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De Anima


Sept 14 - Sept 27, 2014

Kaida Contemporary

Quezon City, Ph

WORDS BY Ian Carlo Jaucian

There is a certain timelessness and universality with the subject of “soul.” Considering how thousands of years may pass without the slightest progress with man's understanding of its true nature, it is interesting how it continues to occupy an everlasting niche in the human psyche. It exists in discourses outside faith, which makes one wonder if it could ever outlast religion. Ideas about the soul have found their place in philosophy and metaphysics, which makes it an intuitive or perhaps even an inevitable subject in the language of contemporary art.


For the exhibition De Anima, Iya Regalario revisits Aristotle's theory of the soul—the essence of living things. According to the theory, the soul’s defining faculties are movement (a moving force) and sensation (the sense of touch). The philosopher further speculates that only things with sense-perception can have a soul in its capability to perceive pain and pleasure, ergo desire. Hence, the human being is nourished with a soul definitive of its essence furthered by intellectual capacities that allow for thinking, memory, and reasoning—that which separates us from the make of other living things. 


Volumes can be written to analyze Aristotle's hypothesis, but the artist attempts an even bolder undertaking by expressing them through imagery, without directly illustrating the concepts per se. The most powerful reference may be found in her piece The Warmth, a pyrographic sketch of a chest with its heart literally burnt out leaving a cavity. Other pieces leave more subtle clues to their meaning, such as One Man’s God Is Another Man’s Devil where praying hands question desire vis-à-vis a rain/reign of diamonds.


To the initiated, Regalario's Aristotelian references would reveal more layers. Take for instance Damned, which shows the common denominating visage of death among outlines of varied archetypes and brings to fore Chuck Palahniuk’s visions of hell in his 2011 novel. And to those familiar with Aristotle's theory of elements, we see water in De Anima (pyrography piece), air andearth alluded to the outgrowth of foliage in her figures' mouths. Then fire brings them all together through her pyrography, employed to all her drawings.


The Door, which was transported all the way from Regalario’s place of solitude in Baguio City marks the beginnings of her strengthened sensibilities in art and nature. Spontaneously drawn with ink and graphite, it manifests Regalario’s days in isolation, in the company of pine trees and crows—away from the noise and filth of Manila where she grew up in.


As her subject revisits ancient thoughts and greets them with contemporary imagery, her medium revisits an age-old material with contemporary techniques. Regalario's use of pyrography makes wood (without it having to be processed into paper) an effective ground for drawing. Th sculpture along with all of the pieces in the exhibit is a testament of her travels, containing wood she found in Quezon City, Baguio, Tarlac, Bulacan, and Pampanga where she had begun studying the art of wood carving. Considering her educational background in humanities and communication, it is no surprise that Iya Regalario finds her voice within philosophical contexts. The voice then proceeds to be a language, as her exploration of wood's materiality continues.

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