November 23, 2018 through January 19, 2019
Christie Contemporary, Toronto
Decisions around texture and colour are standard contemplations for a painter, but when indexed to evoke a sense of being in a place, to offer an essential reading, these choices become the matter of interpretation. Larissa Tiggelers distills elements of a particular locale in the central Philippines to a narrow colour palette, sampled across a suite of near-monochrome paintings where shifts in chroma are sequestered by narrow ridges, the only trace of gesture, themselves vestiges of the delicate structure of locally foraged materials.
I wish the idea of time would drain out of my cells and leave me quiet even on this shore.
The barangay (or municipality) of Batan, located in the central Philippines, is a place that never lets you forget where you are. Looking out onto the town square from the open air second-storey studio at Elmo’s House Artist Residency in November of 2017, I absorbed the rhythms of daily life and the abundance of ceaseless sounds: wind, rain, thunder, roosters, dogs, bats, birds, tuko lizards, insects, basketball games, concerts, church bells, choir practice, engines, horns, marching bands and more. The now artist residence was the private home of my host Kuh Del Rosario’s late father and residency namesake Elmo Del Rosario, and I focused my time in residency on the some of the objects Elmo had chosen to surround himself with amid the feverish backdrop of Batan.
The textures and articles referenced in Acclimatizing Cadence originate from Elmo’s house and the area; they have connections to a pre-colonial meal, a distinct personal collection and the utilitarian items that populate a home. Some of these items have made their way directly into the exhibition, while in other cases they have motivated new pieces. The wall-sized paintings constructed of salvaged polyester sheers stiffened by acrylic medium shroud the main space of Christie Contemporary. They act as a threshold, like a mosquito net or foyer—a protective but visually penetrative wall that contemplates notions of privacy, intimacy and protection. In the space of these paintings one can take a moment to be immersed and allow the eye to see one or both paintings, or to see through them, to oscillate between feeling seen and hidden.
Throughout my time in residence I created colour samples from objects I encountered on the Elmo’s House premises and the shoreline of the nearby Sibuyan Sea. I would carefully assess areas of a shell, rock or bits of foliage, then endeavour to recreate the various ranges of chroma by hand-mixing colour. This collection, which accumulated in a sketchbook, greatly assisted in the process of taking in my surroundings.
I eventually focused my colour daybook on another peculiar collection, narrowing my samples to Elmo’s lifelong rock collection. Though his collection is sizeable, the variety of colours was modest in range, including soft beiges, warm whites, light pinks and the occasional muted yellow. As my exploration of Batan continued I noticed the colour range of the region’s stones to be much broader than Elmo’s selection; his collection was careful and deliberate, and the stones were often soft, round and soothing in the hand. This quiet colour range and soft tactility motivated the subtle colour shifts in my paintings. Moreover, the smoothly painted surfaces limit my gestural authorship, reflecting my concentration on sourcing the colour palettes from my surroundings.
The wall-mounted plaster pieces titled kamay mould were cast by laying plaster over banana leaves, which were remnants from a celebratory kamayan feast. From Tagalog, Kamay translates to hand and kamayan means to eat with one’s hands. Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadors over 400 years ago, indigenous populations ate from banana leaves with their hands, and this is a method still employed for the special Filipino meals today. The texture and scale of kamay mould reference the hand, while the small raises are echoed in the paintings’ internal ridges—the areas where colours and incremental gestures converge.
void/repeat vessel is composed of a slurry of local rice, recycled paper and handmade dyes extracted from local flowers and bark. The mixture was gently packed into vessels that typically hosted coffee, tea, coconut water or wine once served to Elmo’s friends and family. These composite receptacles embody a space that transforms readily; transmuting their parentages’ eagerness to participate and contribute to daily life, they carry forward the vessels’ innate potential to be serviceable.
As a visitor to a place soaked in imperial histories and rich affirmations of geologic time, I preferred to be an observer, to not take objects or leave permanent signifiers of my time in the Philippines but to borrow authentic impressions. Created from castings of personal articles, remnants of what has become defiance of settler decree and collections that offered comfort, the resulting artistic gestures are a small survey of a place that is sociologically, politically and historically complex. In Acclimatizing Cadence, these pieces come together to ruminate on trace, erasure, family life, remembrance and tenderness.
 The Spaniards dubbed kamayan boodle fight and saw this way of eating as savagery. Kubyertos, the spoon and fork, were forced upon indigenous people to “civilize” them.
the ratio of an earthworm
Sunday, September 2, 2018 from 3-7
Junction Triangle, Toronto
the ratio of an earthworm is a one-day, outdoor exhibition and gathering, co-organized by Patrick Cruz and Larissa Tiggelers. The participating artists directly and indirectly cultivate practices concerned with labour, focused consciousness, and acts of care.
Garden Paradox by Larissa Tiggelers
Art and gardening are antidotes to skepticism and indifference. Artists and gardeners transform space and material through time and attention, and those processes and their results create opportunities for sensorial escape.
