Here, via motif and design, the artist uncovers the most fundamental quality where most pathways spring forth: the line and its straightforward motion between two points, and consequently, in its manifestation through actual space, which is the road.
The road, in Jose Santos III’s current work, which is a combination of paintings, prints, found objects, and sculpture, acts as the consequence of all lines and the passages relegated to this most essential quality in drawing: the transit from point A to point B. Although this movement would always assume a linear stance, or a ‘linearity’ that would confine our viewing of the object as it forces us to traverse across its space from one point to another, it is an idea which Santos aims to revive. This linearity is a condition, which has been lost through the very loose and liberal nature of viewing almost all plastic arts that Santos has placed back into the equation. By shaping his canvases into elongated panels of paintings, stretching at a distance of almost five meters, images are connected from one end to another.
We see this in his paintings entitled, Passing through A, Passing through B, and Crossing over yellow and black stripes. The long canvases are stretched out like a timeline, with imagery that can be viewed while progressing from one side to the next. From point A to point B. This allows for a kind of narrative to unfold through time. But is it really a story which the artist sets out to achieve? We look at the images from these paintings and what we see are objects strung together. Some are recognizable: as parts of walls, gates, and barriers—the kind usually found in the streets and old highways of Manila. There are also objects that seem to be part of torn-down houses or abandoned vehicles. As the viewer traverses across the length of the painting in transit, the images shift in a changing view akin to being on the road. The images transform into a caravan of objects that appear to travel with the audience.
The road, in Jose Santos’ practice signifies change. The orientation for viewing his paintings forces us to experience this changing view and thus, time becomes an essential element in this experience. As a result, we come closer to the activity of “reading” a painting; the same way a piece of literature unfolds through time. Although Santos’ paintings can be viewed from a single vantage point, their structure offers the possibility to plan one’s own journey—walking from our own prescribed origins: from left to right, from east to west.
The work entitled High road, which consists of image transfers of different parts of a pavement on more than two hundred resin casts emulating the shape of debris, encapsulates the notion of transit in this show. Here, the form of the road itself achieves transformation and is transmitted into a different context. Inside the space of the gallery it becomes a representation of detritus, like one encountered on a voyage. These ruins are lined up to echo the structure of the road leading us to ponder on fragments of our lives that we share with the road’s own fragments every time we move from one destination to another.
The same can also be seen in the work Things we keep along the way, which is made up of various found objects. Domestic objects and personal items, ranging from discarded materials to significant totems are all engulfed in white paint. Embodying the entire concept of “traversal”, they are lined on the floor, mirroring the structure of a pedestrian lane. As if signifying a warning or acting as a guide, they provide the ‘break’ from the single-mindedness of a particular journey. As memento mori, they collectively act as a reminder of transient crossings, as signposts from one side to the other. In a three-channel video, in collaboration with filmmakers Chuck and Aimee Escasa called What happens in between, each screen shows a wheel rolling in and out of the frame at different intervals. The action signifies movement and change. The same wheel is shown, but the quality of the scene is altered at each take, presenting the illusion that the same object accumulates its own imagined distance, thus reinforcing the idea of transit as relative to the perception of change.
In Distance between two points, the audience is not only presented with the idea of passage, whether through imagery or the arrangement of objects, but also encouraged to accommodate the act of traversing via engagement with Santos’ work. By drawing upon objects and materials sourced from urban environs commonly unassociated with high art, the space becomes transformed into points of departures and arrivals. Enlivening travel and movement, Santos metaphorically investigates the roads we take throughout our lives, and impressions and objects we accumulate along the way.
- Cocoy Lumbao, April 2016