In his post-impressionist phase, Paul Cezanne famously declared, “Pure drawing is an abstraction. Drawing and color are not distinct, everything in nature is colored.” Carlo Magno seems both to go along and against with this in his abstracts: his lines and drawing appear to shun distinctiveness, yet they do not exactly shy of collision with the colors that, in true abstract expressionist fashion, are bold and painterly. Drawing and hue are a dialectic in tensile mood. This is evident in the titles of the paintings which depict states of mind rather than naked representation: “Imagine,” “Exquisite Reverie,” ”Peaceful Duet.”
Although he started as a realist 40 years ago, painting ancient churches and old houses and romantic landscapes and women figures, the new century saw Magno shifting to semi-abstraction (semi-figures, abstract landscapes) then on to full abstraction. Today Magno is best known for his mixed-media abstracts that employ the fullest color, line and movement, all for signification and emotional, philosophical resonance.
Magno was an architecture student at the Mapua before he shifted to fine arts at the Philippine Women’s University where he came under the mentorship of its dean, Raul Isidro, one of today’s supreme abstract masters. All of these encounters have influenced Magno’s artmaking. In “Aleatoric Space,” his newest solo exhibit now running at the Galerie Joaquin in Rockwell Makati, he takes inspiration from classic edifices and the arts, including music, to explore states of emotion and spiritual consciousness in a meditative melding of experience and insight.
Now a senior citizen, Magno seems to employ his abstraction as vehicle for spiritual enrichment and contemplative reckoning. His initial architectural training continues to backstop his art, as the title of his show suggests; his imagination appears to run over the space where contingencies happen (aleatory is something characterized by chance or indeterminacy). The abstract ghost hovering here is Jackson Pollock, who defined abstraction as “energy and motion made visible—memories arrested in space.”
The new series may be noted for its tactile verve and fine finish. In the true spirit of abstract expressionism, Magno applied layers of paint with unbridled passion and in seeming random fashion. He used brushes and palette knives to achieve a myriad of effects designed to engage tactile surfaces. His creative process likewise consisted of scraping, underpainting, blotting, and scumbling.
Chance is characteristic of Magno’s art of abstraction: a casual brushstroke, drips of paint finding their way in the scheme of things on the canvas, rust on perforated sheets of metal (his favorite “mixed medium”)—all of this creates a musical concourse that’s as much visual as synesthetic. Feasting on the interplay of form and color results in emotions and memories being triggered, even disturbed; they find mooring and even harbor in contemplation, which however remains dynamic, never fixed or stagnant. The spirit behind the abstraction remains robust. It is never at rest.
Magno’s abstraction engages the viewer, drawing her to introspection. It could be that the meaning the viewer finds in the intriguing canvas would be quite different from the artist’s assays at meaning when he was painting it. This is part of the aleatory ambience of abstraction. Chance and contingency conspire both to unite and divide artist and viewer. The dialectic resulting from this encounter is what true art strives for. And dialectic is a form of communion.
“Aleatoric Space” is running at Galerie Joaquin Rockwell, R3 Level, Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati. Call +63 915 414 5502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.