By TERENCE REPLENTE
Photos by PINGGOT ZULUETA
Abstract expressionist Coeli Manese has never received any formal training in art and painting. She is, however, from a family of artists, which led her to explore the works of other abstract expressionists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, Cy Twombly, and Joan Mitchell. The influence of these great artists are evident throughout Coeli’s works, which usually convey a spectrum of attitudes and emotions through nontraditional and usually nonrepresentational means, in familiar forms like oil, acrylic, and mixed media.
“My works are ever evolving,” she says. “I’ve explored different mediums. Painting is a continuous study for me. When I started going around the world, seeing different forms from different artists, I felt excited and sort of fixated myself in doing experimentations through the canvas.”
Coeli’s artistic work, however, doesn’t revolve so much on forms and techniques. She is more interested in the process of making art, and how art affects both the artist and the people that consume it. She reveals that her early works are “marked with pain and anguish as she struggled through a spiritual dry spell, finding her way back to God.” Moreover, she says that her style is never stagnant, it is everevolving, and that “each painting a result of deep reflection and prayer.” She equates art making to worship, inviting people into her own interpretation of world, where, according to her, “suffering is real, but joy and peace are available.”
In the same statement, the artist discloses that she is coming out of a dark period in her life. Her ongoing exhibition, “Brokenness to Breakthrough: Seeing Life through Cracks,” which opened at the Secret Fresh Art Gallery, is a testament to this—or a result of it—showing the aftermath of this struggle. In the works, Coeli attempts to discuss the definition of being broken, spiritually.
“In the positive spiritual sense, brokenness is the condition of being completely subdued and humbled before the Lord,” she says. “And as a result, completely yielded to and dependent upon Him also.”
In the exhibition, Coeli shows the many complexities of being human, exploring the themes of struggle and brokenness. The works, which all possess striking contrasts, interplay between dark and light, bold strokes and fine lines, convey the artist’s intended message as she presents a personal tale of battle against darkness, and ultimately finding the way out by following the light that is God.
Furthermore, Coeli shows the soul’s potential to heal itself through faith. The works are primarily inspired by broken pottery that are pieced together with gold, similar to the Japanese art kintsugi, which is a famous method for repairing broken ceramics using gold, silver, and platinum. Kintsugi is done in recognition of the object’s history through its cracks, and instead of hiding that history, it is incorporated and turned into something new. Coeli applies the same philosophy in his works.
“I once heard a message from a preacher about kintsugi wherein a broken pottery pieced together with gold. As broken shards, the pieces were useless. Mended with gold, what used to be worthless became valuable,” she says. “This is how I want the message to be relayed to the public: appreciate brokenness, even your own. If you learn to appreciate mess, you will also learn how to prepare for your next battle.”
In her art, Coeli’s subjects are usually biblical, a result of deep reflection and prayer. She wants to share with others the light she is receiving from God. “Art is a result of what flows within the heart,” she explains. “Whatever is inside of your heart, that’s what your audience will receive.”
Unlike other artists, faith and spirituality take up most of her art making process. “Before I start painting, I pray and listen to inspirational songs,” she says. “These two things empower me, fuels me to come up with works that bring positive energy to those who view it. If I fail to do one of the two, I notice that the output is often different, it becomes too dark.”
In a curated world of Instagram feeds and well-crafted Facebook walls, Coeli boldly reveals “crevices in her own armor.” She fills these fissures with gold that represents the light of her faith, which guides her healing process. In her exploration of art’s potential to heal, she seeks to “make a difference—for His glory.”