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Mythologizing Romblon

Or why you should dare look at Wawi Navarozza’s Medusa


By Rica Arevalo
Installation photos by Tammy David

More than a decade ago, in the darkroom of the old Miguel Building of De La Salle University, Wawi Navarroza “romanced” her way to photography by mixing photographic fixer chemicals, dodging and burning prints, and watching images come to life.  Professor and conceptual artist Dr. Judy Freya Sibayan was a great influence when she was a Communication Arts student.

Wawi took further studies at the International Center of Photography in New York and completed her education with a scholarship from the Istituto Europeo di Design in Madrid under the program European Master of Fine Art Photography.

  • Silverlens’ Isa Lorenzo and multi-disciplinary artist Wawi Navarroza

  • Sentinels (turn to stone)

  • Monolith, Sibuyan Sea

  • Perseus (portrait of a young marble worker)

    Her much-awaited solo exhibition, “Medusa (Tabula Rasa)” opened last weekend at Silverlens Galleries.

    Nowadays, when everyone has an access to a camera phone, in five seconds, voila, photos are shared in the social media networks.  The thrilling magic of photography is lost. So how can we distinguish these photos from works of art?

    Wawi showed us how in “Medusa (Tabula Rasa).” Photographs should be seen not on a small computer monitor but on big prints. It takes great skill, correct lighting, having an intimate relationship with the subject and being an expertise of the technology.

    “Medusa (Tabula Rasa)” takes us to the island of Romblon, considered as the marble capital of the Philippines.  The 2012 Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Thirteen Artists Awardee spent two years doing fieldwork and research on manufacturing marble and witnessed how the community engaged in this industry.

    In Wawi’s works, there is calmness, as well as intensity and a sense of mystery. Most important, her works provoke engagement.

    Lyrical and conceptual are her images. In The Island, the landscape captures the roughness of the stones and rocks against the stillness of the trees and the sea. This is the initial starting line of the exhibition.  In Greek mythology, Perseus is a hero who slays Medusa. Perseus (portrait of a young marble worker) shows a well-chiseled man in hard labor.

    Sentinels (turn to stone) brings you back to the pillars of the Greeks and Romans but it is set in the Philippines.  Its soft hues give you a unique vision of being a soldier or guardian.

    Aside from the artist’s poetic images, the exhibit also showcases her works on canvas and an installation, “A Feast in the Forest,” which runs until June 3.

    When we asked Silverlens co-gallery director Isa Lorenzo why people should come to the exhibit, her short answer was “It’s worth seeing.”

    There will be a walk through with the artist on May 27, 3 p.m. at Silverlens Galleries, 2263 Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, Makati City.; 63 917 587 4011

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