An ode to Venus in Marius Black's first solo show
Marius Black could not have asked for a better date to open his first solo exhibit — not only was June 6 his birthday, it was also the date of that rare and romantic phenomenon that is the Transit of Venus, the twice-a-century passage of Venus across the sun.
For any artist, the Transit of Venus is incredibly auspicious, a more mystical, extraordinary kind of 4/20. Venus after all is the ultimate muse — though technically, she’s a goddess. Venus is a renaissance institution, starring in many masterpieces and inspiring countless artists for the past centuries. Against her, Marius Black did not stand a chance — which is all the better for him.
“This one is a lucky one,” Black said, tilting his head toward the arguable scene-stealer, his take on the Botticelli classic “The Birth of Venus,” placed in the prime spot at the cozy Kanto Artist Run Space at The Collective in Makati.
Lucky, because while he loved to paint female nudes, he was never very good at doing faces. And yet the face that stared down from within the 4' x 7' canvas was flawless and beautiful — even fiercely so.
The painting bears the title “The Rebirth of Venus,” and from afar looks almost exactly like the renaissance original. But this time around, Venus isn’t trying to cover herself up, nor does she have a slightly melancholy look to her deadpan face.
Black’s Venus is a brazen deity, unapologetic and fierce with arms held open, hiding nothing, and eyes staring straight into the viewer’s soul.
“I wanted to serenade Venus,” he said, explaining that the painting was his tribute to the once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon, as well as to Venus herself.
Black also said that he felt the painting’s message was timely, since after all, the Transit of Venus is also associated with enlightenment. “In the Philippines, nudes are pretty controversial,” he said. “I thought it was time for Venus to show her body, to stop hiding.”
Alongside “Rebirth,” Black’s collection also includes three other equally stunning works — two of which he finished just last May, and one, “Opening and Closing Wounds,” completed over four years ago.
“Opening and Closing Wounds” and “Forget Me Not” both feature elephant-headed human bodies, an unintentional reference to the Hindu god Ganesh, who is, incidentally, the Lord of Beginnings.
The former is rather more brooding and passionate, featuring elephant heads twined together at the trunks with skinless bodies made of sinew and skeleton. The latter is more peaceful and pensive — an elephant-headed female nude with angel-wings, sitting cross-legged in meditation within what appears to be a colorful cloud of illumination. As if to reinforce its title, photos of this piece were printed out and left for guests to take home.
The fourth painting, literally smack dab in the center of the room, is a departure from the others in that it doesn’t feature bodies or faces. At first glance, it looks like a tripped-up version of the Transit of Venus — a tiny gold dot slightly off-center on a white round space that extends into colorful fringes, like the rays of a colorful sun.
But Black shared that when he completed the painting (which, due to an exhausted paint supply turned out to be something entirely different from what he had originally planned to paint), it looked more like a nuclear explosion, which is why he called it “The Beautiful Explosion of an Atomic Bomb.” He was quick to add though, “I don’t want to advocate nuclear weapons or anything like that.”
What he does want to advocate is art — particularly, accessible art. The exhibit itself was more inclusive than exclusive. There was a refreshing unpretentiousness, a homemade quality about the way the paintings were displayed. Black set up the place himself, with help from his family and fellow artists from Spidersilk Productions and Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School.
There were no barriers or “Please don’t touch” signs. Guests were, in fact, allowed to touch the paintings, as long as they didn’t ruin them.
According to Black, “I wanted to have a different approach to painting. If you touch the painting, you can feel the strokes, you can feel the way I painted the stroke, and maybe you can think that, hey, painting isn’t so hard pala.”
When asked about his next exhibit, Black shared that he wants it to be something different. This current show is already a departure from his style, which is dark and more focused on musculature and anatomy. He wants the next one to be different still.
When will it be? He doesn’t know yet. This one will last until June 16 so there’s no rush, though hopefully we won’t have to wait until the next Transit of Venus to see Marius Black strike again. —KG/TJD, GMA News
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