Saturday, May 2, 2015

Paper Trail: Contemporary Art Philippines Feature


Book Artist Veronica Laurel incorporates the traditional crafts of wood carving, carpentry, and bookbinding into her contemporary art practice.

Inside Artinformal's Big Room exhibit space is a modest collection of curious pieces made of paper and found objects encased in glass and carved wood. Veronica Laurel's first solo exhibition, Beautifully Damned, presents her latest book art creations. Utilizing her skills in wood carving, carpentry, and book binding, Laurel turns old books and paper into art objects. Right off the bat, one can appreciate the meticulous process that went into creating these handmade pieces.

Laurel is currently based in Laguna. She describes herself a collector of things, who likes to gather materials for her pieces. Her interest in woodworking started at a young age because of her family's wood furniture business. She learned wood carving in Paete, Laguna and studied book binding on her own. Of her learning process, she says, "I wanted to keep doing it until I got it right. It doesn't matter if my first tries were terrible. What matters is that I'm willing to try. Same goes for carpentry and carving."

Laurel's use of found objects correlates with the Buddhist view of making use of what is available. The wood she used in her pieces is sourced from old demolished houses. Buddhist beliefs are actually something that Laurel had the opportunity to explore when she lived in a Buddhist temple in Taiwan for three months prior to her show. "The preparation to get ready was long; the execution was short," she adds. Laurel was also influenced by Masaki Kobayashi's Human Condition film trilogy, as well as literature on Western and Buddhist psychology. In Beautifully Damned, she shares the culmination of her spiritual exploration, merging it with her artistic practice into a harmonious whole.

"Beautifully Damned" was the title of a poem she wrote a few years earlier. It was about living in a world where people choose to numb themselves, thus becoming the beautifully damned ones. "The truth is, damnation is just damnation. I added the word "beautifully" because people don't to believe that we are all just damned. The romantic are optimistic enough to call it beautiful, a sweet a suffering, a vulnerable state of mind," Laurel explains.

Prior to her first solo exhibition, Laurel's early works were included in Ayala Museum's group exhibits and, most recently, at the Met Open 2014 in the Metropolitan Museum of Manila.

(End of First Half)

(For the complete article, look for Art+ Contemporary Art Philippines Magazine Issue no. 35)

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