Boy Pama, Brandon Braza, Zabiel Nemenzo, Zanna Jamili, Zander Lopez and Megumi Miura.

Tristam conceptualized “Atomic Love,” getting inspiration from the war in Ukraine. A father of three girls, Tristam wants to send a message of bombing each other with love rather than with firepower. This installation is encircled on the floor by the graffiti art of John Crimson, Chester Somes, and Aneks.

In all the nooks and crannies of the Art District hang works of local artists. Some have already build their reputations while others are still unknown in the art world, but are being given an opportunity to display their work beside artists they look up to.

In one corner, five aerialist figures with masks hang. These were created by Leah Samson, Leizel Dator, Carmel Hibaler, Joy Delliva and Dennis Valenciano, who went through a process of observing the aerialists manipulate their cloth as they hang from the ceiling in the Mandala Centering Place of Kitty Cooper who will render a performance during the opening day.

A tour that will run for three months starts as you enter the mouth of the “Circus Owl” by JunJun Montelibano and pass through the mural of Faye Abantao whose inspiration stemmed from her recent artist in residency training in Palawan.

As one opens the doors to the gallery, another door made from recycled materials stand as the entrance to the exhibit. The second doorway and the walls were installed by Perry Argel from trash and objects he found in the streets. Perry, 65, is one of the original founders of Pamilya Pintura, with renowned artist Nunelucio Alvarado.

The collaboration artwork of Charlie Co and Neil Benavente will stir emotions, especially “Balay ni John D,” which is reminiscent of “Tokhang” and recreated by the Orange staff in a makeshift room. In the middle of the room is Charlie’s famous “Chinaman” figure holding a gun and on the floor is a covered figure which represents the victim in the controversial extra-judicial killings that hounded the previous administration.

Floating hands with strings attached to the gunman signifies the powers behind the orders to kill. Turning around to see what the gunman is staring it at, the viewer will see a picturesque, peaceful painting by Leah Samson. The contradictory elements in the room show the conflicting reality of peace and chaos.

One interesting addition on the opening day is the interactive AI installation from couple Andre and Juliana Vrady. Russians by origin, both are now living in Germany and met Charlie during the Dubai exposition early this year.

They have been filming the artists at work in the last 15 days and through their patented mood converter software, they were able to capture the emotions of the artists. These colorful moods with red as a manifestation of anger and yellow, that of joy, mixed with other colors representing various emotions turn into an abstract artwork in itself.

“We are presenting a dialog between human and technology and how technology perceives us as human beings,” Juliana explained. This is their first time to collaborate with over 60 artists and they described their installation as a cross between art and science.

Inside the gallery as well is an interesting installation made by a group of five fashion design students from Carlos Hilado Memorial State College in Talisay led by Red Santillan. The school had given them notice that their curriculum might be dissolved, and when they approached Orange, Charlie told them “we will give you the platform and space to convince your mentors that you are worthy of continuing your education in that field.”

In the words of artist, Guinevere Decena, “Majica is dedicated to providing an opportunity for local artists to express their reflections on the different perspectives surrounding the annual MassKara Festival celebrated in Bacolod City.”

Indeed, “Elemental Majica” is a different offering in the 18 years of Majica exhibition as “it looks into the complex presence of humanity. This core of coming together to work in an environment of harmony is the challenge, the message, and the magic,” Decena added.*

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