Seeking Balance: Steadying One’s Self On Life’s Unstable Rope


“HOW DOES one find solid footing in a world and future that is suddenly more uncertain as ever?”

This is the question viewers are asked when they click Seeking Balance: A Tumba-Tumba Proof-of-Concept Show — a virtual exhibit presented by the University of the Philippines (UP) Vargas Museum in collaboration with The Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS).

Balance is an intangible concept that everyone seeks in their life. As new problems rise and spread around the world, it seems impossible for anyone to keep on their toes. Most have even lost their footing and succumbed to the dark depths below.

To inspire people to get back on their feet, CANVAS had gathered 25 individual artists and four groups to explore the hardships of making a difference, staying true to one’s principles, conflicting beliefs, and the divide between social classes.

photo by CANVAS and Vargas Museum

Marcel Antonio’s painting, Seeking Balance, highlights the struggles of trying to stay balanced as one treads the unstable rope of life. Thick with profound and historic metaphors, the work may leave some viewers confused.

Viewers would immediately notice the image of a woman standing on a horse while holding two of the most important parts of the human body: the mind and the heart. It encapsulates the divergence between trying to uphold reason and good judgment and seeking to follow dreams and fascinations.

The conflict between good and evil is shown through a life and death clash between an angel and a devil, represented by the colors blue and red. The clash is also visible in the image below, where a red-colored figure is trying to lure the other with temptations of death, symbolized by the skull.

To strive in the unpredictable hands of life, one needs to know when to choose the right things at the right time using both the mind and heart as guidance.

photo by CANVAS and Vargas Museum

With the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world with its deadly touch, humanity has been put into a drastic race against the invisible killer. Dante Lerma tries to illustrate this bleak situation of society through Equilibrium.

At first, one might get the wrong impression from the painting’s ironically whimsical atmosphere.

At the center of the piece is a man doing a balancing act on top of an intricate clock. The balmy, green sky, the lavish frame, and the man’s quirky getup may convince viewers that everything is alright. However, behind its soft, playful color and imagery lurks a foreboding message.

If examined closer, one can see that the man is donning the infamous mask used by doctors during the time of the bubonic plague. Equilibrium symbolizes how the coronavirus pandemic is taking away the balance in everyone’s lives. The days that were once filled with comfort are now filled with dull, dragging dread of what tomorrow awaits.

The clock may be a representation of the grim view that the world is running out of time, that death is slowly catching up in this race against humanity’s downfall.

photo by CANVAS and Vargas Museum

Chad Montero’s Polycephaly is another work that depicts the illnesses that have afflicted the Philippines for hundreds of years. It showed how the deep-seated corruption, political rivalries, poor living conditions, faulty education system, and other obstacles have impeded the country’s progress towards a secure and steady nation.

Montero used the turtle as a symbol of the slow progress of the Philippines. Viewers may feel a grasp of reality as they stare at the face masked-citizens on top of the turtle’s shell, confused and stranded as they watch their homeland lose itself from the two powerful countries it clings to for support.

Inspired by the term “polycephaly,” which means ‘two-headed,’ Montero created a bizarre imagery of the turtle sprouting two heads shaped as a fierce eagle and a mystical dragon. It is a masterful and creative way of symbolizing the Philippines’ dependence on the US and China and how this has turned the country into a headless body that is being pulled apart.

Seeking Balance displays the harsh unfairness in today’s world. It reminds viewers that as they continually tread the precarious rope of life, instability is still inevitable from the challenges awaiting.

No one can really be prepared to walk the rope, but with the right cooperation of the brain and the body, the mind and the heart, one is able to face the great heights with a solid footing.

The exhibit is available to view from Sept. 3 to Oct. 3, 2020 on the social media platforms of the UP Vargas Museum and CANVAS.F

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