As in many of today’s gardens, leisure and minor food production were the focus of plant curation in our oldest form of gardening, the forest garden. The first enclosures of outdoor space appeared in 10,000 BC, and although no one knows the specific details of these West Asian gardens, historians envision the purpose was to act as obstacles for animals and brigands. Outside spaces of beauty and independent food production came after this original need for fortification. Our contemporary gardens offer a different kind of fortification, protecting spaces of authenticity and carefulness.
One of the most famous and, for a time, safest gardens in fiction was also the site of the first love triangle, involving Adam, Eve, and a snake. Two of these actors were blamed for putting an end to Eden’s heavenly breezes, golden fruit, and crystalline streams; following the fruit debacle, the Bible recast both Eve and the serpent as symbols of demonic power and chaos. Yet for most cultures snakes symbolize fertility and transformation—they are wise goddesses that give and take life. Consequently, the Garden of Eden and others can be seen as sites of regeneration and rebirth.
Voltaire was reportedly born under the now extinct Zodiac sign of Ophiuchus (from the Greek Ophioukhos; "serpent-bearer") and later in his life he cultivated an impressive private garden. In his satiric novel, Candide, Voltaire’s characters use garden metaphors to reflect the social and political discourse of the day,
“…for when man was put into the Garden of Eden, it was with an intent to dress it: and this proves that man was not born to be idle…. Work then without disputing, it is the only way to render life supportable.”
The gardens in Candide present collective labour as a solution to collective ills. By working the soil, we not only provide for and protect ourselves, but also ameliorate our souls. Gardens are spaces of compassion, and they represent nature’s capacity for symbolism, mystery, and romance.
For one afternoon, let’s pretend everything will work out for the best. Let’s allow the garden to alleviate the anxiety of personal and collective responsibility. Let’s focus on narrow plots, not wide systemic issues. After all, aren’t artists and plants both sentient beings? Don’t we all need to occasionally turn our faces to the sun?
Larissa Tiggelers, tender waves make the softest gestures
The paintings’ surfaces are at once perfect—but, perfection is too whole, too forgone. These are not at-once works. They work on us slowly, imperceptibly, and in our looking, an adjustment occurs. The adjustment feels, perhaps, mutual, like the suspended, indistinct moment when objects become perceptible in the blackness of night. That is, the lightlessness shifts by gradations out of all-over, and in these moments, it feels like more than the eyes adjusting. It is as if the world of things grows concurrently more present, more articulated, more luminous. This body of paintings—so unlike the obstinate shade of night in its soft, light-bathed palette—similarly compels temporal pause, drawing out our looking until that time when we have adjusted to its subtler register.
Somehow, the exceptional wrongness of comparing Larissa Tiggelers’ paintings to the night seizes upon her works’ exquisite practise in inversion. Her titles point to such a space of quiet, contemplative negative: no more than the reverse; other side of someday; it had been legible. I am particularly taken by a furrow on the glow—a phrase lifted from Emily Dickinson’s poem “Further in Summer than the Birds”. The title plants us in the ground, while recasting soil as sky/light/“glow”. The tactile negative implied by “a furrow”—a narrow, depressed line in the ground—inverts the artist’s description of the meeting point between two colours in her paintings. She refers to this seam as a shoreline where a tender lift of paint results from the sweep of her brush. Wonderfully, with patient, intimate looking these delicate crests of paint function optically as a furrows, casting the slightest of shadows in the paintings’ otherwise light fields of colour. Like Dickinson’s renowned use of the dash in her writing—an elegant line of punctuation signaling a wordless momentary cessation; a strike-through the blank of the page, and a join visually traced across space—the lines in Tiggelers’ paintings are also not lines but the place where colours touch as waves and furrows.
all but gone
Examined from up close, the softest gesture reveals itself. This occurs where two colours meet and create a liminal space: a tender wave of raised paint results from the painting’s making. Many layers of paint are applied to achieve opacity, and when my brush sweeps over the modest rise of the masking tape boundary a berm grows. When the tape is removed a crisp lift of paint remains, forming a liminal zone where areas of colour converge. This trace mirrors that of a paused shoreline; the energy of the paintbrush becomes elevated into a three-dimensional relief. Quiet evidence of the hand remains as a testament to the dedication of consideration and time. This slight indication of gesture captivates and rewards close observation.
Thirty Minutes of Looking
scoop of gesso, drop of yellow, stir, creamy petal
dash more yellow, mix, two stacked buttery petals
smidgen of red, push, flesh of a peach
drop of red, mix, strawberry ice cream
smidgen of blue, swirl, wine-stained concrete
more blue, mix, wet slate
dash more blue, dab and stir, bursting clouds
five drops of yellow, blend, boggy green,
dollop of gesso, stir, underside of a leaf
more yellow, blend, dried mint
tip of red, whip, sunned seaweed
scoop yellow, stir, bruised cilantro
four heavy drops of blue, swirl and wipe, pine needles in shadow
more blue, smear, late summer pond water
dash more blue, mix and whip, more gesso, smear, green river rocks
nip of red, mix, wet river rocks
two nips of red, blend, wet grout
dash of yellow, combine, snip of red, mix, soaked sidewalk
morsel of blue, mix, more gesso, mix, moonlit lake