Dennis Atienza is no stranger to this journey. He dreamt of a better life and risked his chances in a land of scorching heat and biting cold. He chased a dream inherited from his father, himself a contract worker abroad. The artist makes sense of this perilous enterprise in his third solo exhibition. His oil on canvas paintings are of overflowing suitcases filled with objects that appear to have been hurriedly placed inside. He unpacks memories and transforms them into metaphoric images. The objects referencing occupation overseas randomly crowd the nooks of these travel cases.
Luggage is cast symbolically as they refer in turn to occasions of loss and despair, to stories of flight and escape, and the perpetual waiting that punctures the dream of those who risk life overseas. Indeed for the artist, these situations and workers become “cases” themselves, foundering, vague and bleak. In the works, the body that toils is made absent from the frame and thus we imagine them in flight. This is the fate of our countrymen elsewhere, becoming nomadic and nameless. They risk back doors, illegal entry points and endure inhumane work conditions.
Toiling bodies are absent, represented instead by objects sent home. Bereavement welcomes them when instead of objects they are replaced by lifeless bodies. Unwanted legacies, Atienza reminds us of problems within these images are embroiled, the uncertain prospects of home that is nation, a state unable to provide local jobs and decent wage, and the untenable future of an economy kept afloat by remittances. For the artist, the exhibition is occasion for casting off cumbersome weight.
Offload, Dennis Atienza’s third solo exhibition raises these questions leading us to ponder the contradictions that plague us and those who slave elsewhere but who are hailed heroes back home.
Offload opens 15th June and runs until the 30th June at the Tin-aw Art Gallery, Upper Ground Floor Somerset Olympia Building at Makati Avenue. Gallery hours are from 10AM to 6PM.
Dennis Atienza earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Technological University of the Philippines. He was part of numerous group exhibitions, two of the most recent Small World (2012) and Smokescreen (2010) at Tin-aw Art gallery.