Figures of Obsession: The Art of Kenneth John Montegrande at Artes Orientes
From the moment I held the box of colours in my hand, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.
After an impressive solo exhibition at Altro Mondo Creative Space entitled Remarkable Imperfections inaugurated last April 27, 2019 by illustrious personalities in the Philippine art and advertising scene—Betsy Westendorp, Justin “Tiny” Nuyda, together with Ronald and Marivic Garcia—Filipino painter Kenneth John Montegrande is back to present his 7th solo exhibition. The upcoming show entitled Obsession will open on June 29, 2019, 6:00 PM at Artes Orientes Gallery on the 2nd Level, The Shops at Serendra, McKinley Parkway, BGC, Taguig City.
Montegrande is one of the few youngblood Filipino painters with an international reputation. He’s the first Filipino and also the first Southeast artist whose work are housed in the prestigious collection of Contemporary Arts Foundation founded and directed by Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese tycoon and mega art collector whose purchase in 2017 of a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $110.5 million, among other acquisitions, made headlines.
As an artist, Montegrande would say that his paintings are compelled by an inner (if not innate) obsession to create, express, and grow something on canvas or, in the words of Joan Miró— to “give birth to a world” and “reveal … something alive.” That inexplicable obsession to articulate the “indefinable” and to confer figure(s) on the intractable is surely a defining reason why Montegrande would often identify himself as an “abstract expressionist.”
Like his fellow abstract expressionists—Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and even Mark Rothko—Montegrande often translates his obsession into large-scale works, thinking that via such artistic magnitude, he could maximize the physical impact of his paintings on his viewers and invite the latter to think and feel more deeply about one’s Self in relation to all that comes with life and living.
It’s not surprising that aficionados and fans of the artwork of Montegrande know the latter mainly through his large-scale work in the genre of expressionism such as Transfigurings of Freshest Blue, and also of abstract expressionism such as The Beauty of the Deep Silence and the six paintings in the Maezawa collection (presented partly in the cover photo)—all of them colorful, heavily textured, and layered artistic productions.
Secondly, I would say that another (if not a greater) cause of thrill for the viewers of Montegrande’s artwork is the indelible presence in this exhibition of an interesting set of figurative paintings that are strongly landscape in feeling and impressionistic / abstract impressionistic in aesthetic orientation. One will get to see how Montegrande has managed to infuse even in these smaller-scale paintings the same trembling sensitivity and ardent emotion that are characteristic of his large pieces.
Beholders of Montegrande’s art will get to witness how the artist, with his rich, spontaneous and gestural brushstrokes, could produce swathes, swirls, and sketches of somber as well as exuberant colors that have been layered over the canvas in an expressive manner. They could see how every slash of brush or palette knife, how the dripping and the sharp ridge of impasto carries with it a compulsion and obsession to create figures (in the broad sense of the term) in defiance of oppressive and meaningless void. As a result, one will find the built-up paint surface, oftentimes caked with the artist’s painterly “aggression” against the empty psychic space represented by the canvas, emerging to be an artistic expression with a personality that communicates.
Admirers of Montegrande’s abstract expressionism will still get their share of delight from a couple of artworks present in the exhibition, that exemplify a painterly language close to the artist’s heart—a language of abstraction where the syllables and phrases of expression consist of colors and lines that, in the course of the artistic productions, have taken on a life of their own.
Impressionism, abstract impressionism, expressionism, abstract expressionism—the external appearance of the Montegrande paintings may differ. However, the viewers will find it heartening to see for themselves, that all these artworks are inspired by a passionate response to a vital obsession—that is, to be meaningful!
Take this possibility of “meaning” as an invitation to Obsession—at Artes Orientes!